Change so often begins in little pockets scattered across a
broader area. But, as that change catches on, it often becomes necessary to
streamline and consolidate. That is where (as mHealth Intelligence
recently highlighted) the state of Hawaii is right now. Telehealth sprang up in
pockets across the islands; however, now that it is clearly more than just a
passing trend, legislators are working to unify telehealth practices across the
state. To that end, state lawmakers recently approved S.B.
1246, “creat[ing] a strategic telehealth
advisory council, a state telehealth and health care access coordinator, and a
telehealth administrative simplification working group.” The only thing needed
is Governor David Ige’s signature.
After a survey in 2017 found that Hawaiian physicians were
not adopting telehealth as quickly as the state hoped, lawmakers passed a bill that
mandated that providers cover telehealth services like those covered in person,
removed geographical restrictions, and established payment parity. Even after
the new policies, however, telehealth adoption remained slower than desired. Part
of the problem was the lack of “incentives for
provider adoption, patient comfort with new technology, health care workforce
training, technology and telecommunications infrastructure, and administrative
simplification between health systems.” This new bill hopes to change that. The
council the new bill creates will dissolve in 2022, showing the state’s belief
the bill will foster greater adoption of telehealth.
Sometimes change does not catch on quickly, as seen in
Hawaii. Even after a couple of broad policy changes, telehealth still was not
used as much as traditional medical practices. Maybe it is due to policy
issues, or maybe physicians are not sure how to practically integrate the new
technology into their practices. Whatever the reason, the research to be
conducted by the new advisory council should shed some light on the situation.
From there, the state will be better equipped to make telehealth a more
practical part of the health care experience.