5 must-haves for successful telehealth initiatives
January 17, 2012 in Medical Technology
There’s no denying the impact telehealth initiatives have on patients in rural areas and those who are elderly and/or homebound. “Telehealth also addresses the critical shortage of medical specialists providing care to patients who previously didn’t have access,” said Fred Pennic, founder of HIT Consultant and senior advisor at Aspen Advisors.
“With the widespread adoption of EMRs, digital health records provide physicians/clinicians with the remote monitoring capabilities to communicate with their patients,” he added. But, according to Pennic, certain “must-have” endeavors still need to take place for the industry to fully feel the positive impacts of telehealth programs.
Pennic suggests five things that need to happen for telehealth initiatives to be successful.
1. Establishing an incentive-based program. According to Pennic, sustainable funding is vital to the successful, widespread adoption of telehealth. “Creating more incentive-based programs or grants will provide agencies and other organizations with the funding necessary to overcome the start-up costs associated with implementing such initiatives,” he said.
2. Infrastructure. “Having adequate infrastructures [in place] to support these initiatives are imperative,” said Pennic. Infrastructure is the “heart of telehealth,” he said, and includes equipment such as fiber optics, broadband/wireless coverage, video, computer, voice and imaging.
[See also: Telehealth helps cardiac patients improve conditions, study reveals.]
3. Improved telehealth reimbursements. As it stands legislatively, said Pennic, there’s no universal reimbursement policy among public and private sectors governing the reimbursement of telehealth services – something he believes is imperative to its widespread adoption and success. “Current payment for telemedicine services, such as offsite reading of medical images, includes Medicaid, Medicare, employers and private insurers,” he said. “However, payment is limited for interactive consultations and chronic-care patients.” According to him, CMS and AMA are working together to formalize a payment model for telehealth services, while studies have shown telehealth can not only significantly improve care, but also reduce costs.
4. Fostering user acceptance and confidence in telehealth. “Perhaps the greatest challenge in telehealth is increasing the user acceptance of technology, for both clinicians and patients who aren’t tech savvy,” said Pennic. Ideally, he said, successful telehealth programs must be able to easily integrate the telehealth process into healthcare and patient environments seamlessly.
[See also: Telehealth grant opportunities now available.]
5. Resources and time. In addition to meeting technology requirements, said Pennic, successful telehealth programs must have the proper allocated resources and time necessary to ensure its widespread adoption. “People and processes are the key components to effective telehealth utilization,” he said.
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