Pennsylvania hospitals and health care professionals are using telemedicine services to save lives and keep patients healthy, but we need additional legislative action to protect consumers and expand access to that care.
The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill (Senate Bill 780) designed to ensure that patients get care from qualified practitioners and that health insurance consistently covers telemedicine. When the state House reconvenes this fall, it’s important that they take up this measure as the Senate did earlier this year.
Telemedicine is the secure, confidential exchange of medical information from one site to another via electronic communications. Telemedicine can take different forms, such as live, two-way video conferences between a patient and doctor, or patients who just need a blemish checked by a dermatologist and can snap a photo, securely transmit it, and quickly receive a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Hospitals across the state are investing in telemedicine for specialty care, such as telestroke and teledermatology services, as well as to help patients manage chronic health problems and access behavioral health services.
Senate Bill 780, sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) will require health insurers to provide payment for a health care service delivered via telemedicine if they cover the same service during an in-person visit. Some health insurance companies cover some telemedicine services, but exactly what is covered can vary from insurer to insurer and even from plan to plan. Establishing a level playing field level is in the best interests of consumers and providers.
Telemedicine can help save lives by bringing physicians who have specialized expertise in specific diseases, traumas, or conditions, right into the ER of a small, community hospital.
By connecting doctors with patients wherever they are, telemedicine reduces travel times and costs. By expanding the pool of physicians available to quickly and easily provide care beyond their geographic locations, telemedicine has the potential to reduce wait times and increase convenience.
Doctors and hospitals see the benefits of telemedicine every day. As more practitioners adopt this technology, increasing numbers of Pennsylvanians will gain access to quality health care—and the opportunity to save time and money.
House action on the telemedicine bill will be a giant step forward in helping health care consumers across the state.