ACR supports 'Expanded Role' for Telemedicine in Rheumatic C
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The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) released an official position statement supporting telemedicine, highlighting the importance of continued face-to-face patient visits, and addressing other points that should be considered when using telemedicine as a tool post-pandemic.

“The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has presented both challenges and opportunities to rheumatology professionals who have rapidly adopted telemedicine in routine practice,” Chris Phillips, MD, one of the statement’s lead authors and member of the ACR’s Committee on Rheumatologic Care, said in a news release issued by ACR.

Telemedicine should not replace “essential face-to-face assessments conducted at medically appropriate intervals,” the ACR statement emphasized, but rather should be used to increase access to and improve patient care.

Telemedicine visits should continue to be reimbursed on par with other types of patient care interactions by Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health insurers, even after the current public health emergency has ended.

The ACR set out 4 principles that telemedicine services should follow to justify such reimbursement parity, including:

-- Relationships between the patient and rheumatologist should include in-person and telemedicine services in accordance with the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics and specifically with standards for ethical practice in telemedicine.
-- Patients should be able to choose their provider for telemedicine services, as with all other medical services.
-- Telemedicine services should provide standards and scope of care as consistent as possible as with those of in-person visits. Providers must recognize the limitations of telemedicine in this respect and do whatever they can to minimize those limitations.
-- Providers must properly document the telemedicine services they administer.

The ACR also set out specific issues to which it is opposed, including geographic restrictions on telemedicine, such as rural designation requirements for patients. The ACR supports all patients’ rights to continue to access telemedicine after the public health emergency is over, regardless of their location. The statement also sets out the ACR’s opposition to payers dictating that providers use a specific telemedicine platform, create their own restrictive networks, or direct patients to specific providers.