What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical healthcare. It is quickly becoming a part of the healthcare landscape.The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)Taskforce on Sleep Telemedicine supports telemedicine as a means of advancing patient health by improving access to sleep medicine specialists, but says this improved access must be anchored in attention to quality in sleep disorder diagnosis and treatment. As such, the taskforce has developed specific guidelines intended for sleep medicine practitioners who may want to integrate telemedicine into their practice.
Guidelines, Benefits, and Limitations
According to the AASM, as the number of those seeking healthcare expands and the number of healthcare professionals lessens, more efficient and accessible ways to provide services beyond the traditional office model are needed, especially in sleep medicine.
Telehealth applications are increasingly seen as tools to deliver cost effective care and increase accessibility, and sleep medicine already utilizes telehealth applications for the diagnosis and monitoring of sleep apnea. Based on the limited number of sleep specialists and their varying geographic distribution, telemedicine provides a good alternative to help patients who might not otherwise have access,
However, as telemedicine is an emerging form of patient care, there are limitations as insurance and state regulations come into play. For Safwan Badr, MD, staff physician at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and the Detroit Medical Center and professor and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine, one example is that states do not allow for controlled substances to be prescribed to a patient that the provider has not seen in person.
Despite the limitations, there are clear benefits to this new practice, and greater access to sleep medicine specialists may help those who suffer from sleep disorders and related ailments. For Badr, technology is always advancing, and with the benefits of a home sleep apnea test, and the ability to follow up with live interactive telemedicine, there is the opportunity to treat many who otherwise might not have received care.
The new guidelines on telemedicine developed include a range of ideals, from the role and responsibilities of sleep medicine providers to the quality of clinical care standards. To begin, the group writes that clinical care standards for telemedicine services should mirror those of in-person office visits, including all aspects of diagnosis and treatment.
1. Delivery of sleep telemedicine should be clearly defined
2. Clinical judgment should also be exercised by sleep medicine providers when determining the scope and extent of telemedicine applications in the treatment and diagnosis of patients.
3. No matter what the delivery model, the primary responsibility of all healthcare providers is to provide the highest quality patient care.
4. The use of telemedicine services and its equipment should adhere to strict ethical and professional standards so it does not violate the intent of the telemedicine interaction while striving to improve patient access and quality of care
5. Time for data management and quality processes should be recognized in value-based care delivery models.
6. Quality assurance processes should be in place for telemedicine care delivery models that aim to capture process measures, patient outcomes, and patient/provider experiences with the model(s) employed.
7. In regards to reimbursement, the taskforce recommends that “live interactive telemedicine” for sleep disorders be recognized and reimbursed in a manner competitive or comparable with traditional in-person visits. The group also proposes that when billing for telemedicine services, it is recommended that providers, patients, and others rendering services understand payor reimbursement.
8. The use of sleep telemedicine may possibly expand, further research is needed on the impact and outcomes of its use in sleep as well as healthcare in general.
Overall, according to the taskforce, the practice of telemedicine should aim to promote a care model in which patients sleep specialists, and other healthcare providers strive to improve the value of healthcare delivery in a coordinated fashion.
For more information, please visit the original source:
Sleep Medicine Guidelines for Telemedicine