There’s no escaping the reality of some dramatic changes that are happening to our healthcare landscape this year. MACRA and the Quality Payment Program were implemented, forcing our entire nation of healthcare providers to begin focusing on both the quality of care they provide and the level of engagement they have with their patients. Because of this, Telehealth has not only entered the scene but is quickly becoming the most talked about service to be added to modern healthcare practices nationwide.
However, as with any conversation that begins within a mass audience, sometimes there are twists and turns that are not entirely based upon fact. This article will help uncover the veracity of certain points and any fiction that may have found its way into the dialogue you’ve been part of.
FALSE: Only young millennials will be interested in utilizing Telehealth.
TRUE: Adding Telehealth to your practice will increase your number of patient visits and improve the quality of care your patients receive.
Many clinicians believe that it’s only the patients who are most savvy with technology that will feel comfortable utilizing a telehealth visit but they couldn’t be more wrong. There is an enormous amount of data that shows telehealth will boost the level of care received by patients who travel a lot for their work, such as truck drivers and sales people, and for those patients who simply find it hard to get out to the doctor’s office, such as senior citizens or those who are just too sick to feel up to leaving the house. While it’s true that millennials will adapt quickly to Telehealth, the same is true for patients of all ages whose circumstance makes it much easier to be seen from home or while they are on the road.
FALSE: Telehealth should only be used for emergency services.
TRUE: Telehealth visits can be used for a variety of healthcare services.
In its early stages, it may have been true that Telehealth was more appropriate for treating conditions most seen in the setting of an urgent care facility. That’s because it began as a simple phone conversation. However, with today’s smartphone technology and video capabilities we’ve come a very, very long way and now Telehealth can be used for much more than treating a fever and sore throat. In fact, as technology continues to advance there is no doubt that we will eventually see home-based systems that can accurately report important vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc. As it stands today, Telehealth can and should be implemented into services such as treatment of Chronic Conditions and illnesses that expand much further than the common cold.
FALSE: Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial payers do not reimburse for Telemedicine visits.
TRUE: Telemedicine represents significant savings in the cost of care for Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial payers.
While there are still some limitations on reimbursement based on restrictions relating to the originating site, all payers have begun to overcome other obstacles related to Telemedicine reimbursement. In fact, Medicare began reimbursing for Telehealth related to Chronic Care Management services more than a year ago. There are 48 state Medicaid programs and the District of Columbia that have some type of telemedicine coverage. It’s important to review your state resources to determine the level of reimbursement that currently exists. The main factors that should be considered are those related to the patient setting, technology and the provider type that is covered.
As of today, there are at least 15 states that have lifted all restrictions on the provider type and only four (4) states overall that still restrict reimbursement to physicians. This is clear indication that very soon we will see a wide and clear path for telemedicine to change the way most patients receive care. Not only will payers see enormous savings overall, but more patients will receive the care they need. It’s truly a solution where everyone benefits.