SAN FRANCISCO, June 13, 2016 – Florida schools’ eligibility to receive Medicaid reimbursement from the state for their use of telemedicine services starts just before the 2016-17 school year. The new legislation will increase school districts’ access to telemedicine services such as PresenceLearning’s live, online speech and occupational therapy, behavioral interventions and mental health services, assessments, and early childhood services.
“We are excited that Florida’s students with special needs will now have more equitable access to special services,” said Clay Whitehead, Co-founder and Co-CEO of PresenceLearning. “Florida is taking a strong leadership role here in ensuring that children, regardless of where they live, have access to the services they need to thrive.”
As stated in Rule 59G-1.057, titled “Telemedicine,” the state defines telemedicine as the “practice of health care delivery by a practitioner who is located at a site other than the site where a recipient is located for the purposes of evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment.” The rule also includes that the state will reimburse “the practitioner who is providing the evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment recommendation located at a site other than where the recipient is located” as long as services are conducted using interactive telecommunications equipment that permits “two-way, real time, interactive communication between a recipient and a practitioner.”
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools and districts to provide special education and related services such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral and mental health services to students with special needs. However, a nationwide shortage of qualified clinicians, and challenges particular to Florida such as long commutes to hard-to-reach schools, difficulty attracting professionals to certain areas, and serving large bilingual populations make it difficult to appropriately staff special education programs for on-site services.
Telemedicine has shown that it produces the same or better results when compared to on-site delivery of special education related services. Telemedicine is recognized as an appropriate method of delivery by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and other professional organizations and is supported by dozens of peer-reviewed, published research studies. Although telemedicine has been an effective and efficient alternative for several years, the lack of Medicaid reimbursement for services essentially put those districts that chose to use telemedicine at an economic disadvantage—even if it was their only practical option for deploying services to students in need. Now, Florida districts and schools choosing to use telemedicine—also known as telehealth, telepractice or teletherapy—will receive the same reimbursement funds as those districts delivering therapy assessments and treatment services on-site.
PresenceLearning (www.presencelearning.com) is the leading telehealth network of providers of clinical services and assessments to educational organizations. The PresenceLearning care network has provided over one million sessions of live, online speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral interventions and mental health services, diagnostic services and assessments, and early childhood services for children with special needs.
All school leaders want to help their students to succeed, yet the nationwide shortage of clinicians often compromises access to the special services students need for success. Partnering with PresenceLearning connects you with a network of hundreds of rigorously selected clinical professionals via secure, live video. As Rex Miller, Director of Special Education, Bonneville Joint School District 93, says, “It’s pretty powerful.”