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Customer Experience and Design

Does Fee-for-Service Reimbursement Inhibit Telehealth?

Technologies such as mobile health, telehealth, and social portal solutions are making great waves in healthcare organizations around the world. Technology creates a reality where patients are no longer required to go to the doctor’s office to get important care. The future seems even more promising. Technology provides patients with:

  • Socially-Enabled Patient Portals: A platform where physicians and patients can work together toward their combined goals of better health. These technologies are particularly effective in rural and low income areas. These social technologies are being used to enhance the quality of care for diabetic populations in low income areas, for example. These technologies show great promise for providers and health plans interested in managing chronic disease, especially for the uninsured.
  • Virtual Visits: Healthcare providers such as Kaiser Permanente are increasingly offering virtual visits to accommodate appointments that can take place from a distance. One question often remains when considering these virtual visits. How do they accommodate care that must take place in person, such as listening to a patient’s heartbeat? There are advances in telemedicine that physicians can now call on, such as the scope-to-scope application by 3M. This innovation gives physicians the ability to hear actual heart and body sounds in real time from any distance – even space.
  • Cellphone as a Doctor Tool: Increasingly, cell phones are being used to collect and share healthcare data. Dreaming of a day when sodium, glucose, and blood oxygen levels can be monitored via nanosensor “tattoo” through the iPhone (read: no pin prick). That innovation is here and it is called Nanosensor Tatoo.

The future of telehealth is even more exciting to envision. Hear about the most recent X Prize? You could win $10,000,000 if you are able to diagnose 15 common medical conditions in 10 people within three days. The catch? This must be done with no intervention from a health care professional.

However, as I highlighted in a recent post, “6 Hour Commute to the Doctor’s Office“, while technology has the infrastructure to support telehealth, there are still many barriers in our way. The problem comes when we have to implement technologies that have proven to be successful in controlled studies into a messy state-wide environment with challenging barriers like payment models.

If, for example, there is no ICD code for communicating with patients via social media tools, the doctors have no incentive to take on the time and expense required to manage these tools. Even if it actually improves patient health? Yep, that’s right. The motivations and rewards of doctors and patients are simply unaligned in this case, and this actually inhibits the use of telehealth technologies that decrease the number of barriers between patients and their care.

Want to learn more about managing population health under new reimbursement models? Register for our upcoming ACO webinar and you will be entered to win one of two Perficient client badges to the February HIMSS Conference in Las Vegas!

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