Video Visits With Patients Can Now Boost Your Bottom Line

Neil Chesanow

Disclosures

August 06, 2013

In This Article

Game-Changing Technology

Even in nonmandated states, insurers and employers are eager to offer telehealth services. One reason is patient demand. Once patients experience the convenience of getting an immediate videoconference with a physician online rather than having to wait a week or longer for the same appointment with an office-based physician (and having to take a half-day off from work and possibly paying a higher fee), "it becomes a competitive advantage for an insurer, employer, or private physician offer telemedicine services," Linkous says. "Once you can use an ATM, why would you go back to the old style of banking?"

It isn't just patients in rural areas, the traditional recipients of telehealth, who are coming to this realization. Internet users in urban areas are nearly 3 times as likely as their rural counterparts to use videoconferencing to meet with their doctors, according to a study released last June by the Department of Commerce.[4] It found that 11% of Internet users with household incomes of $100,000 or more use videoconferencing and other telehealth services for patient visits, compared with 4% of Internet users with household incomes below $25,000.

"We are at a point of significant change," believes Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, CEO of American Well, a telehealth vendor in Boston. Rates of adoption by payers have reached a critical mass. "To stay competitive," he says, "they will all require a telehealth offering.

"Many states have passed bills requiring commercial insurers to incorporate telehealth," Schoenberg adds. "Most state Medicaid programs will no longer sign up a payer without a telehealth offering. This is very quickly becoming part of the cost of doing business."

"Two major milestones are hitting us this year and next" that will give the telehealth movement additional impetus, Linkous says. "One is health insurance exchanges, which are adding 14 million people to the insurance rolls. The other is Medicaid expansion, starting on January 1, 2014. That's why the federal and state governments are starting to say, 'Maybe it's time to loosen up the rules and allow for more electronic interchange in healthcare.'"

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