This content comes from Conomikes Associates Inc., a resource on practice management tips for community physicians, practice managers and medical office staff for more than 20 years.
A growing number of insurers already offer or soon will offer members the option to see a physician immediately via online video conference, rather than waiting for an office visit. And, many states now insist that physicians be reimbursed for video visits, just as they would for office visits.
“Telehealth” or “telemedicine” refers to the use of video conferencing, secure email, and other communication and monitoring tools to interact with patients remotely. It’s rapidly being embraced by federal health programs, state legislatures, insurers, and employers.
As a result, many physicians are considering whether to see patients this way. The video conferencing systems are in place, the hours are flexible, and reimbursement is often the same as or similar to an office visit.
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) estimates that over 10 million Americans have directly benefited from some sort of telehealth service in the past year, which is thought to be double the usage from just three years ago.
Not long ago, physicians who wanted to use video conferencing to see patients encountered problems receiving reimbursements from insurers. That’s changing fast.
Twenty states (including Texas)* have mandated private coverage of telehealth services. Insurers operating in these states must pay their providers the same reimbursement for seeing a patient via video conferencing as for seeing that patient in the office. In 10 other states, legislation mandating telehealth coverage by commercial insurers has been proposed.
*States mandating private coverage of telehealth services include Arizona (beginning January 1, 2015), Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi (beginning July 1, 2013), Missouri (beginning January 1, 2014), Montana (beginning January 1, 2014), New Hampshire, New Mexico (beginning June 2013), Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.
Insurers and employers are eager to offer telehealth services due to patient demand. Once patients experience the convenience of an online appointment, it becomes a competitive advantage for an insurer, employer, or private physician to offer telemedicine services.
Source: Medscape: Business of Medicine