Cost, Access and Quality of Telemedicine

With research results finding telemedicine has the potential to increase the accuracy of diagnoses while improving access to health care for disadvantaged individuals, telemedicine/telehealth service activists are working to overcome barriers existing between patients and telemedicine providers. Additionally, study-based evidence further champions the need to improve access to telemedicine by revealing that socioeconomic benefits for families, patients and healthcare professionals are indeed significant. In fact, the significantly reduced cost of telemedicine, combined with the high quality of telemedicine, is rapidly becoming a primary subject of interest for global health providers and researchers.

Quality of Telemedicine Is Equal to or Exceeds Traditional Medicine

Several studies have found that the satisfaction rate among surgeons using telemedicine or teleconferencing was nearly 90 percent. The quality of telemedicine services rated by patients also either equaled or exceeded the same ratings for traditional medical treatment. Results of another study found evidence that telemedicine improved quality of life. Further, hypertension patients being monitored via telemedicine videoconferencing experienced better blood pressure control than patients receiving traditional care.

Another interesting study focused on the impact telemedicine had on younger emergency room patients. It found that quality of care was higher for those requiring telemedicine consultations than for patients who were evaluated or diagnosed via phone consultations or no consultations.

Currently, some states are even investing in telemedicine technologies for use by home health providers as a way to reduce travel time for providers and therefore increase their ability to assist more patients in one day.

Cost of Telemedicine and Telemedicine Reimbursement

Since healthcare spending comprises a large portion of any community's economy (especially rural communities), telemedicine services can give medical assistance to local people so they do not need to travel outside the community. Telemedicine would not only keep money within the community but would promote business retention and recruitment. In fact, access to locally available healthcare is an important factor in the successful recruitment of new businesses and improving local economies.

Telehealth advocates also assert that telemedicine has the ability to significantly reduce overall costs of health services. With a potential for restructuring and transforming the way healthcare is provided, telemedicine contributes to reducing costs by redistributing resources from clinical environments to primary care.

One of the most troublesome obstacles to completely integrating telemedicine services into standard healthcare methods is the lack of consistent reimbursement policies provided by private and public health insurance providers. Although the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 authorized partial reimbursement for telemedicine and telehealth services, factors like eligibility guidelines or geographic location still restrict reimbursement.

Currently, 48 state Medicaid programs contain reimbursement clauses to pay for telemedicine services. Behavioral health and psychiatry and mental health counseling are seeing the most rapid expansions in reimbursement. Budget constraints are preventing other state Medicaid agencies from establishing telemedicine reimbursement policies.

In addition, over half of the states have telemedicine parity, a legal term that means these states require private insurers to reimburse telemedicine services equivalently to in-person care. Implementation of parity allows financially responsible services to be given in that state via telemedicine and increases access to care, particularly in rural areas.

On the other hand, Medicare reimburses recipients in all 50 states if they meet certain requirements. To learn more about telehealth reimbursement issues, please contact Iris Telehealth today.

Back to the Blog >>