Fewer than 1% of rural Medicare beneficiaries received a telemedicine visit in 2013, according to a study reported this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The average number of telemedicine visits for the 41,070 rural beneficiaries who did was 2.6, for a total of 107,955 visits. That’s up from 7,015 in 2004. Medicare limits telemedicine reimbursement to a small set of services provided through a live video encounter with the patient at a rural clinic or facility. According to the study, most of the 2013 visits occurred in outpatient clinics and involved rural beneficiaries with mental health conditions; 12.5% occurred in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. “In contrast to others, we found that state laws that mandate commercial insurance reimbursement of telemedicine were not associated with faster growth in Medicare telemedicine use,” the authors said. AHA has urged Congress to expand Medicare coverage and payment for telehealth, citing the growing body of evidence that telehealth increases quality, improves patient satisfaction and reduces costs. For more information, visit www.aha.org/telehealth.

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