“TouchCare could also be used as a form of triage,” says Dr. Biese, who is also associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C. “You might be able to do an initial evaluation from their home and decide if you need to see them. In other cases, we might be able to avoid sending them to multiple providers before they see the one they really need. There are incredible inefficiencies that could be removed from the system.”
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Payment & Licensure Concerns
A number of questions must be answered when evaluating when—or even if—an app is right for you or your practice. The first is to ensure that the app you are thinking about is fully HIPPA compliant.
As with most things, telemedicine-related payment is a concern. Dr. Biese notes that TouchCare and similar apps would qualify for reimbursement by both the federal programs and private insurers that pay for telemedicine services. However, the level and availability of these programs will vary by payer and, sometimes, by state.
Licensure concerns are another important issue. Generally, current laws say the physician must be licensed in the state where the patient is located. In addition, the laws governing telemedicine can vary from one state to the next.
It is easier to make sure you aren’t practicing without a license when the telemedicine visit is at a prearranged place. With apps that are with the patient wherever they go, this is not as clear. To address this issue, it’s suggested physicians confirm where the patient is before starting the consultation.
“Mobile apps will travel as the patient travels,” notes Dr. Mecchella. “If your clinic is on a state border or has a multi-state catchment area, it is very important to understand the various state laws.”
Kurt Ullman is a freelance writer based in Indiana.
Editor’s note: Look for more information on the legalities involved in telemedicine and other options, such as Doc Pods, in the October issue of The Rheumatologist.