For the first time, starting in 2019, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will reimburse healthcare providers for certain virtual care visits with patients, regardless of the patient’s location—a move that has drawn praise from many healthcare leaders as helping to advance telehealth.
On Nov. 1, CMS published its final rule providing updates to the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and calendar-year 2019 Quality Payment Program (QPP), and while there were no big surprises as many of CMS’ changes and updates were originally proposed in the agency’s draft rule, published back in July, healthcare industry groups quickly praised the virtual visit provisions contained in the final rule—specifically, reimbursing doctors for virtual check-ins, remote image evaluation, and other technology-enabled services.
CMS officials said that provisions in the CY 2019 Physician Fee Schedule would support access to care using telecommunications technology. Under the final rule, Medicare will pay providers for new communication technology-based services, such as brief check-ins between patients and practitioners, and pay separately for evaluation of remote pre-recorded images and/or video. CMS is also expanding the list of Medicare-covered telehealth services.
However, a recent Reaction Data survey found that two-thirds (67 percent) of physicians and health IT leaders are not aware of CMS’s expanded telemedicine reimbursement announcement. But, 63 percent said the increased telemedicine reimbursement would speed up implementation, adoption and use of telemedicine. Thirty-seven percent said the CMS reimbursement changes would have no impact on adoption timelines.
Reaction Data recently surveyed physicians at community hospitals, academic medical centers, specialty clinics and integrate delivery networks, to gauge who is aware of the CMS news, whether telemedicine is continuing to gather steam, what the adoption rates are and what benefits they are seeing. Eighty percent of respondents were physicians, 6 percent were CIOs, four percent were It managers, four percent were chief nursing officers and 3 percent were directors of information technology.
Half of respondents (53 percent) have not yet adopted a telemedicine solution, while 23 percent have contracted with a telemedicine software/service provider and 24 percent are using a homegrown solution.