Long-Term Care (LTC), specifically Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF), have a far way to go to catch up with the rest of the medical community when it comes to the use of telehealth in the application of patient-centric and efficient models of care. But recent Medicare and several state Medicaid expansions should enable Long-Term Care to benefit from telehealth expansion.
The use of telemedicine has grown in this industry over the past several years. However, the challenge has continued to be to find a revenue and care model that would allow all parties involved to see a reasonable return on investment. Up until now, most models have had to rely on public funding (grants, et.al), a private pay/investor model, or an altruistic physician hoping to provide better care.
The primary benefit of telehealth in the LTC environment involves reducing costs for the facility and improving care for the patient. The facility can hopefully avoid the cost of transportation and not lose patient-days in their bed. The patient and their family see a quality of life improvement as well. Especially by not having to be transported back and forth to hospitals for care.
Recent Medicare enhancements should enable Long-Term Care to benefit from telehealth expansion.
Recent enhancements to the Medicare coverage are promising. They recently listed four new “add-on” codes in addition to new CPT codes to include telehealth coverage. They also expanded the use of the previously “bundled” CPT code 99091. This code allows for reimbursement of the collection and interpretation of physiologic data stored and transmitted by the patient”
These changes may not solve all of the challenges related to care and reimbursement in an LTC environment. However, it is progress in the right direction. Should this trend continue, we should see more LTC facilities embrace telehealth as a viable portion of their care model.