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Four Tips for Minimizing Telemedicine Risks

As we’ve all heard by now, the advantages of telemedicine are numerous: improved patient outcomes, greater quality of care, and cost efficiencies, to name a few. However, with these gains comes an element of uncertainty. As telemedicine continues to challenge long-held boundaries, legal telemedicine risks are coming to light—such as patient confidentiality, security, and professional licensure portability. As health care providers add telemedicine services to their practices, several factors should be addressed to avoid running afoul of legal considerations. Read more

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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

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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

brown gavel with stethoscope and books

Proposed Bill Would Boost SNF Telemedicine

A new bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to permit the use of telemedicine in treating patients in long-term care centers such as skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations Act of 2018 (RUSH Act) is intended to reduce hospital admissions by allowing Medicare to enter into value-based care arrangements with medical groups to provide health care through telemedicine consultations; this would increase access to care in SNFs, particularly emergency care, thus reducing the need for hospital visits. Instead, SNF telemedicine would address the urgent situation on the spot. Read more

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How Does the Net Neutrality Repeal Affect Telemedicine?

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along partisan lines to repeal the 2015 ruling that instituted net neutrality. When the repeal takes effect in February, internet service providers (ISPs) will no longer be prohibited from blocking or slowing particular web content, or from charging distinct prices for different connection speeds. While some experts welcome the freedom of an open internet, transparency rules, and the stimulation of business development, others are more skeptical of the ramifications of such a move on the telemedicine industry and its patients. Read more

sad girl outdoors

Harvey’s Youngest Evacuees Saved by Newest Telemedicine Legislation

It’s a good thing that Texas just passed a law easing restrictions on telemedicine visits; otherwise, countless children displaced by Hurricane Harvey would likely be unable to receive prompt medical care for recent injuries, infections, or chronic conditions like asthma. Luckily, the new telemedicine legislation permits real-time visits without an initial in-person visit, allowing doctors across the state to see the children through the technology. Read more

Telemedicine Benchmark Survey Reveals the State of the Industry

A new telemedicine industry benchmark survey, published by REACH Health, reveals the state of the industry and where it’s headed. Respondents include healthcare executives, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in various organizations with revenues varying from under $50 million to over $1 billion. Read more

illustration of man having stroke

Telestroke Bill Would Expand Medicare Coverage

Congress is revisiting a bill that seeks to extend Medicare reimbursement for telestroke services across the nation. Under the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act, Medicare would cover telestroke services regardless of the patient’s location; currently, coverage only encompasses specific rural areas. Read more

Report Card: Most Improved A+

ATA’s Annual Reports Reveal Growth in Telemedicine Adoption

Last week, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) issued its yearly reports of telemedicine coverage, reimbursement, and standards across the country. In general, telemedicine has consistently become an accepted tool by patients, providers, and third-party payers in all states, with improved coverage and reimbursement in several states. Some state legislatures are removing restrictive requirements for physician practice standards, even allowing them to practice telemedicine across state lines. Read more