2016 Telehealth Trends for Nurse Practitioners

Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP-BC

The 40 years of telemedicine research coupled with the growing momentum for patient-centered care has created the perfect storm for an explosion of digital health innovation.  Nurse practitioners wanting to stay on the forefront of emerging technologies should anticipate exciting changes in 2016 including new legislation, disruptive startup companies, and creative products. This article reviews important milestones from the telehealth industry in 2015 and forecasts upcoming trends relevant to the modern nurse practitioner.

Many times, nurse practitioners provide telemedicine services across state lines, requiring them to hold multiple state licenses. To reduce unnecessary administrative burden, states are looking to compact agreements. For many years now, registered nurses have possessed one multistate licensure under the Nurse Licensure Compact. More recently, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing drafted the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact, which expands the compact agreement to include nurse practitioners.

In 2015 alone, more than 200 telemedicine bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country. Last year also marked the first major federal laws specifically addressing telehealth services: the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act and the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act. These bills enable nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers to offer services to vulnerable populations and those living in rural, underserved areas of the country.

This year, nurse practitioners can expect six more reimbursement codes for telemedicine services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services added these codes to encourage more health care systems to implement telehealth services. For example, CMS added codes 90963 to 90966 to their End-Stage Renal Disease Quality Incentive Program. These codes allow a nurse practitioner to offer telehealth services to patients receiving dialysis treatment in their home so long as the physical examination of the catheter access site was conducted in-person.

In late 2015, Grand View Inc. published a report elucidating the rising patient demand for telehealth services. This study forecasted that the telemedicine market will grow from $572 million to $2.8 billion by 2022. As a result, the technology startup community has seen an explosion of innovative telemedicine companies. PointNurse, for example, is a unique mobile health company with an advisory board of entrepreneurial nurse practitioners.

Along with telehealth, nurse practitioners should anticipate a continuing boom in digital health accessories that allow for real-time remote monitoring of their patients. Philips Telehealth Solutions offers devices that help patients track their own health data and automatically transmit it to their nurse practitioner. These devices include scales, ECG monitors, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and pulse oximeters. Apple has also recently launched their HealthKit, which includes wireless devices to monitor a patient’s vital signs, sleep health, and physical fitness. Other wearable devices, such as SimpleWave, initiate an immediate emergency response if a patient falls at home.

As 2016 progresses, nurse practitioners should monitor the emerging legislation that enables them to practice across state lines and receive reimbursements for their telehealth services. Furthermore, as the laws change, nurse practitioners should expect more innovative telemedicine and digital health companies to hit the market. If you’re interested in learning about telemedicine opportunities, contact MedSource for more information.