I should add that telehealth and telemedicine are not synonymous, although these terms are often used interchangeably. Telemedicine refers to the practice of medicine using technology to deliver clinical services at a distance, while telehealth refers more broadly to electronic and telecommunication technologies and services that provide care at a distance but are not necessarily clinical encounters.7 One of the largest areas of telehealth is apps. Hundreds of apps claim the ability to do everything from perform an EKG to calculate a patient’s Glasgow Coma Score. Such apps, and telehealth in general, are less regulated than telemedicine. If you are promoting telehealth apps for patients, be careful, since there is less oversight. 

COVID-19 has catapulted telemedicine into a new era. My own opinion is that it is an asset to a medical practice and that most patients and providers enjoy it and find it useful. Looking at telemedicine only in the short-term is myopic. It is important to plan for long-term ways to integrate telemedicine into your practice. Although there may be some extra effort at the outset at a time of national and professional stress, the effort will pay off in the longer term when you have a safe and compliant structure in place for telemedicine going forward.

Telehealth and Telemedicine Resources

These Websites provide a variety of information about the use of telemedicine in clinical practice, including discussion of licensure requirements, HIPAA regulations, coding, and reimbursement.

American College of Rheumatology

ACR Telehealth Provider Fact Sheet

Alliance for Connected Care

State Telehealth Expansion

American Academy of Family Physicians

General Provider Telehealth and Telemedicine

American Medical Association

AMA Quick Guide to Telemedicine in Practice

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Physicians and Other Clinicians: CMS Flexibilities to Fight COVID-19

Federation of State Medical Boards

Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine

States Modifying In-State Licensure Requirements in Response to COVID-19

References

1.    Galewitz, P. Telemedicine Surges, Fueled by Coronavirus Fears and Shift in Payment Rules. Kaiser Health News. March 27, 2020. Available at: https://khn.org/news/telemedicine-surges-fueled-by-coronavirus-fears-and-shift-in-payment-rules/. Accessed: April 8, 2020.

2.    American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). General Provider Telehealth and Telemedicine Toolkit. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/advocacy/prevention/crisis/CMSGeneralTelemedicineToolkit.pdf. Accessed: April 9, 2020.

3.    Office of Health and Human Services. Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency. Available at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html. Accessed: April 10, 2020.

4.    Federation of State Medical Boards. States Modifying In-State Licensure Requirements in Response to COVID-19. April 15, 2020. Available at: https://www.fsmb.org/siteassets/advocacy/pdf/states-waiving-licensure-requirements-for-telehealth-in-response-to-covid-19.pdf. Accessed: April 16, 2020.

5.    Federation of State Medical Boards.  Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine. Available at: https://www.fsmb.org/siteassets/advocacy/policies/fsmb_telemedicine_policy.pdf. Accessed: April 20, 2020.

6.    Eddy N. Cyberattacks continue to mount during COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare ITNews. April 8, 2020. Available at: https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/cyberattacks-continue-mount-during-covid-19-pandemic. Accessed: April 10, 2020.

7.    American Academy of Family Physicians. What’s the difference between telehealth and telemedicine? Available at: https://www.aafp.org/media-center/kits/telemedicine-and-telehealth.html. Accessed: April 10, 2020.