Key Healthcare Incentives for Telemedicine in 2019

Jan 17, 2019 / Planning for telemedicine /

To help you plan for a successful 2019, we want to share key incentives we believe will have the most impact on trends for telemedicine in the coming year. We sat down with Ron Emerson RN BSN, AMD's Global Director of Strategic and Partner Development and discussed key areas for telemedicine to look forward to in the coming year, which are all based on one common goal: organizations looking at key incentives to utilize telemedicine technology.
 
Financial, clinical and needs-based incentives will be trending in 2019 because of issues like the opioid use disorder and unnecessary hospital readmissions within certain populations. With that said, the four direct areas that have recent incentives to utilize telehealth include skilled nursing facilities, employee health, consumer-based urgent care, and opioid treatment.

1. Skilled nursing facilities

Recent changes in regulations will motivate more skilled nursing facilities to treat patients in place, avoid hospital readmissions, and ultimately dismissing penalty fees as well.

Historically, SNFs have had higher hospital readmission rates at 25 percent compared to the national average for the general Medicare population of 15.6 percent. As of October 1, Medicare has moved SNFs under the value-based care system, which means they'll be penalized for these unnecessary readmissions. According to Emerson, more SNFs will be inclined to use telemedicine in 2019 for various reasons regarding this new regulation, and transition their practice of care to treating more patients in place.

"There are three key drivers for SNFs to use telemedicine," according to Emerson.

Patient care is paramount, and increasing access to care regardless of time or day will provide the best outcome for the patient. Also, under value based care, SNFs are penalized for unnecessary hospitalizations. Lastly, transport fees by ambulance are typically paid for by the hospital.

"Organizations that we've worked with are showing that they can reduce hospitalization rates in certain SNFs by up to 80 percent," Emerson said.

2. Employee health

Gaining control over rising healthcare costs will motivate more employers to consider onsite clinics in 2019.

There are approximately 35,000 businesses in the U.S. that could benefit from an on-site employee health clinic. Historically, only larger size organizations could justify the expense to have an on-site health clinic with a provider.  However, the benefits of telemedicine have made bringing healthcare closer to employees much more cost effective for all organizations.

"Currently, there are 35,000 businesses in the U.S. that would significantly benefit from employee worksite clinics."

Previously, to validate the cost of an on-site nurse practitioner or physician, a lot of organizations had to be large on site businesses like factories with about 5,000 employees to validate the cost of having somebody on staff.

"In 2019, telemedicine has the power to change this and we'll likely see growth in on-site clinics for employee health," said Emerson.

The increase in the number of business that are self-insured, will accelerate this process.

"Telehealth makes it more affordable for smaller facilities to deliver healthcare onsite, and eliminates the need for their employees to miss work for appointments," Emerson said. "So it's not just the large employers anymore. Now with the model that we have, they can see the benefits of controlling their healthcare costs, even with as little as 200 employees."

3. Consumer-based urgent care

The consumer-driven convenience market, new regulations and asynchronous telemedicine will be trending in primary care in 2019, motivating more providers to consider telemedicine to replace unnecessary doctor's office visits.

"We're going to see a continued increase in a direct-to-consumer model, or the consumer driven convenience market," according to Emerson. "There will also be new regulations that have passed that will be very helpful in 2019 - one deals with Medicare providing what is called a virtual check-in, which allows doctors to have a real-time phone interaction with patients to help reduce unnecessary visits to the emergency room, urgent care center or primary care office."

Asynchronous telemedicine will also be trending, Emerson shared, which entails the remote evaluation of prerecorded patient information that can be used in basic initial consultations.

4. Opioid treatment

The ongoing opioid epidemic will encourage providers to use telemedicine for treatment in 2019.

In 2016, 11.5 million people misused prescription opioids and over 40,000 people died due to an opioid-related overdose. In 2017, HHS declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Emerson believes the use of telemedicine in opioid treatment will be a significant trend in 2019.

"We all know that we have an opioid epidemic problem, and we do not have enough medical specialists that can help with drug assisted treatment," Emerson said. "In 2019, we expect to see healthcare providers utilize telehealth as a viable means to reach people in rural areas where the opioid epidemic, in some cases, is most prevalent. On October 23rd, the president signed in, a new DEA policy for special registration for telemedicine providers that will be released prior to Oct. 23, 2019. This special registration will provide a more telehealth friendly environment for opioid addiction treatment via telemedicine."

Conclusion

Regulatory drivers, incentives and crisis areas are driving the expansion of telehealth, but we'd be remiss if we did not mention some of the other dynamics that are critical to this growth. There are now more than one billion fixed broadband users worldwide and the advancement of 5G networks is on the rise. This provides unique global applications for telehealth without fixed lines for more complex telemedicine encounters. It is established there is a correlation between access to care and quality of care. Changing incentives and increased broadband will ignite exciting opportunities for healthcare organizations to leverage virtual care in 2019 and beyond. 

As changes continue to occur across the healthcare landscape, AMD is committed to providing the best possible telehealth solution that will empower you to deliver care through integrated digital technologies. Learn more about our products and services today.

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