Are you familiar with an old mantra about real estate that goes, “Location, location, location!” As if a care provider’s job wasn’t hard enough already, along comes a patient that requires you to commute to them. Now, that’s not a complaint, of course. But, travel time IS time away from the work place, and that can carve a considerable hole out of your routine. Especially if you’re short staffed. I think we all look forward to a time when distance is no longer an issue. And thankfully that time is at hand.
Telehealth is starting to shape the way you can communicate with patients. Imagine reaching across city, county, and even state lines by dialing a number. You can see those in need in real time and take readings from their home-based equipment. They can skip the wait and the stress that could worsen their condition, and you don’t need to find coverage for your shift. And, best of all, most hospitals, practices, and patients already have the beginnings of an infrastructure that supports it: access to email, video with voice, or even just a modern smartphone.
What can Telehealth do?
- Make healthcare accessible to people who live in rural and isolated communities.
- Make services more readily available and convenient for people with limited mobility, time, or transportation options.
- Provide access to medical specialists.
- Improve communication and coordination of care between caregivers and patients.
- Provide support for self-management of healthcare.
What can’t Telehealth do?
It can’t evolve into a modern, self-sustaining, painless experience without help.
We all like to get paid on time. And that’s why Telehealth will only succeed if providers are reimbursed at the same rate as in-person care. However, reimbursement remains a complex issue with payers, providers, and legislators at odds over how physicians should be paid for their online time.
- According to the American Telemedicine Association, at least 33 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of payment parity law on the books, requiring that telehealth visits be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits.
- At the federal level, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed a number of restrictions on Medicare reimbursement for telehealth.
- At the state level, there’s an ongoing battle between those who feel telehealth should be reimbursed at the same level as in-person care and those who feel the two platforms should be compensated differently.
While Congress is set to debate a Medicare Telehealth Parity Act, many states are moving forward with telehealth-friendly legislation. Without parity laws, there are limited incentives for the development of Telehealth or for providers to move toward Telehealth services. And if there are no incentives to use Telehealth, then providers will continue to focus on in-person care. This could decrease the standards of care for chronic disease patients who benefit the most from this modern service. So, stay tuned, read this whitepaper Bridging the Physical and Digital Gap Between Patients and Care, keep an eye on Congress, and watch for further developments in Telehealth.