Telemedicine is rapidly becoming a fixture on the American health care landscape. Indeed, telemedicine is increasingly being seen as a need, not a want, and compliance officers, IT personnel, coders and hospital administrators who tune into this trend can find new ways to build their practice and hospital volume.
A benchmark survey from law firm and business advisor Foley & Lardner compared the telemedicine landscape of 2017 to that of 2014 and found stark changes.
“Three-quarters of survey respondents said they offer or plan to offer telemedicine services,” the survey noted. “With more than half of those in the growth or expansion phase, telemedicine is rapidly spreading throughout the health care system. Providers reported strong satisfaction with the telemedicine platforms they were using; over half of the organizations that track return on investment reported savings of 10 percent or more.”
Driving this rapid shift are results, quality, convenience, and cost, added a Foley & Lardner healthcare lawyer in a blog.
“[T]he industry outlook has changed dramatically, due in large part to proven patient outcomes and surging demand among providers looking to improve the quality of care in a more convenient, cost-effective manner,” noted Nathaniel M. Lacktman, chairman of the law firm’s Telemedicine Industry Team and co-chair of its Digital Health Work Group.
Medicare Steps In to Boost the Industry
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is set to help telemedicine in a big way. For calendar year 2018, the agency said it is finalizing the addition of several codes relating to telemedicine, including:
- HCPCS code G0296 (visit to determine low dose computed tomography (LDCT) eligibility)
- CPT code 90785 (Interactive Complexity)
- CPT codes 96160 and 96161 (Health Risk Assessment)
- HCPCS code G0506 (Care Planning for Chronic Care Management)
- CPT codes 90839 and 90840 (Psychotherapy for Crisis)
“Additionally, we are finalizing our proposal to eliminate the required reporting of the telehealth modifier GT for professional claims in an effort to reduce administrative burden for practitioners,” the agency stated. “We are also finalizing separate payment for CPT code 99091, which describes certain remote patient monitoring, for CY 2018. Lastly, we will consider the stakeholder input we received in response to the proposed rule’s comment solicitation on how CMS could expand access to telehealth services, within the current statutory authority.”
Hospitals Are Put On Notice: Change Might Cut Into Their Bottom Line
If people can get quality health care without leaving their homes, however, where does that put local hospitals? Fierce Healthcare predicts that a relative handful of major hospitals are likely to emerge as major centers for online care.
“That will have a potentially deleterious impact on local hospitals,” Lacktman, the Foley & Lardner spokesman, told the website. “It’s the Amazon effect. You don’t need to go to the local store anymore when you can get it the next day at a competitive price.”
Those major institutions could also get a big business boost by offering their telemedicine services internationally. Only 22 percent of the Foley & Lardner survey respondents said they were currently offering their medical services globally, but 32 percent said they were interested, and 84 percent predicted they’d follow that path within the next three years.
Are You Ready to Take Advantage of This Emerging Trend?
Industry experts James Dunnick, MD and Robert Dunnick discuss telemedicine trends in their conference for ProfEdOnDemand, “Telemedicine – Increase Patient Volume by Overcoming Compliance Barriers.” The pair explain how to build practice and hospital volume through telemedicine, and they cover physician shortages, barriers to implementation, how to develop a plan, cost of care issues, payment aspects, legal aspects, quality concerns and procedures.
Also, check out ProfEdOnDemand’s free industry report on telemedicine and telehealth, “Telehealth in a Nutshell.”