Telehealth is being talked about in the healthcare industry for a number of different reasons. It’s believed to be the solution to several issues facing the market. The industry is dealing with millions more being in the system than ever before, rising expenses, a rising number of people with chronic conditions that need to be monitored, an aging population and an aging doctor population, adding to the shortage of primary care physicians and the need to expand access to care.
Can telehealth really help with all that? It can indeed and over the next five to 10 years it is expected to be a part of most hospital, health plans, pharmacy and employer business models. The stumbling block to date has been reimbursement.
And that is staring to change as 22 states and D.C. have enacted parity laws requiring private insurers to cover telehealth services just as they would face-to-face time, according to the American Telemedicine Association. There are two bills in Congress, the Accountable Care Organization Improvement Act and the Telehealth Enhancement Act that will further encourage adoption of these services.
If the industry continues to move toward new payment models like ACOs and bundled payments, they create the incentive to keep people well and avoid unnecessary care. Telehealth helps meet these goals and several more as well.
Framing the Telehealth Movement:
- According to a recent American Well survey, 64 percent of Americans are willing to have doctor visits via video conferencing.
- The same survey reported that 7 percent of Americans (20 million adults) say they would change primary care doctors for the availability of telehealth visits. Among the millennial generation, young adults 18-34 years of age, this number goes up to 11 percent.
- The American Hospital Association (AHA) found in 2013 that 52 percent of hospitals used telehealth and another 10 percent were beginning implementation of these services.
- The AHA also found that 76 percent of patients prioritize access to care over having human interaction with their providers.
- Pharmacies such as Thrifty White, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have all launched telehealth initiatives in some markets. Adoption is accelerating fast and a 10-fold rise is expected by 2018.
- According to a Towers Watson analysis, U.S companies could save up to $6 billion a year by switching from in-person office visits to telehealth services.
Source: www.hhnmag.com– / March 2015.