by Brook Taliaferro
Returning from the American Telemedicine Association Show in Orlando last month, I was struck by how many devices were honking huge refugees from an operating theater with looming screens and control panels worth of NASA. So much equipment escaped from the 80s.
I don’t think that’s our future. How much of that equipment is dependent on the miracle of Medicare, Medicaid or third party reimbursement?
At our own Home Health Technology Summit in New Orleans in March, one speaker pointed out the mistake of waiting for the “Reimbursement Miracle.”
“If your business is 20% or more dependent on reimbursement, you’re not going to make it,” said Marc Cayle, COO and founder of ONKÖL, a home monitoring system.
Cayle learned this lesson as the owner of three Comfort Care senior in-home franchises where 80% of his revenue is private pay.
“Every time I send a patient to a more acute care facility dependent on reimbursement, I lose money,” he said.
Cayle said he shouldn’t have to lose money because of the reimbursement issue because the Baby Boomer generation has more disposable income than any generation in history.
“And the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act proposal now before Congress would allow access to an estimated $28 billion currently stashed in HSA accounts across the country for elder care,” said Cayle.
The ONKÖL system Cayle has brought to market includes a button for emergency attention transmitting to family and caregivers or a monitoring center, but it is also capable of connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth or by USB cable to virtually hundreds of medical devices from all manufacturers. That includes everything from blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, heart rate monitors, scales and many more. In each case, ONKÖL collects the data, communicates it to the right people and stores the data for later use.
“Any Bluetooth device, we can read it,” said Cayle.
The cost of the unit is $349 retail. Monitoring services range from $49 to $59 per month. Not a budget-busting sum for most Baby Boomer families.
“What you’re selling is peace of mind for you and safety for the patient,” Cayle said.
Jonathan Linkous, ATA’s CEO, was quoted in a recent interview by Bruce Judson in Telehealth and Telecare Aware, saying, “Unlike the past, the industry now has real revenues,” with rapidly growing businesses.
In short, we may not be past the hype, but the industry is quickly moving to fulfill realistic expectations.
Linkous concluded that the future growth of the telehealth industry would largely depend on the consumer, citing a variety of factors: the growth of value-based care; the emerging influence of millenials who are comfortable with technology; and the overall consumerization of medicine.
Reimbursement was not mentioned in the article, despite the recent GAO report cited in a Home Health Technology News Wednesday Wire in April.
Could we possibly be skeptical of the GAO?