Hospital executives from around the state, including the Lehigh Valley, discussed the value of telemedicine in patient care this week at a state House of Representatives committee hearing in Harrisburg.
The House is considering Senate Bill 780, which would require private insurers to provide coverage for telemedicine under certain circumstances.
The state House Professional Licensure Committee sought testimony on a definition of telemedicine, ways to protect consumers and a requirement that insurers reimburse services delivered by telemedicine.
Representatives from Lehigh Valley Health Network and UPMC Pinnacle were among the hospital and health systems that testified. LVHN has the oldest and most developed telemedicine program in the region in the areas of burn care, neonatal intensive care, infectious diseases, obstetrics, psychiatry, advanced intensive care and other specialties.
Dr. Judd Hollander, senior vice president, healthcare delivery innovation, Thomas Jefferson University, said one of the main arguments that a telemedicine law is needed is that insurers do not consistently reimburse providers and patients for telemedicine services.
Hollander spoke on behalf of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.
Telemedicine is the use of technology, including smartphones, computers and remote monitoring devices, to deliver health care to patients from a distance.
Panelists spoke about how telemedicine can be used to treat and diagnose in a variety of specialties, from stroke to burn care, and can help address physician shortages and ease transportation concerns for patients in rural areas.
“It allows patients to access physicians and specialists located across the state while those patients remain in their communities surrounded by their own support systems,” Hollander said.
“Telemedicine helps to provide better access to quality, convenient health care, while also keeping costs down and improving health outcomes and population health,” he said.
Hollander said patients are protected by a variety of existing measures that ensure appropriate care is provided through telemedicine.
Andy Carter, president and CEO, HAP, encouraged the House to pass the bill, which unanimously passed in the Senate on June 13.
Carter called the telemedicine “an important tool to help patients get the right high-quality care in the right place at the right time. Hospitals across the commonwealth are using telemedicine in a variety of innovative ways to improve access to care, lower costs and help address shortages of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals.”