This technology is picking up speed with practitioners, payors; HR should partner with team leaders to get on board.
Telehealth, or telemedicine, is getting more attention than ever, as senior care providers—especially those in rural areas—seek ways to improve care and outcomes with limited resources and staffing. There is a growing recognition of telehealth’s value, including by the government and other payors; and by 2022 between 340,000 and 590,000 physicians expect to be using telehealth. Yet healthcare organizations are still struggling with how to implement and use this technology. HR can play a key role in helping their organization’s efforts to adopt telehealth.
Why the urgency? According to one survey, physician adoption of telehealth went up—from 5% to 22% between 2015 and 2018; and it continues to grow. Practitioners’ willingness to use this technology also increased during the same period—from 57% to 69%. This growing interest, according to respondents, has been driven by a desire to improve access and patient outcomes, attract and retain new patients, and be on the leading edge of medicine. They also see telehealth as a way to increase their work-life balance and reduce burnout.
The survey identified several stubborn barriers to telehealth adoption, including uncertain reimbursement, questions about clinical appropriateness, lack of practitioner buy-in, and poor leadership support. However, moving forward, it will be harder to excuse not embracing telehealth as more payors recognize its value. For instance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rule, which will go into effect in 2020, to allow Medicare Advantage plans to offer telehealth as part of the basic benefit package. This is a big change, and it will likely increase the number of Medicare Advantage plans that include telehealth coverage in their benefits package. At the same time, 48 states offer provider reimbursement for some form of telehealth in Medicare fee-for-service, and a growing number of states require private payors to cover some telehealth services.
HR should know what types of telehealth services are covered for their employees; and they need to communicate this information to workers. But their role doesn’t end there. If members of the interdisciplinary team will be providing any telehealth services, HR can offer support by helping to coordinate training and ensure that practitioners have the tools and information they need to use this technology. Another role is educating clinical team members about the privacy issues related to telehealth and how they can protect both their patients and themselves.
Tracking and monitoring telehealth services and collecting data about their utility is key. Analyzing data, as well as seeking feedback from users, will help identify opportunities for change or improvement.