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Broadband and Telemedicine

March 6, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Jenny Bratburd and Dr. Ramon Martinez III

Telemedicine refers to technological delivery of healthcare services, such as phone/video visits or remote monitoring of patients, in which patient and provider are at different locations. Telemedicine is effective for many types of care and can improve access and convenience of care for patients. However, many patients that could benefit the most from telehealth (including rural residents, elderly, underinsured, and minorities) often have limited broadband access, which can limit their access to care. RSMo 208.670 requires telehealth providers to ensure the same standard of care as what patients would receive in person. Additional proposals have been put forth to expand broadband access, recognize cross-border medical licenses, and require coverage and price parity for these services. 

Highlights 

  • Prior to 2020, global growth in the use of telemedicine was estimated to be increasing between 13–27% annually. 
  • Numerous studies have found certain uses of telemedicine (e.g., monitoring asthma, chronic heart failure, and opioid use disorder) to be as effective as in-person options.
  • Since 2020, all states have required some form of coverage for telehealth options, and more than half of states require parity in reimbursing these services at the same rates as in-person visits.

Limitations

  • Telemedicine quality-of-care varies depending on physician training and the network of telehealth providers available.
  • Importantly, telehealth may not be appropriate in certain scenarios, such as when a hands-on physical examination would yield crucial data and when clinical outcomes cannot be met.
  • Given the recency of the advent of telemedicine, randomized controlled trials have yet to determine if telemedicine has the same long-term health benefits as in-person visits.

 

This Note has been updated. You can access the previous version (published February 2021) here.

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