Telemedicine in Action

Telemedicine: CMS Cracks Open Its Wallet – At Last

Earlier this month CMS officially stepped into the 21st Century, when it released its Final Rule for the 2018 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. Buried deep within the Rule’s 1,653 pages are a series of new codes that will enable Medicare to pay for: a counseling visit for lung cancer screening; psychotherapy for crisis; patient and caregiver-focused HRAs; interactive complexity; and chronic care management services – including assessment and care planning. In addition to the new codes that reimburse virtual visits for risk assessments and care planning, CMS will also soon finalize a separate CPT code (99091) for Remote Patient Monitoring, as part of its work to modernize Medicare payments to promote patient-centered innovations. And not a moment too soon.

         Ironically, while Medicare is just now jumping on the Telemedicine bandwagon, ABL’s recent Innovations in Healthcare TM event awarded its fifth ABBY Award (in 11 years) to a telemedicine company.

         The first organization to take home an ABBY Award for its innovative approach to using telemedicine was Sutter Health eICU. Back in 2007, Sutter was among the early adopters of VisICU’s technology that allowed offsite Intensivists to check in remotely on Sutter’s ICU patients located in the system’s 24 hospitals. Three years later, Specialists On Call won an ABBY for tele-delivering neurologists and other specialists that were in high-demand (and expensive) for consults in hospital EDs. In 2011, Teladoc won its ABBY for providing contracted employers with on-demand remote medical care for their employees via mobile devices, the internet, video, and phone. By 2014, anyone needing urgent care could contact a Doctor on Demand (also an ABBY Award winner), for just $75 for a 15-minute medical consultation (subsequently psych visits were added).

         And this year, Dave Skibinski, CEO of SnapMD, took home the Gold ABBY Award for his company’s Virtual Care Management SaaS-based, telemedicine platform – a full-service, white-label platform that allows providers to cost-effectively leverage secure one-on-one live video, audio, and text message consultations between ambulatory patients and their primary and specialty care physicians.

         With the availability of all this telemedicine technology, little wonder that 52% of Kaiser’s more than 100 million annual physician encounters are now virtual.

Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Technology and Healthcare Companies