Telehealth and Technology
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There are a growing number of potential patients out there with an interest in virtual visits, but the question remains: how many of them will be willing to pay the price out of pocket? Over half of a surveyed group reported being unsure if their health insurance plans would cover tele-medical visits. It’s also of note that while tele-medicine’s primary benefit has always been though to be cost effectiveness, few of the survey participants listed that as a factor. Any number of reasons could be the case, and it likely varies from person to person.
Instead of guessing blindly as to how many potential patients would be able to pay out of pocket if need be, it’s best to shift the focus towards the growing trend of healthcare actually covering tele-medicine. As awareness spreads, this type of coverage will become more and more of a necessity. Even if many are getting stuck with nasty bills they must struggle with for now, it’s fortunately looking like the trend will ultimately pass.
By January of 2015, over twenty states in the US have laws requiring insurance companies offer coverage for tele-medicine services that equates to that of their in-office plans. Many of the remaining states are working the kinks out of their corresponding legislation. Once the gap closes, it stands to reason that the insurance companies will accept the inevitability of this change and offer this form of assistance as needed.
Of course, other considerations arise. Will physicians take the opportunity to raise the cost of tele-health services alongside all of this? When there is high demand, those in the position to meet said demands are in quite a lofty position.
There are plenty of studies out there that suggest that physician costs tend to rise when they start introducing tele-medicine services. They usually work off of one of two different models. The first is obviously to promote the service as an alternative to an in-office visit, and the second is as a consultation with an existing tele-health organization meant to work as an intermediary between on-call physicians and patients. A lot offices look at these models as an easy way to boost their revenue streams.
In the end, telemedicine services will be mutually beneficial for practices and patients alike. It will open the door to more scheduling opportunities for those with hectic lives or otherwise troublesome situations, and introduce new means of revenue for physicians. It is, as they say, a potential win-win.