Thanks to incentives under the Affordable Care Act, more hospital executives are offering telemedicine technologies in hospitals-but reimbursement is still the primary hurdle, according to the 2014 Telemedicine Survey by Foley and Lardner LLP.posted: Wednesday 10th of December 2014 by Shiva Gopal Reddy
Despite reimbursement and regulatory challenges, executives in the healthcare industry are bullish on adopting telemedicine practices, according to the 2014 Telemedicine Survey Report by Foley and Lardner LLP.
An overwhelming majority of the 57 C-suite executives surveyed for the study believe that telemedicine will increasingly play a key role in transforming an industry that is already ripe for disruption.
Hospital Executives Are Bullish On Telemedicine
More than 90% of the respondents of the survey said that their healthcare organizations are either implementing or have already begun developing a telemedicine program.
84% believe that offering meaningful telemedicine services is very critical to their success as a healthcare organization. Only a miniscule 3% considered telemedicine as unimportant for healthcare.
64% of respondents are already offering remote patient monitoring services54% are offering store and forward technology52% are offering real-time interaction capabilities39% are offering mHealth technologies of one form or the other.
Little more than half of the participants (51 percent) of the survey said that their organization has put in place telemedicine practice standards and guidelines for delivering telemedicine services.
The Affordable Care Act Is Driving Telemedicine Adoption
As the Affordable Care Act shifts the focus of the healthcare delivery model from one that pays for services to one that reimburses for positive patient outcomes, healthcare organizations have been under increasing pressure to share risks, and rewards, for keeping their patients safe.
With organizations clamoring for solutions to deliver healthcare services in a cost-effective manner, telemedicine is being viewed as an attractive means to increase the efficiency of the operations and create multiple touch points for patients.
Since telemedicine plays a role in reducing excessive numbers of hospital readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions, healthcare organizations can hope to avoid the penalties imposed by the ACA model.
50% of the survey respondents cited improving the quality of care as their prime motivating factor in adopting telemedicine practices. 18% ranked reaching new patients as their key motive, which underlines the potential of telemedicine in counseling patients wherever they may be. 11% of respondents each ranked operational efficiency and increasing revenue or profitability as their motivation in implementing telemedicine capabilities.
“In the post-Obamacare paradigm, providers bear a much greater responsibility for the sustained wellness of their patients,” said Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner and health care lawyer at Foley. “Telemedicine offers new ways for providers to manage this new level of risk and keep their patients healthy, happy and out of the hospital.”
But Reimbursement Is a Barrier for Greater Adoption
With telemedicine disrupting the way medicine is practiced, healthcare organizations find it difficult to navigate through regulations and reimbursement policies to get paid for services rendered outside the traditional sphere of doctor-patient interaction.
41% of executives said that they are not being reimbursed for all telemedicine services.21% reported that Medicare covers too few telemedicine services. 20% said that managed care companies pay much lower rates for telemedicine services than for in-person care. 18% expressed their disappointment in state laws failing to mandate that commercial coverage companies pay for telemedicine services.
Other than reimbursement issues, nearly half of the respondents (48%) were concerned about convincing and ensuring their physicians that telemedicine is a credible, high-quality supplement to practice.
36% of healthcare executives report that making physicians feel that their participation in telemedicine is adequately compensated is a significant factor regarding physicians’ acceptance of telemedicine.
Despite these concerns, telemedicine adoption is set to soar, believes Larry Vernaglia, chair of Foley’s Health Care Practice.
“The reimbursement landscape is already changing, and there are many viable options for getting compensated for practicing telemedicine. The smartest thing organizations can do now is to continue developing programs, and be ready for the law to catch up - because it will.”
Shiva Gopal Reddy has a Bachelor's degree in Physics and a Master's in Applied Psychology and writes frequently on the latest research, impact, happenings and trends in digital health technology.
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Enormous technological changes in medicine and healthcare are heading our way. These trends have a variety of stakeholders: patients, medical professionals, researchers, medical students, and consumers. They are important because of the impact they will likely have on all of us at one time or another. To get an overview of the trends in healthcare technology, we turned to Dr. Bertalan Meskó, medical futurist and author of The Guide to the Future of Medicine: Technology and the Human Touch. In it, he identifies several areas that he believes will shape the future of medicine and healthcare for decades to come.
