The strongest driving force for implementation of telehealth is satisfaction of patients.  Individuals are taking more responsibility for their health care and they are more proactive in seeking modes of therapy that are the most convenient.  Telehealth provides this.

The extent of telemedicine usage will be tremendously directed by state policies and reimbursement under Medicare  according to a study published in Telemedicine and e-Health. 

Study Details

Researchers examined “valid claims for live interactive telemedicine professional fees”  in eight states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin)

The hypothesis was that telemedicine and telehealth usage would be affected by Medicare’s reimbursement and adoption of this program by commercial payers in these states.

Study Results

Results of the study reveals that telemedicine claims for Medicare grew tremendously once alterations occurred to both states’ Medicaid and commercial payer policies.

Take a look at Illinois and Michigan. You can see the escalation of claims in these two states as follows:

  • 173% in Illinois between 2011 and 2012 following the expansion of Medicaid telemedicine coverage; and
  • 118% in Michigan between 2012 and 2013 following the enactment of commercial payer telemedicine parity

To show that this was cause and effect, adjoining states without similar policies saw no change in the use of telemedicine under Medicare.

It should come as no surprise that the  “findings can likely be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that increasing the number of payers or covered services for a telemedicine program increases the program’s viability,and Programs limited to seeing patients from a single payer are likely to be less scalable or financially sustainable, depending on the total market share of payers with positive telemedicine reimbursement policies”

Patient interest in the usage of telehealth services has never before been as great and insurance companies are eager to incorporate these services because they save money while simultaneously providing patient access to medical care.  Patients are not only markedly satisfied, they feel that they are receiving high quality care as well.  Individuals living in rural areas  will get access to physicians and healthcare without the arduous travel that their surroundings necessitate.  As the general patient population is aging along with disabilities making travel difficult, patients are expecting the high quality and convenience of care that Telehealth offers.

Additional benefits of Telehealth

  • Improved followup after hospital discharge
  • Home monitoring following office or hospital care
  • Integral care from various members of the healthcare team can easily participate

According to an international benefits advisor, Towers Watson, a poll of 22% employers  offered the telehealth benefit in 2014, and  37% of employers are expected to offer their employees a telemedicine benefit in lieu of  emergency room or physician office visits for nonemergency health issues.  This saves  insurance companies and employers money while providing a low-cost alternative to consumers in 2015.  This is a 68% increase from 2014.  The survey shows an additional 34% of employers are considering offering telemedicine for 2016 or 2017.

While telehealth continues to escalate in growth, a major deciding factor will be the regulations of states and politics to implement this service.

Are you using telehealth now or plan to?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.  Thanks