For health IT startups, there’s opportunity in taking advantage of inevitable changes to the U.S. reimbursement system around telemedicine services, Cleveland Clinic CIO Dr. Martin Harris said at the health system’s Medical Innovation Summit.
Soon, tools will be in place to remotely connect doctors to patients 24 hours a day, which should be a great benefit to patient care. The problem with the reimbursement system is that those Internet-enabled interactions are generally treated like phone calls — meaning doctors typically don’t get paid for them by insurers or government payers, said Harris.
That financially incentivizes doctors to conduct in-office visits with patients, even when remote visits would be more efficient and just as effective for both doctors and patients.
Steve McHale, CEO of Cleveland-based health data startup Explorys, concurred, calling the public- and private-payment systems to medical providers “perverse.”
“What’s perplexing to me about it is the [slow] pace” of change, said McHale.
Nonetheless, it’s a virtual certainty that public and private payers will eventually embrace (and pay for) telehealth services, and the industry is already moving in that direction. It’s just a question of when it becomes universal.
And the future looks bright for companies that can commercialize their telemedicine-assisting software to take a cut once doctors start getting paid for telemedicine.
“There’s nothing like recurring revenue to sustain you during [the economy's] dips and spikes,” said moderator Vi Schaffer, a research vice president with Gartner.