ATA reports grade state telemedicine policies

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A pair of state policy reports on telemedicine, released this week by the American Telemedicine Association, show gaps in coverage, reimbursement, practice standards and licensure across the U.S.

The reports identify and compare state policies on a report card, assigning grades A-F, according to an announcement.

"We hope these reports serve a dual purpose: to showcase the states that are doing an excellent job when it comes to telemedicine and to serve as a wake-up call to those who are failing to extend quality and affordable care," Jonathan Linkous, CEO of ATA, said in the announcement.

The first report looks at coverage and reimbursement standards for every U.S. state.

Thirteen indicators were used to grade each state, according to the report, including parity laws for private insurance coverage, Medicaid policies and state employee health plan laws.

Overall, there has been a "mix of stride and stagnation in state-based policy," the report says. It found that 29 states earned an "F" for having no parity law in place. Rhode Island, Connecticut and Iowa scored lowest because they have the most barriers to telemedicine advancement, according to the report. 

Seven states scored an "A" for policies that support telemedicine adoption: Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee and Virginia.

The second report focuses on physician practice standards and licensure. The ATA looked at state laws and medical board standards, including physician-patient encounters, informed consent requirements and multi-state licensing.

Twenty-three states got an "A." About 27 states fell in the middle and North Dakota had the lowest score.

One reason for North Dakota's telemedicine struggles may be the large number of small, rural hospitals in the state that often have few resources, as FierceHealthIT previously reported.

No state achieved a top score for licensure policies. That means every state has a policy that makes practicing medicine across state lines difficult regardless of whether telemedicine is used, according to the association.

However, an interstate compact for physician licensure is in the works. The Federation of State Medical Boards announced the completion of the drafting process last week; the compact would make it easier for physicians to practice across state lines. But some stakeholders are concerned the compact doesn't do enough.

To learn more:
- read the ATA's announcement
- read the coverage and reimbursement standards report
- check out the physician practice standers and licensure report

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