Healthcare Leaders Pursuing Telemedicine Adoption Despite Challenges

Despite challenges with reimbursement and physician buy-in, healthcare organizations are committed to implementing telemedicine programs, according to a survey of healthcare leaders, mostly C-suite executives.

Despite challenges with reimbursement and physician buy-in, healthcare organizations are committed to implementing telemedicine programs, according to a survey of healthcare leaders, mostly C-suite executives.

The 2014 Telemedicine Survey from Foley & Lardner LLP found that the majority of healthcare executives believe telemedicine will keep patients healthier. Exactly half said improving quality of care was their top reason for implementing telemedicine. However, the respondents do not expect an immediate economic return on investment.

The customary fee-for-service environment makes getting paid for telemedicine difficult, and 41% of respondents said they are not reimbursed at all for these services. Meanwhile, 21% receive lower rates from managed care companies for telemedicine compared with in-person care.

“The reimbursement landscape is already changing, and there are many viable options for getting compensated for practicing telemedicine,” Larry Vernaglia, chair of Foley’s Health Care Practice, said in a statement. “The smartest thing organizations can do now is to continue developing programs, and be ready for the law to catch up—because it will.”

Another challenge facing telemedicine implementation is getting physicians to accept and use the technology, according to respondents. Almost half of surveyed healthcare leaders worry about convincing their physicians to use telemedicine.

As a result, of reimbursement and physician buy-in concerns, 87% of respondents admitted that they do not believe a majority of their patients will be using their organization’s telemedicine services in 3 years.

Despite this, nearly all (90%) said their organizations have begun developing or implementing a telemedicine program. The respondents believe offering these services will be critical to their future success. Nearly two-thirds (64%) already offer remote monitoring, and roughly half offer store and forward technology (54%) and real-time interaction capabilities (52%).

According to the results of the survey, the Affordable Care Act is partially driving telemedicine adoption as hospitals with excessive readmissions will be penalized. Healthcare executives believe telemedicine services will prevent readmissions by keeping patients healthy.

“In the post-Obamacare paradigm, providers bear a much greater responsibility for the sustained wellness of their patients,” Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner and healthcare lawyer at Foley, said in a statement. “Telemedicine offers new ways for providers to manage this new level of risk and keep their patients healthy, happy and out of the hospital.”