You are likely familiar with the style of telemedicine that has been available through large healthcare entities and insurance carriers. A telephone/video conversation with a physician, nurse practitioner or behavioral health professional has become a common and convenient way to diagnose and treat straight forward illnesses such as upper respiratory infections. Pay between $45 and $65 with a credit card and pick up your prescription at your preferred pharmacy.
More recently innovative IOT (Internet of Things) diagnostic devices have been developed which can be connected via Bluetooth to smart phones and computers to become powerful tools in augmenting telemedicine services. More accurately now referred to a virtual care or telehealth, this technology is becoming an increasingly important component in re-imagined models of healthcare delivery.
Blood pressure, stethoscope, blood sugar measuring devices, EKG, high definition digital camera, pulse ox, skin temperature sensors – just a few of the relatively inexpensive diagnostic aids that can increase physicians ability to observe and treat. But these same devices and many more on the horizon are also designed to monitor chronic conditions and provide real time information to patients and caregivers to warn them of impending conditions and avoid trips to the emergency room. There are even pills in development that will signal when they have been ingested.
The proven efficacy of these devices and the pressure being placed on health care organizations by value based payment models, where compensation is fixed per patient or episode, has industry experts believing that telehealth will soon be a dominant form of healthcare delivery.
CPT (procedure) codes have been recently established for both virtual evaluations and monitoring. CMS announced that these codes will be payable under Medicare advantage plans in 2020, without the previous restrictions requiring the patient be seen in a rural or underserved area. As Medicare advantage carriers are paid by CMS on a per member basis and not for each service, it is in their interest to serve their respective enrollees as efficiently as possible, causing most to believe these dynamics will cause telehealth service usage to explode, particularly in the nursing home and skilled nursing facility environments.
Integrating telehealth into an independent practice does not need to be a ground-up project. Companies such as PSC Healthcare provide a robust, cloud based telehealth platform that can be leased for less than $200 per month. Commercial carriers will follow Medicare’s lead and offer suitable reimbursement for telehealth encounters and monitoring. Precision Healthcare Consulting urges independent practices to offer these services to your patients, integrating them with your current offerings, before your patients are lured away by healthcare entities offering convenient physician interactions and continual monitoring options for chronic conditions via telehealth.
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