Telehealth Series: Status of Telehealth Adoption

Is 2018 the Year of Telehealth?


According to the Chinese animal zodiac, 2018 is the year of the Dog. But in the world of modern medicine, 2018 very well could become the year telehealth becomes more mainstream and accepted by providers, patients and payers.

If you’re looking for a sign, search no further than the funding bill signed by the President on February 9, 2018. The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act delivers the largest boost to Federal telehealth coverage and payment in 17 years. According to the American Telemedicine Association, the new law will:

  • Expand telehealth options for the 19 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Managed Care plans;
  • Facilitate improved timeliness of diagnosis and treatment for stroke patients—the leading cause of adult long-term disability and fourth leading cause of death in U.S.;
  • Enable kidney dialysis at home, providing opportunity for dialysis patients’ required visit to be conducted via video; and
  • Allow accountable care organizations (ACOs), who are responsible for the overall cost of care, to provide telehealth for all Medicare beneficiaries and services to them at home. Presently, this level of Medicare telehealth coverage is only extended to 44 Next Generation ACOs.



You Say Telemedicine, I Say Telehealth

When the technology launched, the term “telemedicine” was used, especially in reference to traditional clinical diagnosis and monitoring. However, the term “telehealth” is now more widely used to describe a wide range of diagnosis, management, education and other types of healthcare delivered using technology.

While state and federal agencies may differ on their definition of telehealth, the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) and other members of the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers have created a Telehealth Definition Framework with four distinct domains of applications:

  • Live Videoconferencing (Synchronous): Live, two-way interaction between a person and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology.
  • Store-and-Forward (Asynchronous): Transmission of recorded health history through an electronic communications system to a practitioner, usually a specialist, who uses the information to evaluate the case or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): Personal health and medical data collection from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, which is transmitted to a provider in a different location for use in care and related support.
  • Mobile Health (mHealth):  Healthcare and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices such as cell phones, tablet computers, and PDAs. Applications can range from targeted text messages that promote healthy behavior to wide-scale alerts about disease outbreaks, to name a few examples.


What This Means for Providers

The growing capabilities and affordability of technology has helped to spur adoption of telehealth. In fact, Azalea Health was the first company to integrate telehealth into an EHR and was an early adopter of mHealth.

Yet the greatest hurdle to more widespread adoption remains reimbursement. We’ll tackle that topic in our next telehealth blog, and wrap up this series with a look at how to get started.