The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, for good or for ill, has changed the face of modern medicine and medical insurance. While most everyone is familiar with the individual mandate, which penalizes people who don’t enroll for medical insurance, fewer are aware of other penalties that exist within the law. One important facet of the law penalizes hospitals that readmit patients too many times. This part of the law is designed to encourage preventative medicine and full-fledged solutions to medical problems, rather than just patch-work solutions which cause medical problems to flare-up or return.
One way that many doctors and hospitals have begun to counter readmissions is through the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine allows physicians to interact with patients via a digital medium. Telemedicine physicians can potentially diagnose medical problems and even give prescriptions using this new technology. It can allow both the doctor and the patient to save time and reduces transportation costs in hospitals that use telemedicine. This is why over 30% of doctors currently use this technology and over 36 million Americans have already been treated by it.
Unfortunately, for telemedicine physicians, the insurance industry has not entirely kept up with the changing technological landscape. The vast majority of physicians that treat patients this way receive limited or no reimbursement from telemedicine sessions. Primarily this is a problem with laws as much as with the insurance companies. States like Florida have pending legislation to assure that this type of medicine is covered fully by medical insurance. But until such legislation is completed, many physicians and hospitals are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Readmissions incur costly penalties while one of the best new preventative medicine techniques, which helps to prevent readmissions, isn’t covered by most standard insurance policies.
Despite this, the trend is moving in the direction of telemedicine. Other savings, like decreased transportation costs, helps cover the loss of income when insurance doesn’t cover and the laws are slowly changing so that this type of medicine is covered in more areas. As such, the number of doctors using telemedicine in the next year is expected to rise to nearly 60%.