AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


The Dollars and Sense of Telemedicine

With the anticipated “break out” of telemedicine services looming on the horizon, an important and significant obstacle still remains to be cleared away if wide-spread expansion and acceptance of medical treatment and services is to be realized.  As with the growth of any new industry it raises the question of who is going to provide the investment capital and who is ultimately going to pay for the services necessary to sustain the budding industry?

Even with the obvious benefits that telemedical services promises to bring to the traditional health care delivery model, change to the well-established and traditional minded payers of medical services continues to be a major detriment to the crack of the starter’s pistol that will unleash the race to expansion.  Currently there are five primary sources of funding for the $2.8 trillion healthcare markets in the United States, according to Jon Linkous, American Telemedicine Association (ATA) CEO.

Hospital and Healthcare Systems now permits providers the flexibility to pay for telemedicine services wherever warranted, over 100 million Americans are now covered and the number is growing rapidly.  This source remains the most fit of providers readily eager to set the pace.

Private and public employee insurers in the U.S. are expanding coverage of telemedicine but only 16 states currently mandate private insurance coverage.  This important source of funding continues to lag well behind the pace and is not likely to contribute seriously to a break-out soon.

Federal Medicare payments are currently approved for imaging and live consultations to patients in rural areas and Congress is expected to take up expansion of the payments in the coming year, but this is Congress an agency not known for leading or setting any records for implementing change.

State Medicaid coverage is available in 44 states at some level of reimbursement and three more states are considering full support in 2013.  In April, legislators in Arizona passed a law prohibiting insurers from denying payment for medical services solely because they are provided through telemedicine. The law is limited to providing payments in 13 specific rural areas and only for telemedicine treatment for seven specific conditions. The laws implementation was delayed until the end of 2014 to satisfy insurance industry concerns.  Such tentative, piecemeal advances’ provides little hope for a surge in Telemedical services being paid for by Medicaid provider’s in Arizona.  Apparently, as with justice, the wheels of bureaucratic change move slowly.

Direct federal healthcare agencies, such as the U.S. Veterans Administration, Department of Defense, Indian Health Service, federal and state and local corrections departments are active providers of remote health care.  This is rapidly expanding and increasingly relies on partnerships with non-governmental health providers.

Investment capital remains a concern for providers looking to aggressively enter the telemedical marketplace. While the mystery of how the new technology will generate returns on investment begin to fade in investors and venture capitalist minds, infrastructure funding sources are limited and somewhat timid in this hesitant economic environment.

The benefits of telemedicine to improve the access and quality of patient care is obvious, and makes perfect sense to providers, practitioners and patients alike, but the dollars portion of the “dollars and sense equation” is proving to be a more persistent challenge to expansion and sustainable growth of this new industry.



AcuteCare Telemedicine in 2013: Cutting Edge Neurological Care, Anywhere

Following a third consecutive year of growth in 2012, AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), an Atlanta-based partnership of 4 board-certified neurologists, is expanding its efforts to become the leading provider expert neurological care to rural and underserved areas throughout the Southeastern United States via cutting edge telemedicine technology.

Telemedicine, once regarded as an exciting new frontier, has now been fully realized as a part of the mainstream lexicon of medicine as we enter 2013. For a large number of hospital systems, telemedicine programs are now becoming a mandate as the nation faces a growing shortage of specialized physicians.

ACT has established itself as an innovator on the forefront of the industry, taking a unique approach to telemedicine by leveraging new technologies and techniques to enable personal neurology consultation when doctor and patient are in different locations. ACT offers a broad range of customizable services including 24/7 emergency neurological consultation and support programs for facilities seeking Joint Commission accreditation as a Primary Stroke Center, but primarily specializes in telestroke: the application of telemedicine to the treatment of the acute stroke patient. With the help of ACT’s powerful and personalized services, patients throughout the ‘Stroke Belt’ states of the Southeast have drastically improved access to the care they deserve, and medical facilities increase efficiency while reducing the costs associated with maintaining a traditional emergency neurology staff.

