While some disruptive technologies get a disproportionate share of attention, those that quietly reduce friction and cut costs are often just as impactful, but without making such a splash.
The use of telemedicine to connect patients and physicians has been quietly increasing in medical practice for the last decade. Remote healthcare access has been improving care delivery for all of its stakeholders.
The deployment of connected devices and mHealth is a mobile health revolution. Telemedicine has been evolving as mobile technology has grown. Now, as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has shifted emphasis to value-based care, Medicare providers have an additional incentive to adopt telehealth.
Enabling Remote Care With mHealth
The spread of mHealth applications has made reaching for a smartphone to talk to a doctor an everyday experience. There is a growing library of smartphone and tablet applications that measure physiological conditions and send readings directly to clinics. Doctors can use consumer technologies such as digital tablets and webcams to meet with faraway patients and assess the signals that they previously could only evaluate through in-person encounters.
The quiet revolution has benefited patients in rural communities most where specialized care would otherwise mean travel hundreds of miles. Even patients who do not have access at home can visit local clinics to connect with their specialists online.
Better Chronic Care Management With Telemedicine
Patients that suffer from chronic illnesses, who would otherwise struggle to access to affordable medical care, have a better option and experiences with telemedicine. The Centers for Disease Control asserts that half of the adults in the US have at least one chronic condition and seventy percent of deaths are the result of chronic diseases.
CMS is working to reduce the burdens on physicians when they deliver healthcare services remotely. The agency is extending the number of billable Medicare services and cutting the red tape that healthcare organizations face. Part of that change includes encouraging providers to use enabling technology such as electronic health records and telemedicine.
This New Billing Code Turns Telemedicine Into Revenue
CMS now provides payment for chronic care management as part of primary care under CPT 99490. This code specifies the use of EHR and, without saying it outright, makes telemedicine a viable channel by which to deliver care within the rules and maximize the revenue that your organization can earn in any given period.
CPT 99490 requires that providers deliver non-face-to-face care for a minimum of 20 minutes per patient per month. In return, they receive a $40 payment. Realistically, the only method to fulfill that requirement and deliver high-quality care is with telemedicine. The code has several additional criteria: Patients must have 24/7 access to their care management services, continuity with a designated practitioner, oversight of medication self-management, among others.
Billing Medicare under CPT 99490 could produce additional revenue of more than $250,000 for per physician each year.
By promoting telemedicine in service to Medicare, CMS is reinforcing the adoption of it for everyone. Providing telemedicine services is one channel across which healthcare organizations can improve efficiency and reach a broader community of patients.
Telemedicine Aligns Value-Based Care With Worldwide Healthcare Objectives
Globally, telemedicine has the potential to do well on a scale that is difficult to estimate. The technology provides support for the Triple Aim advanced by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement: Improve the experience for patients who receive care, improve the health of populations, and reduced per capita cost for care.
There are tremendous benefits to gain from delivering services remotely. The new payment code for US Medicare healthcare providers will help to stabilize the rollout of telemedicine in practice. The change furthers the CMS goal of delivering value-based care to patients and aligns with the Triple Aim of the IHI.
The additional income from qualifying Medicare patients provides the incentive and the sponsorship to make telemedicine part of general practice medical care. The quiet rollout of telemedicine in healthcare practice is bringing to benefit everyone: providers, patients, and the payers too.