Various telemedicine technologies have been available for over 40 years, but interest in and demand for telemedicine services are increasing. Telemedicine is growing in popularity because of its potential to increase access to care, lower costs, and make certain types of medical visits more convenient for patients. ISMS supports the appropriate development and use of telemedicine technologies, but issues surrounding telemedicine are complex, and there are important factors physicians need to consider before they commit to providing telemedicine services.
Background on Telemedicine
Per the Illinois Medical Practice Act, telemedicine includes providing “written or oral opinions concerning diagnosis or treatment of a patient in Illinois by a person in a different location than the patient as a result of transmission of individual patient data by telephonic, electronic, or other means of communication” (225 ILCS 60/49.5). Telemedicine is a tool that allows the practice of medicine to occur when the physician and patient are not at the same physical location.
Illinois implemented several special rules to facilitate the use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 public health emergency, including requiring private health insurers and Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) to:
- Cover services provided via telemedicine
- Reimburse physicians and other healthcare professionals at the same rate as would be paid for delivering services in person
The response to these temporary changes was overwhelmingly positive. An ISMS survey of Illinois physicians found that of the 81% of physicians who reported using telemedicine, three-quarters had not done so prior to the start of the pandemic. The most common barriers to previous telemedicine use included technology requirements and payer reimbursement policies.
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