WASHINGTON – A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that while health care providers recognize the benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring, they are not taking full advantage of the technology due to lack of reimbursement.
The report, conducted as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, found that Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense used telehealth to treat fewer than 12% of beneficiaries from 2014-2016.
Harry Wang, senior director of research at Parks Associates, said the blame is not entirely that of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which acts as the “gatekeeper” of Medicare’s reimbursement policy and has historically been slow to embrace telehealth technologies for fear of over-utilization and cost overrun.
“The telehealth industry has several of its own barriers to blame, including the lack of cross-state licensure framework; higher cost of telehealth equipment in the past; and physicians’ own concerns about new work flow and lack of direct reimbursement for telehealth,” Wang said.
The slow adoption of telehealth, or the hope of accelerated adoption, should not be pinned on one agency, he said.
“It should be a collaborative effort to make practicing telehealth as if it is equitable to a face-to-face visit in consumer experience, clinical outcome and payment,” said Wang. “Only then will doctors be willing to invest in telehealth solutions and drive the overall acceptance of telehealth as a normal practice.”
The good news is that CMS has efforts underway, like models and demonstrations that offer alternative approaches to health care payment and delivery, to reduce barriers to increased use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring. The GAO report said these efforts have the potential to expand the use of the technology for Medicare beneficiaries.