The American Heart Association (AHA) is pushing for Medicare coverage of evidence-based telemedicine services for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Telehealth, including text messaging and platforms that can be accessed on any device with an Internet connection, has become a widely accepted option among patients and providers. Electronic health record (EMR) integrated medical transcription services help physicians with their clinical documentation tasks. With the AHA’s demand for Medicare coverage of telehealth services, the demand for customized medical transcription solutions is also likely to increase.
Currently, Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services for CVD patients is only available if the patient lives in rural areas of the United States and where real time communications are available. The AHA points out that heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in the U.S. and proper utilization of proven forms of treatment like telehealth can effectively fight these deadly diseases and enhance health care quality. All Americans suffering from CVD and stroke should be able to reap the benefits of this valuable type of care, regardless of where they live.
A study by researchers at Overlook Medical Center and Atlantic Health System published in 2016 in the journal Stroke showed that patients evaluated in ambulances while on the way to the hospital could be treated with a brain saving drug 13 minutes faster once in the Emergency Department than patients not evaluated with in-transit telestroke.
Medicare coverage for telehealth services for cardiovascular care will ensure appropriate reimbursement for providers. To remove the barriers associated with care, the AHA recommends, among other things, that Medicare should:
- Provide benefits coverage for all evidence-based telehealth services for cardiovascular and stroke care
- Ensure that coverage and payment parity exist across all states, so that insurers and others offer and cover specific, proven evidence-based telehealth interventions.
Recent studies indicate that telemedicine can also help manage patients with diabetes and that integrating EMR with telemedicine can result in better community healthcare. Telemedicine enables live video conferencing among all parties involved – a specialist, the patient and possibly a local physician. In general, fee-for-service Medicare reimbursement is guided by four key aspects – the patient setting, the type of technology, geography, and provider type. Medicare reimburses for telehealth services delivered via videoconferencing, but not for services delivered through methods such as email or fax, except in the case of Medicare Chronic Care Management (CCM).
The press release advocating Medicare payment for telemedicine services for cardiovascular disease states that with “increasing physician shortages, rising costs and a burgeoning demand for treatment, telehealth can greatly improve value in health care and, most importantly, produce better health outcomes for all.”
Telehealth, as the AHA stresses, is a proven tool for “safe, timely, effective, equitable, efficient and patient-centered care”. As the demand for these services rise, U.S. based medical transcription companies will continue to provide accurate and timely EMR-integrated documentation solutions to improve patient care and also ensure appropriate reimbursement for physicians.