Telemedicine Momentum

Telemedicine has proven to increase access to care and reduce costs via teleconsultations and remote patient monitoring.  Unfortunately, the adoption rate in the U.S. has been rather slow.  Millennials may help to change that as this year they are expected to surpass baby boomers in size.  In fact, the number of millennials is projected to reach 75.3 million this year, whereas the number of baby boomers is forecasted to be 74.9 million.

We have all seen the reports about how technology savvy millennials are and how they crave easy access to everything, including now their access to healthcare.  Combine this with the benefits of telemedicine and we see the reasoning behind the shift toward telemedicine acceptance.  For example, late last year, large insurer Anthem announced it is offering telemedicine visits with no copay to its Medicare Advantage members in twelve states.  UnitedHealthcare is expanding its telemedicine offerings to cover some 20 million members in 2016.  Additionally, Aetna and Cigna already provide some reimbursement for telemedicine services.  And for 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) expanded the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule to include the following services via telemedicine:  annual wellness visits, prolonged evaluation and management services, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy.  Walgreens has also announced that it is rolling out an app to enable patients to consult “virtually” with physicians on a host of acute conditions.

Here is some telemedicine-related data from surveys via various sources:

  • In 2014, more than 10 million Americans utilized telemedicine (American Telemedicine Association)
  • Approximately 12.5% of general practitioner appointments will have occurred in 2014, resulting in an estimated savings of nearly $6 billion (Deloitte)
  • 84% of healthcare executives believe telemedicine is important to their organizations; 9 out of 10 are pursuing telemedicine programs (Foley & Lardner)
  • 22% of employers offered telemedicine consultations in their 2014 health programs; 37% expected to make that available in 2015; an additional 34% of employers are considering it for 2016 or 2017 (Towers Watson)

There is also much legislative work being done around the country.  Over half of the states require private insurers to cover telemedicine in the same manner as in-person visits and most states reimburse for telemedicine via Medicaid.  The reimbursement remedy is beginning to pick up steam as more than 100 bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2015.

See my earlier post regarding some ongoing roadblocks to telemedicine adoption in the United States.


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