Telehealth May Not Be Popular Everywhere

Telemedicine has become so popular that, these days, it might seem
like you can find it almost everywhere. Grocery store pharmacies are offering telehealth
kiosks to make things easier. Private insurance claims for virtual care are
even up, growing 53% from 2016-2017 and still continuing to rise. As prevalent as
telehealth is, however, there are still some places that choose not to utilize
telehealth—and one of them, as recently noted in a Politico article, is in
the nursing home setting. “For years, experts
have touted the use of telemedicine as a way to let elder care organizations
tap the expertise of geriatricians or other doctors to treat their residents
for problems that don’t appear to rise to the level of an emergency.” Nursing
homes rarely keep doctors on site, so when something goes wrong, it is easier
to send the patient to the emergency room. However, a trip to the hospital is
frequently followed by a decline in health. So if telehealth could make things
easier, why isn’t it being used more frequently?

And it turns out, there are a number of reasons for this.
Steven Shill, a partner at the BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence &
Innovation, told Politico that the adoption of telehealth in elder care is not
taking off as quickly as anticipated. Among the reasons he listed for
telehealth’s slow take-off: “[v]arying reimbursement policies depending on
whether elder patients are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, both, or private
insurance; providers and payers not fully embracing value-based care payment
models; and occasionally, patients’ and practitioners’ discomfort with the
technology.” In other words, despite the clear evidence of the benefits of
using telehealth and the significant improvement it could have on nursing home
residents, if providers are not getting paid to use it, they will not use it.

In 2018, Congress attempted to address the payment disparity
with the Chronic Care Act, which eventually became law. The act expanded
Medicare payments for some telehealth services, but it failed to do so for
virtual emergency medicine in nursing homes. Additionally, it seems the Centers
for Medicaid and Medicare Services believe telehealth will cost more in the
long term than in-person services. However, with the recent CMS proposed
changes to the physician fee schedule for 2020, it seems those fears may be
abating. While telehealth would provide better efficiency as well as improved
care, until lawmakers and providers figure out payment guidelines, telehealth
will remain infrequently utilized in the field of elder care.   

Click here to read the Politico article about the use of telehealth in nursing homes.

Click here to read the Politico article about the use of telehealth in elder care.


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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !