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While acceptance of telehealth care for those in need remains an issue to some, support throughout the United States improves as others use these services.
More federal and state lawmakers are now increasingly supporting coverage for mental health services provided by telemedicine, according to the 2019 Telemental Health Laws survey conducted by Epstein Becker Green (EBG) law firm.
The survey highlights the following milestones achieved in 2019:
“We are excited to see telehealth services more widely accepted at the state and federal level,” says Amy F. Lerman, a Member of Epstein Becker Green in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice. “Telehealth is a viable and efficient method of care for patients who require quality treatment that may not be close by. It also gives providers an opportunity to share their services and expertise with underserved segments and geographies they couldn’t serve otherwise.”
Lerman says that since the survey’s original publication in 2016, the primary goal always has been to provide a state-by-state breakdown of the rules and requirements pertaining to provision of telebehavioral health services.
EBG has collected their information by tracking changes to this research constantly and working on an annual basis to compile these changes and update their survey content, which since 2018 has been available via their free app, Lerman says.
Information to support this survey can be found from Doximity, an online networking service for medical professionals. Doximity found that radiology and psychiatry were the top two specialties most interested in telemedicine opportunities. Mental health services via telemedicine are used in a variety of settings, including private practice, outpatient clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and correctional facilities.
“Despite a continued shortage of behavioral health providers in the United States, increased use of telehealth technologies as a strategy to increase access to psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, therapists and other behavioral health professionals continues to gain attention and validation as an alternative model of care delivery,” she says.
While acceptance of telehealth services continues to grow, obstacles remain that limit participation of providers and patients. These barriers, according to EBG, are:
Progress to continue into 2020
Current events and issues, such as the opioid epidemic, have put more pressure than ever before on federal and state legislators to pass laws that promote access to telehealth services. Providers should continue to monitor developments in federal and state laws, regulations, and policies to capitalize on telehealth opportunities while maintaining compliance with applicable laws.
According to EBG, areas for opportunity and expansion include:
Lerman says that healthcare executives can benefit from reviewing EBG’s survey because it provides both a micro and macro view of the changes in the healthcare landscape if they were to adopt telehealth technology into their care delivery models.