A bill that seeks to expand telehealth services to senior facilities across New York State was signed into law last week by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
The legislation, which was sponsored by Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne (D-Theresa), amends public health law by expanding the definition of an “originating site” and allowing primary care providers to use telehealth technology to connect with and provide care to seniors.
Telehealth — or telemedicine — initiatives allow medical professionals to communicate with their patients via secure video conference. In our region, medical providers commonly use telemedicine for psychology, psychiatry, stroke care, wound care and more with the help of the North Country Telehealth Partnership.
Assemblywoman Jenne said she has long seen the growth of telemedicine as an important component of expanding access to health care in the North County and around the state.
“Some patients in the North Country are travelling two, three and even four hours to meet with specialists on a regular basis,” she said in a news release. “Those trips are often difficult for patients in good weather, and I know those trips are even more challenging in the winter months. Internet-based patient care has the potential to be an important tool in providing access for elderly and young patients alike.”
Assemblywoman Jenne said the new legislation will provide a more convenient care option for seniors living in adult care facilities, allowing them to use telehealth services as necessary. In turn, she said, this could encourage more routine medical visits:
“This bill means seniors could connect with their physicians without having to go out in the cold weather or having to sit in a medical office, where they are being exposed to other patients being treated for communicable diseases such as colds and the flu. It could even reduce the need for some patients to be transported to hospital emergency rooms for after-hours care.”
Next on the Radar: Expand Telehealth Services to Schools
Assemblywoman Jenne said a second bill that would allow telehealth services to be used at primary and secondary schools, child care programs, and child care centers is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.
She expressed the importance of this bill, noting that reimbursement issues have so far limited the use of telehealth services at schools and child care centers.
“This legislation is important as we move forward with the community school model that sees our schools and child care centers providing our children with far more than educational services,” she said. “When schools are unable to bill for these services, it often means the use of the service is not financially feasible. By adding schools to the list of originating sites, schools will have a greater ability to consider telehealth services when needed for their students.”
The assemblywoman said she is optimistic Governor Cuomo will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.