State Leaders Eye Telehealth as Tool to Improve Health, Lower Costs


NCSL NewsWashington, D.C.—State leaders are looking now more than ever to telehealth as a way to address workforce gaps and underserved patients, according to a new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The report, “Telehealth: Policy Trends and Considerations,” was released during the annual NCSL Capitol Forum in Washington, D.C. In December 2014, NCSL brought together state legislators, legislative staff and private industry representatives to discuss telehealth adoption and barriers. The group met for one year and focused its attention on three policy areas: reimbursement of telehealth encounters; licensure for telehealth providers; and patient privacy, safety and security.

A few of the findings include:

  • Coverage and Reimbursement: Differences in payment and coverage for telehealth services in the public and private sector, as well as different policies across states, remain a barrier for widespread telehealth use. Nearly all states cover telehealth in their Medicaid programs, and 33 states and Washington, D.C., have telehealth policies for private payers.
  • Licensure: With technology’s ability to span state borders, provider licensure portability is a key issue that states are examining to expand access and improve efficiency in the existing workforce. A handful of states have addressed practice across state lines through mechanisms such as specific telehealth licenses for out-of-state providers, while many have joined or are considering interstate compacts.
  • Safety and Security: Ensuring safe telehealth encounters for patients, as well as privacy and data security, has become increasingly important with the growth of telehealth. The majority of states allow a patient-provider relationship to be established via telehealth, and 29 states have some type of informed consent polices.

Click here to view the report “Telehealth: Policy Trends and Considerations.”

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.