The main barrier to widespread use of telehealth isn't technology or consumer acceptance; it's figuring out how to pay for it. Authors writing for The American Journal of Managed Care and The American Journal of Accountable Care discuss why today's payment models for accountable care organizations are a better fit for telehealth, and why regulatory changes make sense.
Authors Discuss How to Pay for Telehealth in Managed Care in AJMC Publications
For IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 29, 2014
PLAINSBORO, N.J.—A proposed rule from CMS could unleash the potential of telehealth to improve care for seniors with chronic conditions, if the agency lifts a barrier to paying for its use.
Krista Drobac, writing for The American Journal of Accountable Care, addresses the CMS proposal in her article, “Telehealth: An Important Tool in Achieving the Goals of the ACO Program and Why Restrictions Should Be Lifted in Final ACO Rule,” Ms Drobac’s is one of a pair of articles in December editions from The American Journal of Managed Care franchise that address the need to lift barriers to telehealth for accountable care organizations (ACOs), entities that were created by Congress as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In “Paying for Telemedicine,” a commentary in The American Journal of Managed Care, author Robert Rubin, PhD, writes that traditional fee-for-service models may not be appropriate for telehealth, as they could permit overuse. But newer models, and specifically those designed for ACOs, could allow the practice to expand, benefiting patients and producing savings. He cited a study of 3,000 congestive heart failure patients that received home monitoring of weight, blood pressure, heart rate and other measures. Readmissions—a key CMS metric in the ACO era—dropped 44%, saving $10 million.
Dr Rubin also noted that one of the largest government healthcare providers—the Veterans’ Administration—uses telehealth extensively, even though regulations limit its use among Medicare recipients to those in rural areas.
Ms Drobac’s article, which reflects the very recent CMS proposal, outlines how a longstanding Social Security provision limits telehealth’s use. However, she writes, ACA permits CMS to amend the rule to expand telehealth in ACOs, which makes sense today. Leading peer-reviewed journals are publishing more articles on how telehealth can be used to reach patients who have congestive heart failure, COPD, or have suffered strokes, which Drobac notes are common in the Medicare population.
“Overall, the findings demonstrate that telehealth enables providers to reduce unnecessary in-person care (emergency care and preventable inpatient admissions), while increasing patient access to timely primary care. Telehealth also allows providers to connect patients with appropriate specialists and coordinate care across clinical settings,” Ms Drobac wrote.
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