Telehealth options have increased all over the country, especially in rural areas where there may be a limited number of pediatricians. Until recently, when a provider initiated a telemedicine appointment, they only had to indicate the physical spot in which a patient was joining the call — for example, home or work. Providers now have to document their patients’ geographical location, like city and state. The internet is everywhere, but the question remains: Can healthcare providers be anywhere and still provide medical care?
You might be wondering if you need to change your telemedicine policies. You may ask yourself, if you do not, will you continue to be reimbursed for the telehealth services you provide? Currently, there are 24 states where providers have reciprocal license agreements. Virtual care has helped bridge many barriers to care and gaps in accessing medical advice. However, are state licensing regulations and boundary lines becoming the new barrier to accessing healthcare?
In this blog, we’ll explore the requirements for offering out-of-town services, the challenges providers face in offering these services, and why this should matter to you and your pediatric practice.
What are the Requirements for Offering Telehealth Services in Other States and Countries?
Because telehealth grew during 2020’s emergency circumstances, the rules and regulations of who can offer telehealth services have never been clearly defined. The pandemic offered you leniency in how and where you offered your healthcare services because keeping medical care available to the masses was of utmost importance.
The Centers for Disease Control recently announced the end of COVID-19 and with it, these policy modifications are rumored to be coming to an end. Practices are left waiting to learn what is required of them when practicing virtually across state and country lines. However, there are currently special purpose licenses, telemedicine licenses or certificates, and licenses to practice medicine across state lines that remove that concern. These certificates can offer you peace of mind when you’re practicing telemedicine across state lines.
What are the Challenges of Offering Services Outside of the State a Provider Has Licensure?
Telehealth has been able to reduce barriers by offering services to those in rural areas who otherwise would not have access to healthcare services. Until now, telemedicine has been covered under pandemic emergency acts. As time marches on, telemedicine reimbursement is moving towards practices billing for virtual services through insurance. With this, a new barrier is the lack of portability on provider licensure. Currently, physicians and advanced practice providers are licensed by each individual state and can practice only within the states they are licensed.
Here are some questions that come to mind when thinking about telemedicine appointments and scope of practice:
- Who needs to be within a provider’s licensure radius: The provider or the provider and their patient participating in the appointment?
- Is it the patient’s residence that constitutes whether or not they are within their provider’s licensure state, or is it their physical presence within that state that matters?
- Do providers need to be licensed in every state their patients may be traveling to?
Physicians practicing in multiple states must adhere to a variety of state-specific medical practice regulations as well as maintain annual license renewal fees for each state license. While there is an expedited process for licensing board-certified physicians who do not have background check issues, there is no national licensure. As telehealth has expanded, states are taking steps to coordinate the licensure process for out-of-state providers to practice telehealth across state lines.
Why Should Pediatricians Care about Providing Telehealth in Other States and Countries?
It’s the summer season, a time full of out-of-town family vacations, sleepaway summer camps, and quick weekend getaways. In addition, the back-to-school season is rapidly approaching, and this means that older adolescents will be going away to college in different states or embarking on study-abroad programs in other countries. Everyone is trying to squeeze in appointments where they can, and it’s quite possible that some appointments this coming fall will take place when your patients are not at home or in a different town, state, or country.
It’s obvious telemedicine is here to stay, and with that will come more rules and regulations from governing bodies for offering virtual care services. Keeping up with and knowing your state’s requirements for offering telehealth services to your patients is becoming more important as pandemic policies end, and we return to a sense of normalcy. We are truly learning the challenges, restrictions, and requirements in real time. What this will mean for pediatric practices offering virtual services remains to be seen.
As we investigate and implement new telehealth regulations, it’s crucial that you and your pediatric practice stay on top of the latest information. Are you interested in learning more about telemedicine services and how they can benefit your pediatric practice? If so, contact Anytime Pediatrics today to request a consultation!