There are five over-arching reasons why organizations should start a telemedicine program before the revenue pipeline can be turned on via Telehealth parity. Some of these are closely related, but these are initiatives that we have conversations around every day in Meridian’s meetings with clients.
Access to care. The first reason why telemedicine is a fantastic concept and why it took hold in the first place is "the great promise of telemedicine". The great promise of telemedicine is to provide access to care from centers of excellence out to areas where a lot of the underserved population lives.
Expansion of services. The old saying goes that it is seven times easier to sell something to an existing customer than it is to find a new one. This holds true even in healthcare. Through the use of Telehealth technologies, you can provide more service lines to your existing patient base and therefore enhance the relationship between a healthcare provider and the patient. This includes home health monitoring and getting out in front of the IoT and patient-generated data phenomenon.
There were many consumer-based home technology companies at the Health 2.0 show that you all know very well, yet are not traditionally known in healthcare. However, they want in on this market opportunity. So get ready to see some healthcare offerings from companies you never thought about in healthcare.
Access to market. This approach is about patient retention and acquisition. It is closely associated with the 'me too' approach. When your neighboring IDN establishes and offers a telemedicine service, it puts more pressure on you to respond to stay competitive. The same goes for big box retailers and pharmacies getting into the primary care business.
By starting your own Telehealth practice, you can go and market to a new patient population in areas that you could not have served before due to geographical restrictions. As an added benefit, if you are the first in your region to establish a telemedicine practice, that gives you a leg up over your competition in regards to new patient acquisition.
Cost savings and cost avoidance. If you take a good hard look at your books you will see where there are unnecessary costs that are hurting your top and bottom lines. It takes a lot of self-evaluation and honesty to look at this and figure out where money is leaking out of the business that could be used elsewhere. In many cases, the money saved by establishing a telemedicine program can fund the initial investment in the program.
For example, we have worked with some providers who have taken on great costs by providing unnecessary transports for pediatric emergency and geriatric patients in skilled nursing facilities. By leveraging Telehealth technology, these unnecessary transports and related costs can be drastically cut.
Risk aversion. Everywhere you go in healthcare circles today they are talking about a reduction in 30-day readmissions. Utilizing technology to extend health care beyond the four walls of the hospital can be one very effective tool in the fight against these readmissions and the penalties associated with a readmission for the same condition upon discharge.
In addition, many private practices are looking to utilize Telehealth technologies to eliminate hold back penalties that they receive from their private payer partners. Through the closing of care gaps, these practices can recoup a lot of revenue while providing better care and therefore hitting their care quality metrics as defined by their agreement with the private insurance companies.
There also may be some savings in regards to litigation and malpractice cases. I have to do more research on this, but after speaking with two actuarial companies they have stated that malpractice premiums have actually GONE DOWN for medical practices that have taken on some kind of Telehealth initiative.
Even though I started this blog post to write about the reasons to get into telemedicine that are not revenue related, I would be remiss if I didn't cover it at all. Hospitals are businesses. We will eventually have to get to a situation where the reimbursement model makes sense.
Private payers are coming around and seeing the value in telemedicine. Politicians and legislators are starting to see the value as well which means it's only a matter time before CMS adopts a reimbursement policy that provides parity with face-to-face consults where those type of consults make sense.
Meridian is advising its clients to find 1 or 2 reasons out of the initial 5 written above where you can address other strategic initiatives. Once the reimbursement model gets worked out, you will already have ironed out the wrinkles and will be able to start generating revenue much more quickly than if you had waited.
Director, Telemedicine and Video Practices, Meridian IT
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