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Policy

Seventeen states have enacted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact so far, with 9 more states introducing Compact legislation. (Map courtesy of the Federation of State Medical Boards, http://licenseportability.org/)

Arizona is now one of 17 states to sign on to the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which provides an expedited licensing process for physicians interested in practicing in multiple states.

Another nine states have introduced legislation to join the Compact, which is expected to expand access to health care for people living in rural and underserved areas of the country, while facilitating the use of telemedicine in those areas.

Last year showed us that telemedicine continues to be an innovative alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar health care. The number of providers offering telemedicine services notably increased, and several states enacted laws requiring health plans to cover telemedicine. Here are four key trends that will drive the continued growth of telemedicine to transform health care in 2016.

Skilled nursing facility

Telemedicine is a relatively new way to bring medical examinations, diagnosis and treatment services to a patient over a network. Telemedicine solutions that include peripherals, such as a stethoscope, otoscope and high quality zoom camera, bring patients face-to-face with an offsite physician who can quickly examine, diagnose and provide treatment options during an off-hours emergency.

The use of a telemedicine system within a skilled nursing facility (SNF) not only opens dialogue between healthcare professionals at different facilities, but also allows an offsite physician to more rapidly access and diagnose the patient and recommend treatment based on a first-hand evaluation, offering an even greater level of patient care. With these benefits in mind, telemedicine is becoming increasingly important for skilled nursing facilities facing a wave of new penalties stemming from changing rules governing patient readmissions.

Copper Queen Community Hospital

At a time when small rural hospitals are increasingly closing their doors, Bisbee’s Copper Queen Community Hospital is bucking the trend.

One can point to a number of reasons why the 14-bed critical access hospital, 10 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border, is able to maintain a healthy bottom line. One reason is Copper Queen’s robust use of telemedicine.

FDA Guidance and telemedicine device

Internet and Wirelessly Connected Medical Devices (“Devices”) are a cybersecurity concern of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as evidenced by guidance it issued in October 2014. The FDA Guidance does not have the force of law—but is highly influential in the medical device industry. Likely, failure of compliance will delay or prevent FDA approvals of such Devices.

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