By Michael Morgan, CEO, Updox.
Whether it’s using FaceTime to catch up with friends across the country or web conferencing in the workplace to save the time and cost associated with business travel, video has become pervasive in almost every aspect of our everyday life. But there is one major exception: healthcare. While there is great promise in telehealth, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt video solutions – even when the demand clearly exists.
Three-quarters of consumers say they want the same experience in healthcare that they get from other businesses, according to “The Consumerization of Healthcare” survey by Econsultancy. About 60 percent of individuals under age 55 say they would consider it “life changing” or “very useful” to use video chat instead of going for a routine in-person visit with their provider. And an equal number indicate they would be very likely to switch to a provider that offered video appointments and online booking, among other consumer-friendly options.
So what’s holding healthcare providers back from integrating video into their practices? Much of the hesitancy revolves around reimbursement and perceived complexity.
Under Medicare rules, telehealth services are typically reimbursable only if they are provided for beneficiaries who live in certain rural or underserved areas. And for non-Medicare patients, reimbursement is not uniform; the amounts depend on the local jurisdictions and what individual insurers will pay. While providers truly want to provide more remote services, the inconsistencies and varying rules for how they can be reimbursed have resulted in providers taking a cautious approach to implementing these offerings.
But worrying only about what can be billed is also short-sighted. The value in telehealth goes far beyond that. Instead of focusing only on reimbursement, consider the big picture. Factor in the ease and convenience for both the patient and the provider. Think about how telehealth can improve health outcomes by increasing patient engagement, not just access to care. Start using telehealth now and take advantage of reimbursements that are available today, depending on local payers and their rules. This positions practices — and patients — to be familiar with the technology and to capture additional reimbursements that will inevitably become available in the future.
A Focus on Simplicity
Early adopters of telehealth solutions have tended to overbuy for what they need, focusing on point solutions, and likely aren’t considering if, or how, they integrate with other productivity solutions used within the practice. Other providers are scared off by the high price tag of dedicated telehealth platforms, as well as the complexity for both patients and practitioners of using them for remote service offerings.