Technology has influenced nearly every sector of the economy, and the health care industry is following suit. Among telemedicine’s many benefits are the potential to exponentially expand a provider’s geographic footprint, use doctors’ time more efficiently and dramatically reduce the barriers to patient interaction.
Health care leaders tell us that their organizations are committed to continuing to implement telemedicine programs, even as they face challenges such as getting doctors to buy into the programs and insurers to pay for them. Why? For the majority of respondents, it’s simple — they believe telemedicine will help them keep patients healthier.
This report is based on feedback from health care leaders, the majority of whom are C-level executives from for-profit and nonprofit care providers, including hospitals, home health organizations and physician group practices. We asked them to evaluate the prospects for improved patient care and streamlined operations through telemedicine advancements, as well as regulatory hurdles and obstacles to reimbursement.
Telemedicine is not a distant possibility; it is here and in play now. The vast majority of leaders (90 percent) report that their organizations have already begun developing or implementing a telemedicine program. Most also say that offering meaningful telemedicine services will be critical to the future success of their organizations.
This attitude is partly due to the shift in financial and payment incentives under the ACA. As health care providers move from a fee-for-service model to one that reimburses based on positive patient outcomes, providers bear a greater share of the risk — and potential reward — for keeping their patients healthy. In addition, the level of responsibility shifts even more for providers in risk-bearing contracts or capitated arrangements, in which payments are made per person rather than per service. For executives under pressure to find cost-effective methods of engagement with their patients, telemedicine offers ways to streamline operations and create multiple touch points with patients, making it one of the most reliable methods for transitioning to a post-ACA, forward-looking reimbursement model.
Although leaders fully endorsed the robust prospects of telemedicine, they were less confident about its immediate adoption. The widespread use of telemedicine requires doctors to be willing to transform the look and feel of the traditional, in-person patient visit. Meanwhile, the customary fee-for-service environment makes it challenging to be paid for medicine practiced outside the traditional spheres of interaction.