Takeaways from HIMSS19
Staff from InTouch Health attended HIMSS19, the leading health information and technology conference, earlier this month. Attendees gained valuable insights into many facets of the telehealth industry, including growth opportunities and potential challenges.
HIMSS is a global non-profit organization that focuses on improving healthcare by optimizing outcomes and experience through technology and information. What did our staff find most valuable from HIMSS’ conference this year?
The Real Challenges of Adopting Telehealth
Fortunately, technology is not as significant of a barrier as it once was. Affordability is also less of a hurdle due to the availability of funding from the government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and various philanthropic organizations.
Today, a main challenge of telehealth adoption includes the need to align with leadership to understand the goals of institutions. Programs must be both effective and efficient. Provider engagement is crucial, as they are healthcare’s driving force. They’ve been trained for years to follow evidence-based medicine, so now they need solid evidence to help get those providers to buy in and get past the early adoption phase.
Finally, telehealth programs must be well-designed to ensure they improve provider engagement and efficiency, as well as provider and patient satisfaction. Any new telehealth program has to fit within existing workflows, demonstrate a clear benefit, be easy to use, and offer robust training and education for users.
The Path to Incorporating a New Telehealth Program
Choosing and implementing a new telemedicine program should follow a five-step plan of action in order to ensure the best program for each institution is engaged.
1. Assess: Make an assessment of the needs of clinical and administrative services, technology infrastructure, equipment inventory, leadership support, potential relationships with specialty providers, and clinical provider buy-in.
2. Establish: As part of the new telemedicine software integration, several components of the institution must be established or re-established, including the actual telehealth team, partnerships, a revenue cycle management program, and a technology infrastructure.
3. Define: Specifics of the system and institution must be clearly defined for a new telehealth program to be successful, including staff roles like a clinician chairperson, tech support, insurance billing, credentialing, patient flow, and more.
4. Implement: Launching the telehealth program encompasses several key points, including technology, staff training, provider orientation, patient education, and going live with patient visits.
5. Improve: Once the telehealth program has been running for a while, it must be analyzed for identifying both strong points and weaknesses. Provider satisfaction, revenue cycles, and identifying any culture barriers that may be present should be addressed, analyzed, and rectified.
Telehealth Reimbursement Continues to Improve
Until recently, telehealth reimbursement was limited to about 1% of care, and could only be delivered in rural sites. Then, telehealth reimbursement expanded to more locations and CPT codes, but was still required to be a rural site. Now, the rural requirement has been removed. This is just the beginning of recent groundbreaking legislation for telehealth reimbursement.
In 2018, federal health bills passed including improvements such as enabling nationwide reimbursement for many conditions, adding mobile stroke units, and allowing the use of telehealth in homes and non-rural areas. In addition, a major funding increase for telehealth grants passed at the federal level, in addition to several improvements for veteran services.
While CMS creates payment for new virtual care services, the change in physician payment from 2018 to 2019 is substantial. In 2018, the number of urban encounters for telestroke was about 60% of cases, for which there was no reimbursement. However, by the end of 2019, approximately 1,000 video encounters are expected–along with $150,000 in professional fees annually.
Tele-ICU is a Strategy That Delivers
The use of tele-ICU solutions improves both the quantity and quality of patient care. In 2018, 507 ICU lives were saved as the mortality ratio went from 42% to 22%. There was an average decrease of 259 ICU days with a cost avoidance of $959K, driving the ICU length of stay ratio down by 2%. In addition, 2018 saw a decrease of 441 ICU mechanical ventilation days, with a cost avoidance of $287K.
From recognizing the challenges of telemedicine implementation to incorporating a new telehealth program, reaping the benefits of tele-ICU, and improved reimbursement, the information presented at this year’s HIMMS conference was invaluable. Essential, relevant, and workable strategies regarding the advancement of telemedicine were delivered each day that will prove to be indispensable to the industry as it advances.
InTouch Health excels in providing an intuitive, cutting-edge, revolutionary platform for telemedicine that includes everything you need to virtualize medical care. The InTouch Virtual Care Platform is easy to use, simple, and configurable. With telehealth innovation progressing at a faster rate than ever before, the benefits to providers, patients, practices, communities, and institutions are endless. Discover what our telehealth software can do for you and contact us today.