A final rule that expands access to telehealth as a basic benefit for Medicare Advantage members, beginning in 2020, opens the door for seniors to receive telehealth services from their home as well as senior living facilities, community health centers, and more. But will it be enough to spur increased adoption of telehealth from healthcare providers?
Here, Hammond Hanlon Camp LLC (“H2C”) shares 10 facts on the state of telehealth in 2019—and what expanded reimbursement for telehealth services could mean for providers.
Senior living centers consider expansion of telehealth services as a basic benefit under Medicare Advantage a “big win.” While there are logistical and financial considerations to providing virtual care in senior living centers, the final rule could help seniors age in place.
Expanded reimbursement for telehealth also could hold strong potential to address behavioral health issues, especially at a time when the nation faces a shortage of mental health professionals. Early results from one study found the use of virtual care for behavioral health issues reduced symptoms of depression by 32 percent, symptoms of anxiety by 31 percent, and symptoms of stress by 20 percent.
Medicare Advantage isn’t the only government-funded plan to ramp up telehealth coverage. This year, changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule increased options for telehealth reimbursement beginning in 2019, including remote patient monitoring, virtual check-ins, and store-and-forward services (e.g., sharing patient data via an encrypted connection).
Among providers, use of telehealth is rapidly growing rapidly: 76 percent of U.S. hospitals now connect with patients through video and other technology, according to the American Hospital Association (“AHA”).
Not surprisingly, telehealth initiatives are most advanced at academic medical centers and large hospitals and systems, an AHA study shows. A survey of the nation’s 100 largest health systems by H2C and the Health Management Academy found 44 percent of systems would rate their telehealth strategy as a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale, with “5” being “a robust, highly developed strategy.” See Figure 1.
More physicians are on board with using telehealth, too. One study found physicians’ use of telehealth shot up 340 percent from 2015 to 2018—but the total percentage of physicians who incorporate virtual care is still just 22 percent. However, 69 percent of physicians say they would use telehealth, citing the ability to improve access to care, reduce burnout, and improve health outcomes.
See Figure 2.
But rural residents aren’t adopting telehealth as quickly as their urban counterparts—and that’s a barrier to rural hospital adoption. While 27 percent of rural providers say they would implement telehealth if they had the resources or budget, they fear residents wouldn’t use it, a recent study shows.
However, consumer attitudes toward telehealth may be changing more quickly than providers realize. A recent survey indicates more middle-age and older Americans are ready to give telehealth a try, with 9 out of 10 adults ages 40 and over saying they would be comfortable using at least one telemedicine service for themselves or a loved one.
Engaging seniors in telehealth will require a focus on quality of care and security: 47 percent of seniors are concerned the quality of care received through telehealth would not be as good as that of an in-person visit, 39 percent worry about data security issues resulting from telehealth use, and 31 percent cite privacy concerns.
Caregivers also could be key to increasing seniors’ trust in telehealth—a factor providers should consider in building out their virtual care strategy. By 2020, 45 million people will serve as caregivers in the United States. Meanwhile, 45 percent of physicians cite the ability to stay in touch with caregivers as well as patients as a telehealth benefit.
Weighing Your Options? H2C Can Help
The move toward increased Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services is exciting, and it offers promise for reduced costs, enhanced access to specialty care in rural areas, increased options for behavioral healthcare services, and new options for seniors who wish to age in place. There are a number of factors providers of all types should consider before building out their telehealth strategy.
Want to continue the conversation? Contact us. We’d like to hear from you.
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Hammond Hanlon Camp LLC (“H2C”) is an independent strategic advisory and investment banking firm committed to providing superior advice as a trusted advisor to healthcare organizations and related companies throughout the United States. H2C’s professionals have a long track record of success in healthcare mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, real estate, and restructuring transactions, acting as lead advisors on hundreds of transactions representing billions of dollars in value. Hammond Hanlon Camp LLC offers securities through its wholly-owned subsidiary H2C Securities Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. For more information, visit h2c.com.
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Is It Time to Ramp Up Your Telehealth Approach? 10 Things to Consider
posted June 14, 2019