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Lack of parity hikes telemedicine costs

My family physician’s office is transitioning into telemedicine services. What I’m most concerned about is the potential for additional fees due to the lack of parity laws throughout the commonwealth.

Due to the recent pandemic of the coronavirus, many aspects of our daily life have been affected — Whether that’s the lack of toilet paper availability, the shortage of hand sanitizer, or the recent preventative measure of online classes for college-level students.

Other experiences such as highly-recognized sports teams and traveling opportunities are suffering the consequences of COVID-19, as well.

But one major life condition that has been considerably impacted thus far is the medical industry, for both patients and health care providers. Telemedicine services are fast and growing, as local practices move in this direction.

A local family practice has taken precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for patients and providers by implementing telemedicine visits from the safety of their own home.

The practice decided to protect their patients from exposure by limiting face-to-face interaction as much as possible. After communicating this decision to their patients, as I personally received a call, the practice took it to their Facebook page to alert the public.

The medical facility will no longer be seeing well patients and routine follow-up visits in office and will practice telemedicine until further notice.

Implementing telemedicine during this global crisis is a great precautionary measure to avoid the spread of the virus. The telemedicine alternative allows the provider to use the electronic tools to conduct patient care without the face-to-face interaction, decreasing the chances of transferring the virus.

Physicians can provide advice, education, intervention and diagnosis over these electronic devices.

Telemedicine services are beneficial for patients as it eliminates transportation time and costs, decreasing their waiting period, and avoiding the chance of catching a new illness. Doctors are able to conveniently reach a diagnosis with their patient without face-to-face interaction.

The remote analysis services extend beyond just the accessibility of both patient and practitioner.

Telemedicine can boost patient continuity by increasing patient engagement. Patients who have the ability to speak to a consultant at their own convenience can actively maintain appointments and implement preventative care by continuously scheduling their routine visits.

However, Pennsylvania currently has no parity laws. A parity law requires practices to bill insurance providers of telemedicine services the same way as in-person services.

Telemedicine is an up-and-coming service that should be expanded. But because Pennsylvania’s prevailing healthcare regulations do not address the telemedicine billing protocol, as a patient, I am left fearing the out-of-pocket expenses that I will encounter throughout my upcoming telemedicine visits.

Alexis Schumacher is an Altoona resident. She is the Outreach and Public Relations Coordinator for the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation at Saint Francis University.

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