Telemedicine is a significant and rapidly expanding factor of healthcare delivery in the United States. Currently, the US has 3,500 service site across 200 telemedicine systems. Telemedicine enables medical professionals to assess, identify, and treat patients from a distance using telecommunications technology. Telemedicine provides the opportunity to connect virtually for doctors and patients whenever and wherever they need to. The method has undergone a startling evolution in the past ten years and is now playing a more prominent role in the American healthcare system.
Both patients and physicians can use telemedicine to:
- Determine whether the patient requires in-person care and give specific medical services, such as mental health care and evaluations for mild infections.
- Create or update a prescription.
- Provide specific therapeutic modalities, such as speech and physical therapy.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
There are various ways to obtain medical treatments based on your physician’s offer. The two most typical are:
A patient portal enables you to book appointments, ask for prescription refills, and send and receive emails from your doctor or nurse. Your lab test result and their understanding can be shared with you by your doctor. In many cases, this is quicker than waiting to call them.
Some doctors will accept phone calls or video conferences for appointments. These discussions can frequently be held with mental and behavioral health specialists and urgent care facilities.
A common concern among organizations looking to introduce telemedicine systems is how their physicians would be reimbursed. Achieving consistency is challenging because of the varying telemedicine rules of each state and payer policies.
Reimbursement for private payers
The amount reimbursed to physicians for telemedicine will vary based on state laws. Some states expressly require private payers to repay the same amount for telemedicine as if the service were delivered in person. However, many states with reimbursement requirements leave this decision up to the payers. We discovered that most private payers still reimburse at levels comparable to in-person appointments. But, there is still ambiguity about reimbursement rates, billing procedures, and other issues.
Telemedicine and Medicare
Medicare will only reimburse for specific services and providers. Medicare does not pay for store-and-forward procedures or electronic monitoring devices. They pay for videoconferencing and remote patient monitoring. Physicians who help patients in underserved and rural areas are likely to get reimbursed, while other regions are currently off reach. Medicare will only reimburse specified facilities for telemedicine services, such as hospitals and rural health clinics.
Telemedicine and Medicaid
Medicaid reimbursement will vary based on state rules for telemedicine services. There are reimbursement constraints for patient locations and facilities, similar to Medicare. As telemedicine expands and technology increases, more states are reducing geographic barriers. Currently, all states compensate for live video conferencing, except two, and some reimburse for store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Easy to access
Telemedicine makes access to care easier for people with disabilities by eliminating distance and travel time. Telemedicine was first established in the United States to tackle care shortages, particularly in remote rural locations. Fortunately, telemedicine can help healthcare professionals located far from their patients. Patients in medically underserved populations and those living in remote areas without clinicians can benefit, especially from telemedicine.
Convenience and pleasure
When you’re ill, telemedicine eliminates the need for you to travel to the doctor’s office or clinic or wait in a waiting area. You can visit your doctor while relaxing on your bed at home. It may be simpler to fit virtual visits into your hectic schedule. Based on your availability, you might not even need to make childcare arrangements or take time off from work when using telemedicine.
Reduces healthcare cost
One of the most significant comments supporting telehealth technology is the ability to control or lower healthcare costs. The United States spends more on healthcare than any other developed country, at nearly $2.9 trillion annually. Telemedicine offers the potential to reduce our healthcare spending by eliminating issues like prescription, non-adherence, and unnecessary ER visits and improving the effectiveness of routine doctor appointments. It provides a better ability to treat chronic diseases, decreased travel time, shorter hospital stays, and shared qualified medical staff while lowering healthcare expenditures.
Limit the spread of disease
Visiting the doctor’s office often brings you close to others who may be ill. That can be especially deadly for those with underlying medical issues or compromised immune systems. Telemedicine reduces the risk of contracting an infection while visiting the doctor.
Enhanced Patient Engagement
Telemedicine makes it easy for providers to check in on patients and ensure everything is going correctly. Connecting your patients via telemedicine can assist them in keeping up with their appointment and care plans. By promoting healthy lifestyle choices among your patients, enhanced engagement activities can also lower obesity and tobacco use levels. Virtual visits comfort patients that their physicians are accessible and participating in their care. Telemedicine makes it much simpler to get in touch with them with queries, report early warning signals, and schedule a follow-up session to ensure they are on track.
Increase provider satisfaction
Being a healthcare practitioner nowadays can be difficult and stressful sometimes. Telemedicine can help providers combine their job and family lives. When providers see patients remotely, they are not exposed to any diseases the patient may carry. Patients who do not have to go to the office or wait for care may be more satisfied with their provider.