Population Health Insights

Telehealth Research Used to Support New Policy Initiatives for Expansion


Changes to policy regarding telehealth and remote patient management (RPM) — and, specifically, changes affecting the reimbursement for these services offered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)  — are having an effect on the usage of digital delivery on the larger healthcare industry.

That’s according to a number of recent reports focused on telehealth research within a few specific areas of telehealth implementation — one of them focused on primary care and mental health, the other on exploring the application of telehealth and remote care technology within skilled nursing facilities.

In Fierce Healthcare’s report of the first telehealth study, which author Matt Kuhrt describes as a letter published in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found a “notable uptick in the use of telemedicine among primary care physicians between 2015 and 2017.”

However, that period also showed “a negative association with states that enacted comprehensive parity laws mandating reimbursement for the services,” Kuhrt writes. The “benefits of reimbursement appear to vary depending on the subspecialty involved,” he adds, which could be useful in guiding “a more efficient policy path for driving widespread adoption in certain medical specialties.”

For a better perspective on the findings, Kuhrt spoke to study author Dr. Michael L. Barnett. Particularly with primary care, Dr. Barnett told Kuhrt, the data show that, given its “huge consumer adoption across the map — we probably don’t need any policy to influence that.”

Telehealth Research Points to Benefits for Skilled Nursing Facilities

The CMS is also offering more support for expanding the use of telehealth in the nation’s skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The agency has issued a congressional report that highlight the financial potential of digital healthcare delivery on the basis of a “variety of studies that show the technology can save the government money,” writes Alex Spanko for Skilled Nursing News.

“Each year, hospital readmissions among skilled nursing facility patients cost Medicare more than $4 billion, but there is emerging evidence that shows that providing telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries in long-term care facilities or at home may decrease hospitalizations and readmissions and enable more beneficiaries to remain in the community,” note the authors of the CMS report.

“The November report marks the most recent sign that the federal government is interested in expanding the availability of telemedicine services under Medicare,” Spanko writes. “CMS last month issued a proposed rule that would define telehealth as a basic benefit for Medicare Advantage plans starting in calendar 2020,” and a bill before Congress (the RUSH Act) “would allow Medicare to cover emergency telemedicine services in nursing homes.”

Telehealth Research Confirms Known Benefits of Digital Care

This emphasis on positive telehealth research for nursing facilities corresponds with another recent report that found that remote care delivery and patient monitoring can help SNFs achieve the important goal of reducing hospital readmissions, improving their capacity to offer value-based care.

“An exciting new category of connected health devices is emerging as a result,” writes Jiang Li in the article. “What this new category of connected health devices enables is the ultimate goal in remote patient monitoring — the ability to offer the same level of medical quality found in hospitals to a patient in an acute care facility or at home.”

Though the frequency of reports are increasing, telehealth research has long pointed to the positive benefits of applying digitally delivered healthcare technology, including:

The Benefits of Remote Patient Management

If you’re interested in learning more about how telehealth and remote patient management can help your facility or organization achieve new efficiencies in care delivery while boosting member satisfaction, our experts are standing by to fill you in! Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Care Innovations® telehealth specialist.