Thanks to incentives under the Affordable Care Act, more hospital executives are offering telemedicine technologies in hospitals-but reimbursement is still the primary hurdle, according to the 2014 Telemedicine Survey by Foley and Lardner LLP.
Despite reimbursement and regulatory challenges, executives in the healthcare industry are bullish on adopting telemedicine practices, according to the 2014 Telemedicine Survey Report by Foley and Lardner LLP.
An overwhelming majority of the 57 C-suite executives surveyed for the study believe that telemedicine will increasingly play a key role in transforming an industry that is already ripe for disruption.
Hospital Executives Are Bullish On Telemedicine
More than 90% of the respondents of the survey said that their healthcare organizations are either implementing or have already begun developing a telemedicine program.
84% believe that offering meaningful telemedicine services is very critical to their success as a healthcare organization. Only a miniscule 3% considered telemedicine as unimportant for healthcare.
- 64% of respondents are already offering remote patient monitoring services
- 54% are offering store and forward technology
- 52% are offering real-time interaction capabilities
- 39% are offering mHealth technologies of one form or the other.
Little more than half of the participants (51 percent) of the survey said that their organization has put in place telemedicine practice standards and guidelines for delivering telemedicine services.
The Affordable Care Act Is Driving Telemedicine Adoption
As the Affordable Care Act shifts the focus of the healthcare delivery model from one that pays for services to one that reimburses for positive patient outcomes, healthcare organizations have been under increasing pressure to share risks, and rewards, for keeping their patients safe.
With organizations clamoring for solutions to deliver healthcare services in a cost-effective manner, telemedicine is being viewed as an attractive means to increase the efficiency of the operations and create multiple touch points for patients.
Since telemedicine plays a role in reducing excessive numbers of hospital readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions, healthcare organizations can hope to avoid the penalties imposed by the ACA model.
- 50% of the survey respondents cited improving the quality of care as their prime motivating factor in adopting telemedicine practices.
- 18% ranked reaching new patients as their key motive, which underlines the potential of telemedicine in counseling patients wherever they may be.
- 11% of respondents each ranked operational efficiency and increasing revenue or profitability as their motivation in implementing telemedicine capabilities.
“In the post-Obamacare paradigm, providers bear a much greater responsibility for the sustained wellness of their patients,” said Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner and health care lawyer at Foley. “Telemedicine offers new ways for providers to manage this new level of risk and keep their patients healthy, happy and out of the hospital.”
But Reimbursement Is a Barrier for Greater Adoption
With telemedicine disrupting the way medicine is practiced, healthcare organizations find it difficult to navigate through regulations and reimbursement policies to get paid for services rendered outside the traditional sphere of doctor-patient interaction.
- 41% of executives said that they are not being reimbursed for all telemedicine services.
- 21% reported that Medicare covers too few telemedicine services.
- 20% said that managed care companies pay much lower rates for telemedicine services than for in-person care.
- 18% expressed their disappointment in state laws failing to mandate that commercial coverage companies pay for telemedicine services.
Other than reimbursement issues, nearly half of the respondents (48%) were concerned about convincing and ensuring their physicians that telemedicine is a credible, high-quality supplement to practice.
36% of healthcare executives report that making physicians feel that their participation in telemedicine is adequately compensated is a significant factor regarding physicians’ acceptance of telemedicine.
Despite these concerns, telemedicine adoption is set to soar, believes Larry Vernaglia, chair of Foley’s Health Care Practice.
“The reimbursement landscape is already changing, and there are many viable options for getting compensated for practicing telemedicine. The smartest thing organizations can do now is to continue developing programs, and be ready for the law to catch up - because it will.”
Shiva Gopal Reddy has a Bachelor's degree in Physics and a Master's in Applied Psychology and writes frequently on the latest research, impact, happenings and trends in digital health technology.