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CMS is Increasing Telehealth Access – But, is the Timing Right?

Note that this is the second segment of a 4-part telehealth series. Make sure to also check out: Can Telehealth Help in the Battle Against the Opioid Crisis? Could Telehealth reimbursement concerns stall its implementation? Telehealth as a Health System Expansion Strategy

Telehealth access is becoming a much bigger piece of service delivery amongst insurance plans and is “part of a Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) model for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans starting in CY 2020.” Medicare, of course, serves an older and very diverse population which can lead those in the industry to ask, is the timing right? Can an older population who is used to face-to-face interaction and care be ready for a computerized communication with their healthcare provider? As a continuation of our panel discussion from the HFMA Florida Spring Conference Annual Meeting in St. Petersburg, FL, we will explore the challenges in the delivery of telemedicine, specifically with delivery concerns.

Rural Challenges & Breaking Distance Barriers

Many would argue that the quality of healthcare could be even higher given that a barrier like geography is eliminated within a telehealth system. A patient could see an expert specialist who is located thousands of miles away from their home with a click of a mouse – which may not have been possible otherwise. The implications for patients located in rural locations could be huge, especially if they are home-bound. However, “a quarter of rural Americans say access to high-speed internet is a major problem”, and this issue is regardless of economic backgrounds or education. “Rural adults ages 50 to 64 are more likely than those in other groups to see access to high-speed internet as a problem where they live.” In a sense, having a great resource with limited access to it isn’t a resource after all.

Options & Education

It is important to note that according to the CMS fact sheet, the telehealth option would be “as long as an in-person option remains.” and that enrollees would be asked whether they prefer that their services are received in person. However, for those enrollees that are curious about telehealth options, but maybe a little apprehensive, an educational piece is paramount. In order for patients to truly take advantage of this new option, they need to have a certain level of comfort with the service delivery process.

Likewise, it is in the best interest of providers to facilitate this education since providing telehealth options can help broaden their service area and cut costs associated with brick and mortar facilities.

The traditional healthcare model has been going strong for so long that everyone knows the process, despite how great or poor the experience is at times. The idea of educating patients on a new process is foreign to many provider networks and healthcare providers. However, for any new process to take hold, users must be adequately taught in order to succeed. Unfortunately, many provider networks and healthcare providers lack the proper resources or know-how when it comes to training and education. Many times, it is just not part of their core competencies. This doesn’t mean you cannot move forward with a telehealth initiative; rather it means you need to make sure you have the right resources in place to make it happen.

Sunlit Cove Healthcare can help your organization with education and awareness tools to make your telehealth initiative a success amongst subscribers. Contact us or give us a call to get started.

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Related: Policy and Procedure Development and Implementation