How Maximizing Telehealth Reimbursement Policies Will Change Healthcare for the Better
Virtual Care Technology Continues to Advance, But Reimbursement Policies Still Have Room to Grow
With rising costs and increasing patient demand, the healthcare industry is at the cusp of significant change. As a generation gets ready to retire, healthcare providers need to find a way to maintain, if not lower, costs without curbing the quality of care.
By 2030, the Medicare-eligible population in the United States is expected to reach 69.7 million, nearly double what it was back in 2000. Meanwhile, Medicare’s acute care costs are expected to soar to around $259.8 billion a year.
Telehealth has the potential to be the answer the healthcare industry has been looking for. In addition to seeing patients in-person, providers can reduce costs, improve patient outcomes, and increase patient access using virtual care technology, including live “face-to-face” video, “store and forward” patient consultations, and remote patient monitoring.
However, in order for these tools to be effective, they need to be covered by insurance. Although reimbursement policies continue to advance, continued policy changes are needed to increase the adoption of this essential form of healthcare.
How Telehealth Continues to Evolve
Virtual care technology continues to break down new barriers, limiting the distance between providers and patients. Using the latest audio and video technology, patients can quickly consult with providers from the comfort of their own home without having to worry about securing transportation, parking, or killing time in the waiting room.
Telehealth technology continues to improve to the point where virtual care could become nearly indistinguishable from in-person care. Live video and audio can mimic aspects of in-person care without lowering the overall quality of care. Providers can quickly triage patients using this technology to determine whether in-person care is needed. This helps prevent minor concerns from growing into larger health problems down the line, which reduces the overall cost of care.
Providers can also use remote patient monitoring technology to improve the health of their patients once they’ve left the hospital, including those living with chronic conditions and those recovering from surgery. With Medicaid and Medicare now penalizing hospitals for readmissions and extended patient lengths of stay, providers can use telehealth to improve patient outcomes and the recovery process. They can routinely use this technology to conduct remote testing, including blood sugar and A1C levels.
Telehealth also makes it easier to track and retain patients once they’re in the system, which leads to better patient outcomes and more customer loyalty within the healthcare system. Providers can easily monitor their patients’ health, recommend check-ups, and correspond with patients to increase medication adherence.
The benefits of telehealth remain clear, and there have been significant improvements in telehealth legislation recently, such as the recent introduction of the CONNECT for Health Act. However, reimbursement rates still have room to advance.
Most insurance companies cover some form of telehealth, but these policies are usually slow to catch up with the latest technology. Certain insurance companies only cover certain telehealth services, while others have strict requirements in terms of where and how these services are performed.
Telehealth reimbursement policies also vary by state, creating further disruption and confusion in this growing market. This lag in telehealth reimbursement means providers will be slower to adopt this technology, which limits care accessibility. As we continue to see the incredible benefits of virtual care unfold in the industry, it is important to drive for heightened reimbursement to continue to advance the use of this necessary means of care.
As more legislation continues to support the use of telehealth in all avenues of care, it is evident that the industry as a whole is becoming more efficient, economical, and valuable. Patients, providers, and politicians can all become advocates for increasing telehealth reimbursement by championing these policies at the local, state, and federal levels.
The healthcare industry is already becoming more efficient with the use of virtual care; just think what will happen when telehealth reimbursement policies catch up to the quickly advancing technologies. To learn more about the benefits of telehealth and how you or your organization can advocate for these policies, visit InTouch Health and speak to one of our representatives today.