Telehealth is becoming a more popular method to deliver medical care due to new reimbursement methods that require performance-based outcomes and better results. In 2013, more than 50 percent of hospital systems used some type of telehealth, according to a paper published in Pharmacy and Therapeutics.
Even the company Walgreens has been launching their own version of telehealth applications. This particular industry is expected to grow beyond $30 billion by 2020. The approaches of telehealth are divided into four areas: real-time, store-and-forward, mobile health, and remote patient monitoring.
Real-time telehealth involves talking to patients using video in order to speak with patients, diagnose, and assign treatment. The healthcare provider and patient get to see each other through video and interact with one another.
The store-and-forward method involves sending electronic communications to other physicians and specialists in order to evaluate a certain patient’s history or provide a service such as distributing specific medication.
Remote patient monitoring involves collecting data about a patient’s health from a remote location and bringing that information straight to their physician. This allows for the use of technology to track and monitor patients’ health. Pay-for-performance reimbursement methods are leading the way in expanding remote monitoring.
For instance, this type of technology can help prevent readmissions by tracking patients after they have been discharged due to a complicated procedure or illness. That way, doctors can find a problem before it exacerbates and can prevent a patient from being readmitted.
The latest and newest form of the telemedicine market delves into mobile health applications such as mobile phone apps and online assistance. Additionally, wearable devices are making a big impact on mobile health and helping consumers track their wellness goals. The market for wearable devices internationally is expected to grow to $49 billion by 2020.
The reason that the telemedicine market continues to expand is due to the many challenges that the healthcare industry has faced. For example, access to primary care in rural and underserved areas tends to be significant. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) programs have focused on pay-for-performance reimbursement models that tend to emphasize the need to improve healthcare in rural regions.
In addition, as the baby boomer population grows and more people transition to Medicare, hospitals and clinics are trying to keep up as older populations tend to have bigger medical risks. The use of remote monitoring and real-time telehealth applications makes a big impact on alleviating some of the burden hospitals face.
The healthcare industry also saves money as patients transition from long-term care settings to the home with the help of remote monitoring technology. Remote patient monitoring helps doctors assess any problems before they become severe and patients end up in emergency rooms or hospital beds.
The US federal government has also emphasized the use of technology to create more efficiency within the medical system while also improving the quality of care. To ensure goals are reached and patient outcomes are improved, telehealth technology also plays a big role.
Twenty-three states in the US have included telehealth parity laws for private insurance companies, but certain services may not be covered depending on the type of language used in these laws. As such, some revisions have taken place to improve the language of these bills. There are also a few gaps in covering some telehealth services by the federal government where the rural region may be covered, but other locations may not.
In addition, private insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama have begun reimbursing for telemedicine services including areas such as cardiologic conditions, dermatological conditions, infectious disease, stroke, behavioral health, and neurological diseases.
Telehealth services will continue to grow and expand especially as more laws and regulations among private and public insurers begins to reimburse the many aspects of utilizing these technological innovations.