Meskó’s predictions easily fall into two categories. The first group of trends, descried below, involve concepts already underway today, or those that will likely have an impact on us in the near future. (Part 2 of this article discusses a second group of tech trends that are still several years away or in much earlier stages of development).
Gamifying health Games are ubiquitous on our computers and phones, and increasing numbers of them are designed to have a positive impact beyond simply killing time. Combining fun and games into healthcare apps can motivate the patient and collect data needed to make informed decisions on daily activities that contribute to one’s health. “An estimated 50% of patients with chronic diseases do not follow the prescribed treatment,” says Meskó. “Gamified health tracking creates an environment that keeps the patient from straying from the appropriate therapy path.”
Empowered patients Patients will become equal partners with their caregivers. Healthcare is moving beyond the hospital, and shifting towards patient self-knowledge and empowerment. The Internet has led to many people (for better or worse) researching their symptoms and diagnosing and treating themselves. While that extreme should be avoided whenever traditional healthcare providers are available, there’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle in terms of patients educating themselves. Rather, healthcare professionals should embrace the change and guide patients in participating in their own care. New technologies will finally help medical professionals focus more on the patient as a human being instead of spending time hunting down pertinent information. They will be able to do what they do best – provide care with expertise. In turn, patients will get the chance to be equal partners in their healthcare. As Meskó puts it, “Healthcare cannot really advance without physicians letting their patients help themselves.”
Telemedicine and remote care Home healthcare services and innovative technology will allow for doctor-patient connectivity where it had not been previously possible, saving both lives and money. Patient monitoring before, during, and after a procedure can now include autonomous robots, such as iRobot’s RP-VITA.
Re–thinking the medical curriculum Medical schools will prepare future physicians for a world full of e-patients and dazzling technology. It takes many years to go from studying to practicing medicine. During that time, what students are learning is constantly changing in the real world. The old-fashioned textbook is a static learning piece in a dynamic professional field with integrated, innovative technology. Digital classrooms will create new connections between students and healthcare professionals and allow for access to the most current information and resources.
Surgical and humanoid robots Robotic-assisted surgery enhances the skill of the surgeon and allows for less invasive procedures. Advanced robots will be able to perform an operation from continents away, with precision beyond what a surgeon’s hand can do. Robots may never fully take over a surgical room due to their weak versatility and adaptability compared to humans, but they will become much more integrated into surgical teams.
Genomics and truly personalized medicine DNA analysis will become a standard step when prescribing medicine or treatment, to ensure it is personalized and optimized for that particular patient’s metabolic background. This kind of specificity, according to Meskó, “will make it possible to define disease in terms similar to GPS coordinates.”
Body sensors Technology is allowing us to measure critical health parameters in convenient and inexpensive ways. Tiny, wearable, sensors collect data without inferring with our daily lives in order to make better, more informed quantifiable decisions. Electronic clothing paired with sensors is one outlet used to collect such data.
Medical tricorders and portable diagnostics The fictional medical tricorder from Star Trek is soon to be a reality. Diagnostic procedures are shifting towards devices that are portable and able to be performed from home. Medical mobile applications will be prescribed with patient customization. “The smartphone will be the hub of the future of medicine,” says Meskó, “serving as a health-medical dashboard.”
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) biotechnology Cheaper technology and a DIY spirit are generating a new generation of scientists and engineers who see no limitations in research. Community biology labs are popping up around the world, connecting inventors, amateurs, and anyone curious to experiment with equipment and education. The resulting innovation in biotech has the potential for disruptive solutions that will further change the way medicine is practiced.
The 3D printing revolution 3D printers can manufacture medical equipment, prostheses, or even drugs. They will also play a vital role in regenerative medicine, to create tissues with blood vessels, bone, heart valves, ear cartilage, synthetic skin, and even organs. With its increasing affordability and open source engineering, the applications for 3D printing are incredibly vast and beneficial.
Iron Man: powered exoskeletons and prosthetics Exoskeleton suits have enabled partially-paralyzed individuals to walk again. Increasing the precision of motor control and recreating natural sensation will eventually create real-time communication between the prosthetic and the brain. Until then, says Meskó, “The real challenge for companies is to design devices that can almost perfectly mimic the complex movements of hands and legs.”