Twenty years ago, the idea of having 24/7 access to a board-certified physician who could diagnose and treat common illnesses via a computer was a pipe dream. Thanks to legislation and advancing technology, telemedicine has become an increasingly popular option for lowering healthcare cost without compromising quality. It has also made it a much more marketable option – especially for patients and healthcare systems that lack access to specialty care and other resources.
In fact, Ken Research studies show that revenue generated by telemedicine grew considerably between 2012 and 2013 – from $6 billion to $9.6 billion. This brisk growth is projected to continue at a rate of 32% until it reaches $38.5 billion by 2018.
Factors Driving Telemedicine Growth
What could slow the proliferation of telemedicine services? Incompatible medical licenses across state lines is one such obstacle. Granting medical licenses to qualified physicians is a right reserved for the states. Each state has its own specialized criteria and processes to ensure that physicians are qualified to meet their population’s health needs. For telemedicine service providers, such unique criteria and processes has greatly stifled their ability to practice medicine outside of their state.
The good news: legislation at the state and federal level is moving forward that would make it easier for telemedicine services to practice medicine across state lines.
Widening Licensing Regulations
Last year, 200 pieces of related legislation was introduced to 42 states, including the Tele-Med Act of 2015. The Tele-Med Act allows some Medicare providers licensed in one state to provide telemedicine services to other Medicare facilities in a different state with their existing state license.
Private organizations are also pushing for a simpler process to practice telemedicine across state lines. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) developed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact initiative to work with states to expedite their licensing processes. Thus far, the FSMB’s initiative has been enacted in 12 states and introduced in 13 states, allowing telemedicine companies to gain licensure more efficiently.
Increased Demand by Patients
What’s driving this push for more access? Improvements in both the sophistication and accessibility to health technologies have led to a deep transformation within the healthcare sector. As evidence, an American Medical Association (AMA) report states that telemedicine services can help patients save between $300 to $1,000 per-year in medical expenses. Not to mention, the convenience of not having to travel long distances for treatment.
How Telemedicine Is Affecting Health Systems
Health systems are also embracing the idea of using telemedicine services to offer a higher quality of care. A recent survey by Foley & Lardner LLP showed that 84% of healthcare executives believe that telemedicine services are very important to the quality of their facility.
Improved Healthcare for Remote Facilities
There is no doubt that remote healthcare facilities with limited access to specialists and resources will see a major improvement in preventative care quality. Remote consultations can help these facilities address minor illnesses and conditions before they become major problems. Without having to travel long distances, these remote patients will gain access to rehabilitation, physical therapy, mental health services, and health services for aging and immobile patients.
In addition, cutting-edge technology, such as wearables with health sensors, will lead to more sophisticated diagnostic treatment and advice. Using technology to gather ongoing patient data means doctors can provide better context when treating more severe health complications. Specialists, such as orthopedic or cardiac surgeons, can then apply their expertise more immediately with telemedicine services.
High-Levels of Patient Satisfaction
Clearly, patients are the major beneficiary as they no longer need to travel long distances to overcrowded facilities for care. A survey by Software Advice found that 76% of patients were at least “moderately interested” in seeking care online for minor health issues. When asked whether they preferred telemedicine services over emergency room visits, 71% said they “somewhat prefer telemedicine”. As regulations evolve and technology continues to advance, telemedicine will become a cost-effective, high-quality alternative to more traditional healthcare options.
Of course, providing efficient remote healthcare services requires effective Payor Enrollment, credentialing, and administration. symplr provides extensive credentialing and payor solutions to streamline the numerous administrative tasks that come with managing your facility. To learn more about symplr’s credentialing and payor solutions, Schedule a Demo today!
 “The US Telemedicine Market Outlook to 2018 – Rising Penetration of Telehome Care and MHealth”. Ken Research. https://www.kenresearch.com/healthcare/medical-devices-and-equipments/us-telemedicine-market-research-report/531-91.html
 Nathaniel L. “State Lawmakers Pushing Telemedicine Coverage in 2016”. Health Care Law Today. https://www.healthcarelawtoday.com/2015/12/08/state-lawmakers-pushing-telemedicine-coverage-in-2016/
 114th Congress. “Text of the Tele-Med Act of 2015”. The House of Representatives. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr3081/text
 “Legislative Status: Interactive Map”. Interstate medical Licensure Compact. http://licenseportability.org/
 Jeff M. “Telehealth Emerges in a Consumer-Driven Marketplace”. The Institute of Healthcare Consumerism. http://www.theihcc.com/en/communities/health_access_alternatives/telehealth-emerges-in-a-consumer-driven-marketplac_huo61ym9.html
 Linda Y. and Ashley H. “2014 Telemedicine Survey”. Foley & Lardner LLP. https://www.foley.com/files/Publication/0585f5b1-1205-4be7-be5a-4e14602a4fac/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/39c25a9b-5ff1-4ee8-b861-4ea2d71718ae/2014%20Telemedicine%20Survey%20Executive%20Summary.pdf
 Kathleen I. “Patient Interest in Adopting Telemedicine”. Software Advice. http://www.softwareadvice.com/medical/industryview/telemedicine-report-2015/