doctor appointment written on calendar

Can Telemedicine Visits Replace In-Person Doctor Appointments?

Most people would agree that a strong doctor-patient relationship is crucial to helping the patient maintain optimal health. Traditionally, this relationship has been cultivated during in-person office visits. With the advent of telemedicine, however, debate has centered on whether telemedicine visits contain enough doctor-patient interaction to build a trusting relationship and provide enough data for the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. Most recently, the American College of Physicians (ACP) clarified their position on the issue: First-time visits that are conducted via telemedicine must include a live audio-visual component. Read more

doctor using tablet for telemedicine

Whose Telemedicine Usage Is Highest?

Two American Medical Association (AMA) researchers recently evaluated the data from the 2016 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey of AMA in order to estimate telemedicine usage among physicians. The AMA’s survey was the first national survey to examine physicians’ telemedicine utilization rates. Upon examining telemedicine use in patient interactions and in consultations with other health care professionals, the researchers found that particular specialties have higher rates of telemedicine utilization than others, and a larger practice size correlated with a higher likelihood to engage in telemedicine. Read more

illustration of brain tumor

Teleneurology Offers a Second Look at Brain Tumors

A diagnosis of a brain tumor often brings fear and lengthy travel to a far-away specialist for a second opinion. The fear is understandable, but a teleneurology program is making strides in bringing brain tumor diagnoses and treatment options to the patient, rather than bringing the patient to the doctor. The Penn Brain Tumor Center has launched their Brain Tumor Second Opinion Program to help patients and caregivers understand the diagnosis and choose among treatment plans without traveling long distances. Read more

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Rural Telemedicine Revives Local Hospitals

For smaller, rural hospitals, survival has become the name of the game—and not just for their patients. Keeping a physician on hand at all times in the Emergency Department (ED) is costly but necessary; unfortunately, this often results in rising salary costs and harried staff. However, hospitals participating in a hub-and-spoke rural telemedicine network are finding that rather than paying a physician to stay whether or not an emergency occurs, having instant access to physicians at a larger health system instead improves care management in the local ED and preserves limited resources—as well as boost staff morale and make it easier to attract new talent. Read more

handing over stacks of cash

Did Medicare Overpay for Telemedicine Reimbursement?

Amidst concerns that current levels of telemedicine reimbursement are insufficient to support the demand for telemedicine visits, a 2018 report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) reveals that a significant portion of the Medicare telemedicine payments that have occurred were actually improper; they never should have been approved in the first place. The overpayments amounted to roughly $3.7 million—a sizable chunk of the total $13.8 million in payments that Medicare made in 2014 and 2015. The reasons for the disallowed claims were numerous and varied. Read more

paper money falling into piggy bank

Telemedicine Cost Savings Are Just Beginning

Telemedicine has long been touted as a balm for rising healthcare costs. Indeed, a 2017 report from the Rural Broadband Association found that annual telemedicine cost savings averaged $20,841 per hospital in the US. Some believe that telemedicine, including remote patient monitoring, could shave a combined $4.3 billion off the country’s yearly healthcare bill. While a first glance at the cost savings looks promising, digging deeper reveals that several obstacles are still preventing us from maximizing the benefits of telemedicine; this suggests that, with full support, cost savings could be driven higher yet. Read more

farm along country road in Southern York County, PA

Rural Telemedicine Growing More Slowly than Expected

Telemedicine has been touted as a revolutionary solution to the shortage of physicians in rural areas, but a recent study published in JAMA suggests that although this trend may have begun, it has not yet snowballed as expected. Between 2005 and 2017, 83.3% of patients with commercial insurance who used telemedicine services lived in urban areas. This suggests that they were not driven to use telemedicine by a shortage of physicians, but rather by other factors such as convenience. Such a surprising result seems contrary to the belief that rural patients are seeking greater access to physicians; if this were the case, then one might expect more rural telemedicine than urban telemedicine. Read more

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Telemedicine Usage Exploding since 2005

According to a new study published in JAMA, telemedicine use has been skyrocketing since 2005. Researchers, curious about the adoption pattern of telemedicine, examined the trends in telemedicine use and its association with factors such as parity legislation and physician supply within a large commercial health plan. They found that from 2005 to 2017, telemedicine usage grew from 206 visits in 2005 to about 202,300 visits in 2017. Telemedicine usage expanded the most in primary care and telemental health (telepsychiatry); this rise, they surmise, may be largely due to increasing payer coverage for direct-to-consumer telemedicine. Read more

Certified Rubber Stamp

First Health Systems Earn Telemedicine Accreditation

With telemedicine as a rapidly growing industry, how can patients tell if a healthcare system’s telemedicine program is high quality? The ClearHealth Quality Institute (CHQI), an independent health care accrediting body, has created a telemedicine/telehealth accreditation program—the only one in the US that’s supported by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). And now, the University of California San Diego Health and the Texas-based CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Health System are the first two health systems in the nation to have earned Telemedicine Accreditation. Read more

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Telemedicine Payment Parity Fails in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania remains one of the few states that still lacks a dedicated Telemedicine Act. In an attempt to address both telemedicine payment parity and professional regulation in one Act, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 780—including its clause on coverage and reimbursement for its use—was unanimously approved last June by two Pennsylvania Senate committees, the full Senate, and the House Professional Licensure Committee. However, it failed to pass in the House of Representatives in October. Read more