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Tuesday, 09 January 2018

MACRA Promotes Telehealth for Providing Healthcare Services


The latest development in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) includes good news for healthcare practices that offer telehealth – the use of telecommunications technology to provide health services. When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its 1,653-page final rule on Nov. 2, its list of ways healthcare practices can be reimbursed for leveraging information technology now includes new payment options for telehealth.

That’s good news, telehealth advocates say. “Telehealth is a tool that benefits both providers and patients, and it’s a becoming an increasingly effective way to enhance the patient experience,”Jerry Penso, MD, American Medical Group Association president and CEO told MobiHealthNews.“Consultations, remote patient monitoring, and patient self-management all are aided through telehealth.”

CMS plans to increase access to Medicare telehealth services – especially for patients in rural or underserved areas – by increasing payments for such consultations and making it easier for providers to bill for them, MobiHealthNews reported.

Recent developments attest to telehealth’s increasing role in healthcare. For example, this fall’s destructive hurricanes in Texas and Florida showcased its potential uses during natural disasters and relief work. Thousands of people utilized free telehealth services for mental health consultations during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Additional federal legislation supporting telehealth also appears likely. Congress in November unanimously passed the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017, which allow Department of Veterans Affairs’ providers to cross state lines to practice telehealth.Also on the docket is the Increasing Telehealth Access in Medicare bill, which would make telehealth consultations a basic benefit – not a supplemental service – for people with Medicare.

Community Health System represents a powerful success story. The system provides intake and placement services at nine hospitals in East Tennessee and plans are underway to offer services to 30 hospitals in Florida, Arizona, and Indiana. Licensed, master’s-level behavioral health clinicians provide intake and placement services 24 hours a day from the system’s Access Center in Franklin, Tennessee.

“Before telemedicine, sadly, many patients went without specialized behavioral health assessment services,”Jim Hurley, national director of behavioral health at Community Health System, told Healthcare IT News.

“Rather than waiting hours, and in some cases days, to receive services, patients are often able to be evaluated by a behavioral health specialist within a matter of minutes,” Hurley said. He also cited “increased support and collaborative efforts in helping to address the behavioral health needs of their patients.”

Both patients and providers increasingly embrace telehealth, sometimes called telemedicine or telepsychiatry. In 2014, 87 percent of respondents to the Foley Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey did not expect most of their patients to be using telemedicine services by 2017. But three years later, approximately 75 percent of respondents currently offered or plan to offer telehealth services.

“Organizations are moving aggressively to implement telemedicine-based offerings for high-demand services like online specialty/second opinions and mental health,” according to the 2017 report.

More than half of respondents, though, cited third-party reimbursement as the greatest challenge to implementing telehealth. MACRA’s new billing options promise some improvement on that front.

As this new way of delivering services evolves, ClinicTracker’s built-in Telehealth features stand ready to help. Unlike most EHRs, our built-in telehealth service for mental health and substance abuse agencies can handle telehealth’s special challenges of scheduling appointments across time zones, integrating videoconferencing functionality, and meeting verification requirements. We offer a ready-made method to interact with patients remotely using an internet-connected desktop, laptop, or other mobile device equipped with a webcam.

With shorter wait times, improved compliance, and ClinicTracker’s full of arsenal of customizable verification and billing tools, an integrated telehealth service improves your efficiency. That means better outcomes for clients and a better bottom line for your practice.

ClinicTracker is a robust, future-proof mental health and substance abuse EHR. Michael Gordon, a respected clinical psychologist, and Joshua Gordon, an award-winning software engineer, founded the company in 2000. ClinicTracker EHRs powerful software empowers your agency to succeed. ClinicTracker will automate many of your clinic routines, boost staff productivity, increase billing efficiency, and provide the tools you need to manage your clinic effectively. While mental health and substance abuse agencies are our main focus, our software is compatible with foster care agencies, social services, equine assisted therapy, university clinics, academic counseling, family counseling services, and eating disorder clinics.

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