The greatest advocates for telemedicine routinely hail it as a way to improve patient access. To that end, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has expanded telemedicine services for its 2 million residents on Medicaid as part of its medical assistance program, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Instead of restricting the program to consultations with a few specialties and requiring patients to be accompanied by their referring physician, they will only need a medical professional, such as a nurse. Specialties such as obstetrics, cardiology and neurology have been added and in addition to providing consultations, physicians can diagnose patients, recommend and monitor treatment, order tests and prescribe medication.
The changes, scheduled to take effect today, are also intended to help residents in rural areas that make up much of the state’s landscape.
David Schlager is the managing partner for telemedicine provider Rapid Remedy that works with employer plans to provide members and their dependents telemedicine access to family physicians. His company, which has offices in York and Malvern, Pennsylvania has offered telemedicine since 2009, and has had a front row seat to the expansion of telemedicine in the state to include drugstores like Rite Aid and Optum Health he notes that much of these services are underutilized except in niche areas.
He added that physicians in his company’s network tend to devote about 10 to 15 practice hours per week to telemedicine, focusing on their office patients for the rest of the time.
Schlager said: “Most people are still unaware that it’s a viable way to deliver healthcare in a traditional bricks and mortar office, but
from a physician’s standpoint it’s not a big leap. For a patient to think they can go to a recreation center or use the same computer doing face time with in some rural area, that’s a big jump for people, that’s a behavioral change,” said Schlager. “There’s more acceptance relative to the large payers, but it’s not being promoted as a delivery model for most of the providers.”