Telemedicine started in the 1950’s to connect doctors working with the same patient. Telemedicine has continued to grow and is now recognized as not only keeping doctors connected, but also as remote healthcare for patients at home, work, or assisted living facilities.
What’s New: Patient Accessibility
A survey done by HealthMine has reported that 57% of Medicare patients don’t know whether their health plan has telehealth or not. Even though the survey results show otherwise, telehealth has been growing among the elderly. In the same survey, 48% said that they didn’t know if their plan allowed digital access to their health records and 21% said their plans did not offer access.
Currently, Medicare Advantage plans offer telehealth as a supplemental benefit when members elect to pay high premiums, additional co-pays, or through plan rebates.
Lawmakers in Senate have introduced bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act will allow qualifying hospitals to pilot telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). Under this, Medicare would cover the costs of services if they met CMMI standards. Medicare currently only reimburses for consultation if the originating sit hospital is in a rural Health Professional Shortage Area or a county outside of Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The H.R. 3727 would allow Medicare Advantage plans to reimburse for telehealth services at a comparable price to in-person services beginning in 2020.
House committees approved two telehealth bills in September 2017. One would make telehealth a core benefit for Medicare Advantage plans in 2019 and the other would expand telestroke. Telehealth is gradually gaining momentum along with value-based healthcare. With technology growing, telehealth with allow seniors to age in the comfort of their own homes.
Telehealth is constantly expanding what it is capable of and who has access to it. By educating yourself on the tools it offers and whether you currently have access or will in the future, you can continue to move forward and possibly receive healthcare from the comfort of your home or without leaving the office.