A new report titled “Information on Medicare Telehealth” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows relatively large growth in the use of telehealth services among Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) beneficiaries from 2014-2016. Yet, overall adoption remains low: Only a tiny fraction of the total Medicare FFS population currently uses telehealth.
This is due in large part to Medicare policy and restrictions that sharply limit the types of services, settings and geographic areas that qualify for reimbursement. However, that’s about to change based on CMS rulemaking.
The CMS data analysis details who uses telehealth, the diagnosis and rate of growth. In addition to utilization trends, CMS reports on three other key issues as mandated by Congress (in the 21st Century Cures Act) including:
CMS used administrative claims data for Medicare FFS beneficiaries, plus claims for dual-eligibles (Medicare and Medicaid enrollees); those with a disability under age 65; and ESRD patients. They note there may be some under-reporting based on definitions and billing.
Report Highlights Show
Use by Diagnosis
CMS analysis suggests the use of telehealth services would dramatically increase if just a fraction of FFS beneficiaries receiving in-person services (office visits, hospital/nursing home consultations, chronic disease management, etc.) switched to telehealth.
They also note the potential for telehealth to improve access to care in rural and urban areas, reduce wait times, add convenience, and reduce disparities. As in the commercial sector, it could help Medicare beneficiaries receive care “anytime, anywhere.” And, with the recent CMS rulemaking aimed at eliminating restrictions for telehealth reimbursement, watch this space for further updates.
Given telemedicine’s rapidly growing and ever-changing landscape, it is crucial for organizations to not only identify ways to promote quality and improve outcomes, but also to differentiate themselves. Click here to learn more about the CHQI Telemedicine Accreditation Program, which promotes access to quality-based, standardized, and outcomes-driven health care regardless of the type of clinical services being provided.