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Telemedicine brings specialty care to medically underserved

February 26, 2010

Medicaid patients in the state’s more remote locations will have a new option for receiving specialty care close to home, thanks to a new telemedicine service approved by the federal government in February.

Approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now makes it possible for Alabama Medicaid-enrolled dermatologists and psychiatrists to bill the Agency for certain telemedicine services. Covered procedures include consultations, office or outpatient visits, certain neurological exams and individual psychotherapy visits, among others.  

To receive telemedicine services, the patient must be referred by his or her primary care doctor or clinic to a dermatologist or psychiatrist who has enrolled as a telemedicine provider, and receive the service in an approved location, such as a doctor’s office or clinic, hospital, community mental health center or public health department. Services provided via telecommunications technologies are not covered if the recipient has access to a comparable service within 50 miles of his/her place of residence.

 Telemedicine services must include the option of an interactive audio and video system which permits confidential two-way communication. Medical services provided by telephone, email or fax do not qualify as a telemedicine service.

 “The intent of telemedicine services is to improve access to essential health care services that may not otherwise be available for Medicaid-eligible recipients residing in medically underserved areas of Alabama.” said Medicaid Medical Director Robert Moon, M.D. “Through the use of technology, we hope to expand access to these much-needed services in the most cost-efficient manner possible.”