Telemedicine and telehealth can improve the delivery of acute and behavioral health services. The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) have used telemedicine for decades. Florida's Medicaid program also recognizes the delivery of various services via telemedicine. Many innovations have been developed to improve access, quality and efficiencies in critical care, teleneurology, telepsychiatry and home health settings.

Several Florida hospitals currently use telehealth and telemedicine at their own expense due to proven efficacy in quality outcomes, reduced length of stay, fall prevention, expedited treatment, access to specialty providers, improved patient safety and lower cost. These findings have been supported through research conducted by the American Telemedicine Association, which demonstrated that telemedicine:

- Reduces inappropriate admissions and readmissions

- Reduces emergency room visits, mortality and lengths of stay in the emergency room

- Increases positive clinical outcomes

- Rates high in patient and staff satisfaction

- Results in better management of care

Telepsychiatry is also widely used and currently covered in the Medicaid program.

A study looking at the efficiency of the VA's telemental health program found the use of telepsychiatry reduced inpatient admissions by 24 percent and length-of-stay by 26 percent. 1 FHA's Psychiatric Hospital Council also reports significant benefits for using telemedicine in managing behavioral health patients. Telemedicine can prove especially beneficial for Baker Act determination in emergency rooms.

FHA supports the use of telemedicine to increase patient access and improve quality of care while driving down costs. For more information, contact FHA Vice President of Government Affairs Crystal Stickle.