90% of Healthcare Providers Already Developing Telemedicine Options

According to a survey from Foley and Lardner LLP, 84% of C-level healthcare executives feel telemedicine is very important to their organizations and 90% have begun to develop or implement a telemedicine program.[1]

Part of the drive to telemedicine comes from the growing shift from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement models.  This means healthcare organizations must improve care while lowering costs. Providers are quickly coming to realize that telemedicine deployment is effective in helping to achieve both goals.

There are four major areas where a telemedicine implementation can be especially beneficial:

Patient-Centered Care

As the healthcare industry moves toward outcome-based care, focusing on the entirety of a patient care plan becomes crucial. Telemedicine enables providers and payers to interact face-to-face with patients regardless of location. Providers can easily make video calls to patients and physicians to answer questions or discuss issues regarding particular patient cases. A telemedicine installation can also improve population health initiatives by providing better coordination between clinicians and patients.

Urgent/Specialty Care

A video deployment improves response time and the quality of care across multiple healthcare facilities or hospital networks. Lesser-used resources can be easily redeployed to better service patients in rural or urban areas. Deploying telemedicine carts in clinics and nursing homes can dramatically increase efficiencies for providers.

Home Care

A telemedicine deployment can reduce costs and make patients more comfortable by enabling healthcare professionals to provide quality care in the patient homes via video. Providers can better coordinate wellness and prevention programs by monitoring patients in their homes and patients can remotely discuss their health issues with a doctor or nurse.

Medical Education

Clinicians need to stay on top of the latest healthcare information but sending them to offsite seminars can be expensive. Using video, physicians and nurses can improve their medical knowledge and skills remotely in collaborative learning environments. Innovative training with content sharing, annotation, recording, streaming, and video lectures are all cost effective options with a telemedicine deployment.

The Reimbursement Obstacle

With so many obvious benefits, what is preventing more widespread telemedicine deployments? The biggest obstacle is still the issue of reimbursement. The F&L survey reports that 41% of respondents are not reimbursed for telemedicine services and 21% said they received lower rates from managed care companies for telemedicine than for in person care.[2]

Thankfully for healthcare organizations, this trend is slowly changing.

In 2013 Medicaid and Medicare began participating in the reimbursement of telemedicine services – a major breakthrough for the industry. However the legislation that enabled this reimbursement came from individual states, not the federal government, meaning the decision to opt-in on reimbursement was being made on a state-by-state basis.

Compounding the problem, those states that opted in only agreed to Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement for what it referred to as “rural areas.” That means there are only a finite number of areas where service delivery is a challenge that are able to receive reimbursement. As a result, nationwide reimbursement is still not available.

Addressing the problem

The reimbursement issue still remains a significant roadblock and removing it would require action at the federal level to subsidize telemedicine programs. Today the federal government provides some help in the form of grant programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). More states are enacting and funding programs for telehealth and using some of the federal grant money to build and augment those programs. As an example, Delaware just passed legislation that creates payment parity for telemedicine services that offer the same level of care and expertise as in-person visits.

Telepresence video collaboration systems from Polycom designed and implemented by AVI-SPL are helping raise the level of quality in healthcare while controlling costs. As the national healthcare conversation continues to focus on these two areas, it’s only a matter of time before government and private payers resolve the reimbursement challenge.

[1] 2014 Telemedicine Survey, Foley and Lardner, November 2014
[2] 2014 Telemedicine Survey, Foley and Lardner, November 2014


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