Infectious Disease

Securing reimbursement, broadband entry crucial to optimizing telehealth

February 11, 2021

2 min read

Source / information

Source:
Kvedar J, et al. Policy to make sure no one is left behind. ATA Edge. January 12 – February 2, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosure:
Kvedar reports that he serves as a board member for FDNA, Flare Capital, GoodRx, LuminDx and Res App Health. Shareholder of b. Well, LuminDx, MD Revolution, Res App Health; and on the boards of MobileHelp and NuRx. Healio Primary Care was unable to determine the relevant financial information from Enewichi at the time of publication.

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Data shows that access to telemedicine is not universal in the United States, according to a presentation at the American Telemedicine Association’s EDGE Policy Meeting.

Research has shown that some patients lack the resources or technical skills necessary to use telehealth. There are also loopholes in the law to support telehealth. Private insurance payers could at any time change the telehealth policies that helped keep many doctors financially alive during the pandemic, the chairman of the board of the American Telemedicine Association Joe Kvedar, MD, said Healio Primary Care.

Reference: Kvedar J, et al. Policy to make sure no one is left behind.

To ensure that all patients and healthcare professionals can maximize the benefits of telehealth, speakers at the ATA policy meeting highlighted three factors that are required to get the most out of telemedicine.

Legislation that increases broadband access

A recent study found that 30.1% of health care visits during the COVID-19 pandemic were via telemedicine. The study’s authors also found that telemedicine visits were less frequent in rural areas, possibly due to limited broadband access.

Joe Kvedar

To address concerns about broadband availability, the ATA is strongly advocating legislation that will allow universal access in the United States and bridge the digital divide.

However, legislative efforts require additional support from policy makers Fine Enekwarti, PhD, MPP, a health policy expert and research fellow at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Congress, she added, could not be “let off the hook”.

“[Congress] also has a responsibility to respond to the needs of the moment, ”she said during the ATA policy meeting. “Often times the administration can propose, advocate, convene and do a number of other critical things, but the pivotal point will be the legislative effort if we hope to see major changes over time.”

Continuation of reimbursement of telemedicine for audio only

Enekwarti cited data showing that 40% of Medicare beneficiaries neither have broadband nor a smartphone. Other data from a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center showed that 33% of Americans and 45% of those in rural areas lack broadband access at home.

Enekwarti pointed out that telemedicine is still mostly powered by video visits, but in some cases that mindset needs to change.

“Audio is our only tool to bridge the digital divide,” said Kvedar, who is also senior consultant, virtual nursing for Massachusetts General Brigham. “Most payers don’t look forward to paying for audio. We believe strong advocacy is required for further reimbursement. “

Enekwarti agreed, adding that doctors can help address payers’ concerns by providing ATA data on their telemedicine usage.

Adaeze Enekwarti

“When we think about the guidelines for telehealth coverage, it is important not to lose sight of how data from your membership can be helpful and constructive in addressing payer concerns about overuse and even fraudulent use,” she said.

Efforts to improve digital literacy

Kvedar noted that ATA is in the early stages of developing ways to improve digital literacy.

Given that many other organizations are dealing with the same issue, “whether we can partner or contribute in ways that add value,” is one of ATA’s first considerations in this area, he said.

Reference:

Horrigan JB, Duggan M. Home Broadband 2015. Accessed February 4, 2021.

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