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sick man on telemedicine house call with doctor

Telemedicine House Calls: Our Past Is Catching up to Our Future

After years of evolution, the health care delivery system is slowly returning to its roots: house calls. In the 1800s, ailing patients remained at home, waiting for the roaming doctor to arrive via horseback. By the mid-20th century, home visits were abandoned in favor of bringing ill patients to the doctor’s stationary office. Fast forward to the 2020s: The ubiquitous nature of technology, paired with looming physician shortages and climbing health care costs, is bringing us full circle via telemedicine house calls. Along with the highly touted benefits of in-home virtual visits, clinicians have found that this method provides information about the patient’s home environment that is often overlooked during traditional office visits. This additional insight can be a major factor in designing an appropriate treatment plan that accounts for the daily obstacles presented in the patient’s home. Read more

Possible Telemedicine CPT Codes Shutdown Looms

Telemedicine CPT Codes in Danger

We may still be in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t stopping policy makers from planning ahead to determine whether temporary telemedicine CPT codes should be a permanent part of the “new normal” that is expected to reign after the emergency situation dissipates. As mentioned previously, quick changes to legislation, especially those that reimburse telemedicine visits at the same value as in-office visits, made telemedicine a much more convenient and financially viable alternative to the traditional model of in-office visits—for both patients and providers. As we look ahead to 2021, however, debate surrounds the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’ decision to drop a large majority of the recently-enacted billing codes, which may return the state of telemedicine almost to where it was before the pandemic began. Read more

Cheered businessman standing with graph showing growth trend of telemedicine for coronavirus

Emergency Measures Spur Growth of Telemedicine for Coronavirus, but What Comes Afterward?

Amidst the apprehension wrought by the current COVID-19 pandemic, a silver lining has emerged: Primary care providers (PCP) are finding that telemedicine usage within their practices, previously hindered by issues such as inadequate reimbursement, privacy concerns, and costs, has begun soaring as cautious consumers seek alternatives to visiting the doctor’s office in person and, thus, potentially exposing themselves or others to COVID-19. Industry analysts are predicting that as both providers and patients embrace telemedicine for coronavirus as a solution for reducing the risk of transmission of infectious disease, as well as for other ailments, they will become accustomed to telemedicine as a tool and will expect its continuation within medical practices. Read more

Telemedicine for Coronavirus: Drive-Through Testing

Telemedicine for Coronavirus: Next Window, Please

Telemedicine offers an ideal strategy to enable more health care providers to address more patients’ needs while minimizing exposure to infectious diseases such as the currently notorious coronavirus (COVID-19). As shown by the recent expansions for Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine, our Congress and President clearly recognize the potential benefits of utilizing telemedicine for coronavirus screening and other health care concerns. Even the New England Journal of Medicine came out a week ago with a strong statement of support for telemedicine’s benefits. Now, the question is how to deploy the technology quickly and in a way that will drive better outcomes for patients, providers and society as a whole. Read more

With telemedicine adoption, cowboy checks blood pressure at home

Telemedicine Adoption Surpasses Use of Other Digital Technologies

A recent survey by the American Medical Association has revealed that physicians’ use of digital health, particularly telemedicine adoption and remote patient monitoring, has grown since 2016. This rise can be attributed to physicians’ improving attitudes towards digital health, explained the researchers. The Digital Health Research study showed that telemedicine engagement among providers doubled—from 14% of physicians to 28% over the three-year period—and remote patient monitoring (RPM) usage jumped from 13% of physician participation in 2016 to 22% in 2019. Read more

RPM reimbursement codes clear the way for expanding RPM programs, such as glucose monitoring for diabetes patients

RPM Reimbursement Paves the Way for Expansion in 2020

With the ongoing shift in healthcare towards a value-based care model, the concept of remote patient monitoring (RPM) for chronically ill patients certainly grabbed attention throughout 2019. By introducing new reimbursement codes for RPM in late 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is clearly inviting the increased use of RPM, presumably made possible with telemedicine, in 2020. Some experts view 2019 as the trial run for RPM reimbursement; now that the CMS has officially endorsed RPM, albeit in limited capacities, 2020 is expected to see a significant rise in the adoption of RPM programs. However, current limitations in technology and software could curb growth, warn industry watchdogs. Read more

Telemedicine services or urgent care services? Injured girl receiving first aid

How Do Telemedicine Services Affect the Primary Care Model?

Recent surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation have shown that roughly one in four American adults have not chosen a regular doctor that they see for general ailments. For adults under age 30, that ratio jumps to nearly half. For a health care system originally built on primary care-centered medicine—which has proven to reduce health care costs by one-third—this is unsettling news indeed. However, evolving technologies such as telemedicine services are re-shaping the health care landscape, forcing existing generalists to adapt to the new paradigm for survival. Read more

3-direction Street Signs for telemedicine benefits for employees

Navigating Telemedicine Benefits for Employees, Part 2

Last week, after observing that the vast majority of large employers either offer or plan to offer telemedicine benefits for employees, we considered the logistics of how a company might choose to launch such a program. Three methods present viable options: adding telemedicine as a new feature of a group health plan, incorporating telemedicine as part of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or creating a stand-alone telemedicine benefit. In all three cases, compliance with legal and regulatory requirements is non-negotiable; who bears the brunt of the responsibility depends on the strategy selected. In last week’s blog post, we explored the pros and cons of appending telemedicine benefits to a group health plan. Today, we’ll consider the other two approaches. Read more

3-direction Street Signs for telemedicine benefits for employees

Navigating Telemedicine Benefits for Employees

According to a survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health, 96 percent of large employers are either making or planning to make telemedicine available to their employees. Considering the time and cost savings for patients, insurance companies, and employers, this sounds like it could be a panacea. However, the logistics of implementing telemedicine benefits for employees are far from simple. An employer, whether insured or self-funded, who wants to provide telemedicine services can do so in one of three ways: integrate telemedicine as part of a group health plan, bundle telemedicine services as part of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or offer telemedicine services separately as a stand-alone benefit. Each method carries varying degrees of compliance issues with state and federal laws such as ERISA. Read more

hearing aid in woman's ear

Telehealth Audiology Opens a Whole New World

When we think about the process of getting hearing aids, many people envision multiple, time-consuming visits to an audiologist’s office. However, over half of U.S. counties have little or no access to audiologists, especially in rural areas. As Baby Boomers age and demand for audiology services rises, there aren’t enough new audiologists to address the need; the shortage is about to get worse. To combat this problem, some organizations, such as Your Hearing Network, are experimenting with telehealth audiology programs that will allow patients to have hearing tests and be fitted for hearing aids at home or at a local primary care doctor’s office. Read more