Jumping on the Telehealth Bandwagon

Telehealth or telemedicine continues its growth trend which is largely propelled by patient demand. Regardless of your feelings about implementing telehealth in your practice, it is essential to realize that the majority of the new generation (Gen-X or Millennials) prefer electronic interaction over face-to-face encounters. They like the cost, convenience and  savings. Healthcare providers are now beginning to compete with providers nationally or even globally to provide patient services. For these reasons, in order to maintain profitability, healthcare practices will need to jump on the bandwagon (of course, that colloquialism might be lost on the rising generation.)

The number of insurance plans covering telehealth services has also rapidly expanded due to this demand. According to the American Telemedicine Association, approximately 15 million people used telemedicine services in 2015, which is a 50% increase from 2013. An interesting by-product of this growth is that over the last year, 42 states have introduced hundreds of telehealth-related pieces of legislation.

Medicare Part B:  Currently only certain services are covered as long as the beneficiary is located in a "Health Professional Shortage Area” (HPSA) or in a county outside of a “Metropolitan Statistical Area” (MSA). New legislation currently being considered would further expand Medicare's telehealth coverage for chronic care management which then opens the door to further growth.

Medicaid:  Like Medicare, Medicaid coverage varies widely by state. With expansion of Medicaid, demand for telehealth services is also likely to increase as a way to meet quotas.

Offering telehealth services is quickly becoming a necessity for medical practices. Now is the time to explore options and get prepared for this new wave. Providers can try it out by joining existing telehealth networks to gain a better understanding of how it works. Review articles in trade journals for reputable companies and talk to providers about their experiences before trying to implement your own system.

Wyn Staheli, Director