Telemedicine seen as post-ACA imperative

November 11, 2014 in Medical Technology

Persistent regulatory and reimbursement roadblocks notwithstanding, nine out of 10 providers are moving forward with telemedicine projects, according to a new new survey.

[See also: Tele-ICU comes of age]

The report, from Foley Lardner LLP, polled senior executives of for-profit and nonprofit healthcare providers about how their organizations are developing telehealth initiatives in the face of regulatory challenges and spotty reimbursement.

Its finding suggest that the C-suite sees the value telemedicine. Nine out of 10 report that their organizations have begun developing or implementing a distance-based care programs, and 84 percent say that “meaningful telemedicine services will be central to the success of their organizations.”

[See also: Telemedicine bills in state hoppers]

Most respondents already offer remote patient monitoring services (64 percent), store and forward technology (54 percent) and real-time interaction capabilities (52 percent), according to the poll.

As providers move away from fee-for-service model to value-based care, these execs recognize that Affordable Care Act penalties for readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions mean that remote care may soon become profitable, the survey suggests.

“The reimbursement landscape is already changing, and there are many viable options for getting compensated for practicing telemedicine,” said Larry Vernaglia, chair of Foley’s Health Care Practice, in a press statement announcing the findings. “The smartest thing organizations can do now is to continue developing programs, and be ready for the law to catch up – because it will.”

Half of respondents said the potential to improve quality of care was the primary motivator in launching telemedicine projects. Nearly one-fifth (18 percent), meanwhile, said reaching new patients was their top motivation.

But the executives polled were less confident about telemedicine’s imminent adoption, primarily thanks to reimbursement issues. Regulators and insurers have made it challenging to get paid for medicine practiced outside of traditional interactions.

  • 41 percent of respondents said they don’t reimbursed at all for telemedicine services
  • 21 percent said they get lower rates from managed care companies for telemedicine than for in-person care
  • 48 percent expressed concern about educating physicians on telemedicine as a credible avenue for care

“In the post-Obamacare paradigm, providers bear a much greater responsibility for the sustained wellness of their patients,” said Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner and health care lawyer at Foley, in a statement. “Telemedicine offers new ways for providers to manage this new level of risk and keep their patients healthy, happy and out of the hospital.”

Read the full report here (PDF).

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