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Telehealth Expands in Kentucky

PHOTO:  A change in Kentucky's telehealth regulations is making more providers and services available to Medicaid patients through video link.  Photo courtesy University of Kentucky.
July 8. 2013
PHOTO: A change in Kentucky's telehealth regulations is making more providers and services available to Medicaid patients through video link. Photo courtesy University of Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Changes in Kentucky's telehealth regulations are now making it easier for more providers to deliver more health-care services to Medicaid patients by video link. Kentucky has had a telehealth network since 2000, but according to Rob Sprang, the network's co-manager and director of Kentucky TeleCare, the old regulations limited what could be done with it.

"The previous regulations were very restrictive on who could see a patient on television, what services they could deliver on TV, and where those services could be delivered," he said.

Sprang said telehealth regulations were already better for those with third-party insurance and Medicare.

Now the list of providers who can see Medicaid patients has expanded "dramatically," he said, now "including people like social workers, speech language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, a very broad group of providers outside of just physicians."

Sprang said the new regulations also lift strict limits on both the types and number of services that can be provided through telehealth.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has endorsed the change, saying "it has the potential to help make quality specialty health services more accessible throughout Kentucky."

Sprang remarked that Kentucky has overcome a significant hurdle to delivering health care, especially to rural parts of the state.

"It's not rocket science," he said. "You know, if you look at where providers are located today, there are no nephrologists, no kidney doctors, in most of our small communities. There are no child psychiatrists, there are no psychiatrists. There's so many medical specialties that are not available in our rural communities."

And, Sprang said he believes telehealth will play a "vital role" in national attempts to reform health care.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY