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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

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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

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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

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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

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College Telepsychiatry Finally Catching Up—Slowly

The majority of American college students feel overwhelmed, depressed, and/or anxious, according to the latest American College Health Association survey. Unfortunately, many schools lack easy access to needed mental health care—if they have any at all. And this doesn’t even take into account the students’ hesitation to seek help due to the stigma often associated with mental illnesses. With the growth of telemedicine, telepsychiatry and telemental health present a viable solution that could overcome many of these challenges. Read more

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Walmart Offers Free Telemedicine for Consumers

The next time you head to Walmart, you may pick up more than just your groceries and cold medicine—you might also take home a voucher for a no-cost telemedicine consultation with Doctor On Demand, a direct-to-consumer virtual care provider. A new three-way partnership between Walmart, Doctor On Demand, and RB, a leading consumer health and hygiene company, is seeking to provide the public with unprecedented access to physicians from their digital devices during this cold and flu season through telemedicine for consumers. Read more

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Hospitalizations Drop with SNF Telemedicine

Previously, we’ve discussed the pending Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations Act of 2018 (RUSH Act) and the potential impact it could have by allowing Medicare to participate in SNF telemedicine (skilled nursing facilities) to keep residents healthier and reduce hospital admissions. However, some facilities aren’t waiting for the bill to pass; they’re charging ahead with SNF telemedicine services, and they’re already seeing results. Read more

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SUPPORT Act Eases Way for Telemedicine for Opioid Treatment

This week, on the one-year anniversary of declaring a national opioid public health emergency, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan “Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act,” known as the “SUPPORT Act” for short. The goals of the legislation are to reduce “access to and the supply of opioids” and expand “access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services” through multiple angles, including via telemedicine for opioid treatment. Read more