Looking Ahead To Telemedicine in 2017
We have looked to the past to define telemedicine. We have attempted to forecast the future of telemedicine. At the close of 2016, telemedicine is still redefining itself. That is what makes it such an exciting asset to healthcare professionals. As technology seems poised to move us beyond simply treating sickness and finally towards keeping the global population healthy, key questions remain at the center of the telemedicine movement. Some are challenges to overcome. Others will lay the groundwork for telemedicine in 2017 Let’s start with some of the lingering questions that remain, though telemedicine shows no signs of slowing down, in 2017:
How do you bill for telemedicine?
A major billing question has been answered for the most part in the form of a new CPT code for telemedicine. CPT stands for Current Procedural Terminology. This coding is the standard for the electronic billing process. Knowing how to use this new CPT code will be key knowledge as telemedicine becomes standard with health insurance companies.
How do you address multiple conflicting state laws when consulting across borders?
Technology-wise, borders ceased being an issue some time ago but not so much as far as the law is concerned. Physicians are licensed according to state law. This may be tricky if trying to consult with a patient in another state but it is already fine to consult with other licensed physicians.
How is the record of a virtual encounter stored and who is the steward of the record?
Virtual records are stored the same as physical records, by the consulting physician. That physician is the steward of all medical records. As you can see, answers are already forming. There is virtually nothing to hold telemedicine back in 2017. In 2017, telemedicine may be identified as any one of these scenarios:
- A consult, or real time video teleconferencing between clinicians.
- A visit, or real time video teleconferencing between a patient and clinician.
- Real time video teleconferencing between two groups of physicians, such as a tumor board discussion.
- The transmission of a static photograph
- Secure texting to coordinate patient care.
- Patients providing care teams with data from devices in their homes.
- Patients answering surveys about their mood, activity or pain.
According to research firm InMedica, the American telehealth market is predicted to grow by 600 percent between 2012 and 2017. This means that the number of patients being treated by telehealth services is expected to reach up to 1.3 million people. U.S. telehealth revenue is forecasted to reach in excess of $700 million. So, 2017 seems set to be telemedicine’s year. There are four factors that will make it so:
- Federal policy. Facilities are going to start receiving penalties from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for unnecessary hospital readmissions. Healthcare providers are being told by the federal government to increase their care coordination services. That is where telemedicine comes in.
- Provider demand. Healthcare providers wish to increase ties to their patients. Improving quality of care is and always should be what drives them professionally. Interconnectivity is only making patients more accountable for and more adherent to their doctors’ instructions.
- Payer demand. To insurance companies, telehealth is a means to enhance their patient care services. It puts them at the cutting edge, where they can compete with other insurance companies.
- Patient desire. Patients know about telehealth services now, plain and simple. They know what technology can do for them. Taking control of their health and being able to track it grants them newfound efficacy in their own healthcare. Good old consumer demand will be behind telemedicine in 2017.
If you are a healthcare provider or represent a long term care facility, you do not want to be left behind in 2017. Before the New Year gets underway, contact us for a consultation and have your telemedicine questions answered.