Telemedicine is taking the medical world by storm, offering more and more opportunities for doctors to examine, consult with, and treat patients without them ever having to visit the office.
But digital docs want to be paid.
What’s needed, say industry observers, is a shift toward insurance companies providing coverage for a service that still doesn’t enjoy a streamlined reimbursement system.
The issue has come up recently in Washington state.
“Many health care providers in the Puget Sound region are using telemedicine. For CHI Franciscan, the service has been around for a few years, but until now it was only available to non-Medicaid patients,” according to the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) .
But legislation now working its way through the Washington statehouse could spur wider recognition of telemedicine as a reimbursable service.
“Telemedicine, the practice of patients and doctors having an appointment via the phone or computer, has a lot of potential to expand access to health care in Washington state,” explained PSBJ. “But because it’s tough for some doctors to get paid after using it, it hasn’t flourished as much as some would like.”
The getting paid thing, believes Matt Levi, director of virtual health services at CHI Franciscan, has been a drawback.
“Being able to create sustainable models where there is that reimbursement is just something we factor in,” said Levi. “A lot of (our services) have been held back a little bit by the lack of reimbursement.”
In the meantime, a partnership between California-based insurance company and health provider Molina Healthcare will help provide telemedicine services to a broader population.
“Molina will now cover the cost of telemedicine care for all Medicaid patients who already have a primary care physician within the CHI Franciscan Health system,” according to PSBJ.
“What it means for providers is really the ability to extend their practices to be able to have revenue,” said Dr. Frances Gough, chief medical officer at Molina.