News Roundup August 14th, 2020

A divide in access to health is a persistent topic when addressing care for patients in rural areas vs. urban. The distance required for people in rural areas to travel can easily be the deciding factor in how urgent a case becomes. Commute times to hospitals and other health institutions may take hours. Some may need to cross state lines just to access care. With growing support and adoption for telemedicine this may help remedy pressure when seeking medical attention. However, a lingering question about payment models and reimbursement is still being considered forcing the industry to rethink how to effect change in their systems. And still the question of access via broadband still persists where technology is limited. 

Time gives lengthy feature to normalizing telehealth as a main instrument for care:

“The COVID-19 pandemic was raging, his job at a transitional housing organization in Ukiah, Calif. was busier than ever amid the economic collapse, and a hospital seemed like the last place he wanted to be.

But when he finally took himself to the emergency room and he was diagnosed with a kidney infection, Carlson figured he would have no choice but to stay. Instead, his doctors told him about a new program that would allow him to finish the rest of his hospital care at home, with a medical team monitoring him virtually around the clock and making in-person visits multiple times each day.”

In Wisconsin, local entities are ramping up telehealth efforts and capabilities to address increasing health needs for people outside of urban centers. 

“When COVID struck, hospital systems such as Marshfield Clinic and UW Health knew they had the ability to continue seeing patients via telehealth. But one challenge: no reimbursement for the patient being in their own home during the virtual visit.”

[…]The average cost of telehealth is the same as office visits, and telehealth visits are reimbursed at the same level, according to Meyers. The average routine visit to the doctor is around $200 depending on the health system. That would be the same for a telehealth visit.

[…]Home-based care providers had lobbied hard for exempt status, citing their essential role keeping people safely at home and out of hospitals.”

And finally, Centers for Medicare and Medical Services (CMS) continues to work behind the scenes to incorporate new measures set forth by the President’s recent Executive Order to improve telehealth access for rural communities. More here:

“This track offers upfront investment to assist rural healthcare providers in improving outcomes and quality for rural beneficiaries. This track builds on the success of the ACO Investment Model (AIM), which has saved $382 million over three years. Providers participating in the ACO Transformation Track will enter into two-sided risk arrangements as part of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and may use all waivers available in the MSSP program.”