Government Accountability Office Publishes Report on Telehealth

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According to McKnight's, a business news magazine that serves the long-term care industry, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report showing that both healthcare providers and patients alike agree that adopting telehealth technology has the potential to improve the quality of care in this country. The federal report mentions many familiar factors that favor this adoption as well as one nagging obstacle.

The one obstacle that persists is payment and Medicare coverage restrictions. These issues remain at the top of concerns about telehealth. However, that tends to be the only barrier. Bipartisan legislature has already been proposed by Senators Cory Gardner and Gary Peters, aimed at improving Medicare coverage for telehealth services.

Coverage aside, use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring is expanding thanks to Medicare models, demonstrations and a new payment program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services supports eight models and demonstrations in which certain Medicare telehealth requirements have been waived. For example, requirements for the locations and facility types where beneficiaries can receive telehealth services have been waived. These waivers enable recipients to access telehealth in urban areas, or from their homes. Lastly, there is the new Merit-based Incentive Payment System which pays clinicians based on quality and resource use. Using telehealth to coordinate care or remote patient monitoring to determine a patient’s proper dosage of medicine will count towards the program’s performance criteria.

In 2017, the consensus regarding telehealth is that despite payment and coverage restrictions, it shows great potential. As recently as 2014, 10 states accounted for 42% of all Medicare telehealth visits. Approximately 68,000 Medicare beneficiaries could access telehealth services. The overall number of members of Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense shows vast room for improvement.

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