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    DIY Telemedicine


    Calculate the potential

    Physicians need to consider not just patient demand but whether, and how, they’ll be compensated for telemedicine visits, Tennant says. 

    Some payers, including Medicare and various private insurers, do cover telemedicine. Because reimbursements for such services aren’t universal, though, physicians need to assess their payer mix and calculate whether offering telemedicine services makes financial sense, says Ashutosh Goel, MD, chief information officer, chief medical informatics officer, and senior vice president of IT for Bronson Healthcare, a health system based in Kalamazoo, Mich. 

    “They should look at their total patient volume, understand which of their patients are under some type of capitation model, which percentage of the panel is looking for these visits as a ‘retail’ service that they are willing to pay out of pocket for,” he says, adding that there’s no standard calculation for evaluating these factors to determine fiscal viability for telemedicine.

    Goel says physicians might also consider researching whether any employers in their region are willing to pay for telemedicine visits for their employees and then partnering with those companies to provide them.

    He also suggests using patient surveys and any related market data (generally compiled and sold by research firms) to help determine whether demand can support telemedicine in a practice.

    Steven E. Waldren, MD, MS, director of the Alliance for eHealth Innovation, suggests that in addition to patient surveys, physicians log telephone calls of conditions that could be addressed with telemedicine.


    FURTHER READING: How to reduce patient no-shows


    Waldren advises physicians to calculate their monthly cost for providing telemedicine and then estimate how many visits per month would be required to see a return on investment.

    Goel, a member of the physician committee at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a nonprofit organization promoting the use of health IT, says telemedicine makes the most financial sense for concierge-type practices or those with a large patient population covered under a capitation model (under which there aren’t reimbursements for individual visits, so there’s no difference financially whether the physician sees patients via telemedicine or in person). 

    John Sharp, MSSA, FHIMSS, senior manager of consumer health IT with Personal Connected Health Alliance, a nonprofit arm of HIMSS, says practices could also forgo seeking insurance payments for their telemedicine services and instead charge patients directly.

    “That might still be worthwhile for
    patients who see it as better than taking off a half day from work to come in,” Sharp adds.

    Next: Determine parameters


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