Coronavirus scare boosting the adoption of telehealth by home care providers
- Published | 12 March 2020
The Senate (US Congress ' upper chamber) passed a bill on 5 March 2020 that will include $8.3 billion in emergency funds to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 or coronavirus. In addition to funding, the bill made substantial adjustments to telehealth laws, allowing home care providers to rely heavier on telehealth resources and be fully reimbursed for such services.
Congress clearly calls for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to lift such limitations on originating sites, such as those prohibiting telehealth in non-rural settings. Providers will also be required to carry out telehealth instructions with audio and video capabilities over phones.
Considering that all the United States is currently under this emergency declaration for public health, any Medicare patient will now be able to receive treatment from a provider through a two-way audio-video system, including a smartphone. It extends to every Medicare-refundable telehealth program anywhere in the U.S.-not just for coronavirus treatment.
Since the coronavirus started spreading throughout the United States, many insiders in the home health industry have pushed for greater use of telehealth technology. Despite opening up some new pathways, the newly relaxed telehealth standards still face some limitations. Additionally, current HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines will also apply for providers that use smartphones to communicate with patients.
So far more than 108,000 people around the world have been infected by the coronavirus. As of 9 March 2020, the number of confirmed cases was close to 600 in the United States. Synzi, a telehealth and telemedicine technology company, currently provides free basic and temporary services to patients that have not been familiar with telehealth until the coronavirus outbreak. Synzi has more than 50 clients in the home care market.
For health care services Telehealth has long been recognized a big part of the future. As the fears of the providers intensify, the future may necessarily come sooner.
The American Medical Directors Association (AMDA), known as The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine — serves a group of over 50,000 medical directors, doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other long-term care practitioners. The new president of the board, Dr. David Nace, said telehealth will play a significant role in long-term care settings to control the virus. Telehealth devices have their drawbacks, and they will never be able to fully substitute provider care in-person. But having the opportunity to reach patients would practically allow clinicians to avoid contact from person to person, unless it is absolutely necessary. There have also been reports of patients and nurses failing to see each other in person in areas with a significant number of incidents, such as Seattle.
Synzi has seen a big upswing in the amount of time its customers spend using their app. Over the past two weeks, use has increased by 25% in all modalities and predicts a greater increase as patients or nurses fail to meet each other individually.
Previously, payment roadblocks impeded companies from contributing further to telehealth. Historically Medicare has only reimbursed telehealth services in specific conditions. Although lawmakers probably will need to hammer out specifics, the language of last week will open up more incentives for providers to be reimbursed for other services in various settings.
Approximately 28% of respondents said they had a target of developing new telehealth programs over the next year or so in a 2019 survey of 159 home health agencies undertaken by Definitive Healthcare. Definitive Healthcare is a health care data and analytics company based in Framingham, Massachusetts. Of the 159 participants, nearly 70% were suppliers at the service level and 30% were organizations at the corporate level.
Besides Synzi, Hoboken, New Jersey-based Health Recovery Solutions and Wixom, Michigan-based HNC Virtual Solutions provide other examples of telehealth providers in the home health space. Concierge Home Care, a home health care service and Synzi customer with six Florida sites, started using technology to communicate with patients remotely due to the prevalence of hurricanes in the state.
Sharon Harder, president of C3 Advisors added telehealth certainly adds an aspect of non-refundable costs, but it still saves on the visit and it also gives us the opportunity for achieving the quality result. When we usually think of home wellbeing, all these advances will help us with our margins when regards the Patient-Driven Groupings Model.
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