Telemedicine Is Top Priority

Telemedicine Is Top Priority

A majority of providers still view telemedicine as a top priority in their operations despite uncertainty in reimbursement and challenges with physcian compliance, a new survey suggests.

According to the 2014 Telemedicine Survey from international law firm Foley & Lardner, LLP, health care leaders remain committed to implementing telemedicine initiatives within their organizations and recognize the value in the new care models.

The 2014 Telemedicine Survey garnered responses from 57 healthcare leaders, the majority of whom were C-level executives from for-profit care providers, including hospitals, home health organizations and physician group practices.

To illustrate the level of determination, 90% of health care providers report that their organizations have already begun developing or implementing a telemedicine program.

Most also said that offering telemedicine services will be critical to the future success of their organizations, especially considering the biggest driver of telemedicine: the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“In the wake of the ACA, an ounce of prevention is now truly worth—in American dollars—a pound of cure,” Foley writes in the survey report. “Models like capitation, in which a provider receives a flat fee per patient, and bundled payments, in which patients pay a one-time charge for a procedure, are moving out of the margins and into the mainstream.”

Furthermore, penalties for excessive hospital readmissions have fueled providers’ willingness to implement telemedicine programs.

Executives are most excited about telemedicine’s potential to keep patients healthier, with 50% of respondents ranking improving the quality of care as their number one rationale for implementing telemedicine.

But even so, only 6% of respondents categorized their telemedicine programs as “mature,” while others have reported various stages of progress. Additionally, 34% report programs that are under consideration or in development, 18% in the optimization phase, 36% say their programs are being piloted or implemented, and just 8% report having no program at all.

In terms of what types of telemedicine services providers employ, a majority (64%) already offer remote monitoring, 54% said they also use store and forward technology and 52% reported also using real-time interaction capabilities.

Leaders were less confident about its immediate adoption, mostly due to obstacles in being paid for these types of services and convincing physicians about their programs’ credibility.

Being paid for telemedicine remains an uphill battle, Foley notes, indicating 41% of respondents who said they are not reimbursed at all for telemedicine services, and 21% who reported receiving lower rates from managed care companies for telemedicine than for in-person care.

Aside from reimbursement challenges, nearly half (48%) of executives said they are more concerned with convincing doctors that they’ll be adequately compensated for practicing it (36%).

“Physicians have a reputation for being slow adopters to new avenues of care—particularly to those that they see as untested,” writes Foley. “Our survey shows that telemedicine is no different.”

Providers wil have to work at making doctors comformtable with the new technologies and demonstrate value in contrast with having face-to-face patient visits.

Telemedicine is no longer a distant possibility for health care providers. It is here and now and a majority of organizations have taken notice. Leaders also recognize the importance of collaboration, rather than huge capital investments. Slow integration and collaborative relationships will smoothen the adoption curve for most providers.

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