As Medicare applies increasing pressure to lower hospital readmission rates, skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are finding that telemedicine may hold the key. A recent study conducted by the TRECS Institute (Targeting Revolutionary Elder Care Solutions) found that using a virtual physician service averts unnecessary transfers from SNFs to hospitals.
One particular virtual service provider, TripleCare, prevented 91 cases of hospital admissions or readmissions, resulting in over $1.3 million in Medicare savings and increased net revenue for the SNF. TripleCare reports that readmission rates have been reduced by 50%.
Although Medicare does not yet reimburse for telemedicine services, it is still financially advantageous for the SNF to use telemedicine because the expense is well worth the after-hours access to physicians; hiring a third-party physician staffing service would charge much more. In addition, keeping patients at the SNF gives the facility more Medicare-billable days.
Starting late next year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will withhold 2% of SNFs’ Medicare funding to encourage lower readmission rates and other raised quality standards. In preparation for this change, CMS is currently conducting another study in Florida to evaluate the cost effectiveness and efficacy of telemedicine-based systems in SNFs in reducing hospital readmission rates.
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