Whereas many hospitals with existing neurology departments simply do not have the resources to maintain around-the-clock clinician capacity, ACT has managed to successfully disrupt the trend and bring patient and physician together, regardless of geographical boundaries. Achieving this goal requires a certain level of investment in technology and trust in the people behind it. ACT is truly technology-agnostic.  This agility affords healthcare organizations with the ability to select the platform that meets budgetary and organizational parameters.

ACT provides access to the best 24X7 acute neurological care. Contact Michael Woodcock to hear how teleneurology can impact your business and patients in 2013.



Investing in People

Telemedicine has garnered more attention as of late as a truly game-changing emerging field on the cutting edge of healthcare. Perceptions of the field have become increasingly favorable, but there is still a long road ahead to becoming part of the mainstream lexicon of medicine for patients and providers.

Presently, one of the most significant barriers to entry for new companies in telemedicine is the level of investment required on the part of potential client facilities. Revolutionary technology does not typically come cheap, and as healthcare spending continues to swell (albeit at a slower rate than previously), most facilities are working diligently to combat rising costs rather than add new programs to already bloated budgets.

The good news is that practical new technologies, regardless of how disruptive or expensive at the outset, have a habit of eventually finding their way into adoption. A common adage proclaims that every few years, the power of technology doubles and its price tag is halved. This implies that facilities which have temporarily chosen to forego the extensive advantages that telemedicine programs offer based upon steep startup costs will ultimately find the same solutions to be far more cost effective in the not-too-distant future. However, late adopters of telemedicine services do run the risk of losing their competitive edge. This is especially true in light of the rapid changes ahead in the healthcare landscape; the integration of telemedicine can make a hospital more independent of, or attractive to, consolidation by larger healthcare systems, depending on the goals of the client.

When considering teleneurology as a discipline in particular, hospitals must recognize that an investment in telemedicine is far more than an investment in the newest, best equipment; it is the foundation of a relationship with physicians who are among the most knowledgeable and experiences practitioners in their field. AcuteCare Telemedicine is truly technology- agnostic, meaning that regardless of the price tag of the machines that we leverage to connect with a facility’s patients or staff, a partnership with our physicians means that behind the machinery is the expertise needed to drastically improve the quality of care a patient can receive. We place value in finding quality tools to accomplish our mission, but our accessibility is by no means restricted by them.

Many healthcare leaders are still hesitant to make the investment in something new, but the time has come that the highest level of expert care be available to everyone, everywhere. It is our vision that hospital facilities will share in our agnosticism towards technology and invest in the people who will improve healthcare’s next generation.



Healthcare Reform and the Impact on Telemedicine

The recent announcement of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has prompted widespread speculation among citizens of the US about the future of healthcare.  Notwithstanding the politics associated with the decision, the ruling carries significant impact for citizens in terms of access to preventive care and insurance coverage.

Telemedicine providers are heavily impacted by the ruling as well. The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) believes that it will positively impact the development of telemedicine, mHealth, and other remote technologies, citing 4 main reasons; the announcement reduces hesitation to invest in telemedicine technologies, protects existing investments in telemedicine, bolster’s telemedicine’s role in many healthcare programs, and strengthens telemedicine’s fundamental value proposition.

As healthcare enters its next era, telemedicine offers a model for streamlining care coordination and improving patient outcomes. In the period of time between healthcare reform being codified into law and the Supreme Court ruling to uphold it, there had been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the healthcare industry implementing major changes in practice, as it would cause complications should the law be overturned, but the affirmation clears up many of the primary legal and cost concerns, opening the door for telemedicine to address logistical and financial pain points for both providers and patients.

Ultimately, telemedicine fits snugly into the PPACA. For ACO’s needing to include services unavailable in their area, a remote presence physician will be drastically most cost-effective than hiring a full time local MD. Telemedicine also helps alleviate costs for underinsured or completely uninsured patients as well as alleviating strain on the healthcare system caused by unnecessary emergency visits through improvements in preventive care. The court’s decision, while sparking some controversy on other fronts, is the latest step forward in the rapid evolution of telemedicine as a powerful solution for a multitude of healthcare issues facing Americans.