Telehealth Compact Overview
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The Council of State Governments
ThE council oF sTaTE govErnmEnTs
The cost of health care has grown an average of 2.4percent faster than the gross domestic product since1970 and now represents 18 percent of the UnitedStates’ total GDP, according to the Kaiser FamilyFoundation. One challenge signicantly contributingto these costs is access to health care in hard-to-servelocations where access to doctors and specialistsis frequently limited. This problem is especiallycommon in rural areas. According to the AmericanAcademy of Family Physicians, 21 percent of the U.S.population lives in rural areas, but only 11 percentof medical specialists practice in those areas. TheAmerican Academy of Family Physicians notes thatthis frequently results in patients in these areas beingdramatically undeserved. Too often, these patientsdo not have access to the latest research, scienticbreakthroughs and medicine because of where theylive. Missed appointments, incomplete care and lackof access occur too frequently and contribute to esca-lating health care costs.An increased emphasis on telehealth could offera solution in the current health care delivery system.Technologies such as teleconferencing and mobiledevices have the potential to increase connectivity,in turn improving access to health care and medicalexpertise in hard-to-serve areas. With these technolo-gies, patients in rural communities and other hard-to-serve areas can gain access to specialists, training andresources located in metropolitan areas.Leveraging technology to improve access to tele-health has the potential to signicantly improveaccess to health care in rural areas and, in turn, re-duce costs for patients, states and the federal govern-ment. An effective telehealth system that allows ruralpatients to connect more efciently with specialistshas the potential to streamline the process and resultin better patient outcomes, all while reducing thenancial burden on patients, states and the federalgovernment.
The Benefits of Telehealth
To achieve these goals and to promote greater accessto health care in rural areas, states must modernizemedical licensure regulation and payment models,including these suggestions from HealthITnow.org:•Implement interoperable technologies that canopenly exchange patient information;•Reform licensure regulations to allow health careproviders to make their expertise available acrossstate boundaries; and•Provide reasonable reimbursement for telehealthservices.While the technology to implement these types of reforms exists, there is no way to promote cross-border licensing. Existing state and federal laws mustbe changed to more effectively take advantage of technology and more broadly promote the advance-ment of telehealth.Health care providers currently are required toobtain multiple state licenses and adhere to multiplesets of rules in order to provide telehealth acrossstate lines. These existing laws frequently serve asa major roadblock to providing patients with highquality health care across state lines. This is especiallytrue for patients being treated in emergency situa-tions or needing highly specialized treatment that isoften hard to nd.