Electronic health record provider Allscripts’ (NASDAQ:MDRX) move to partner with one of the country’s largest telehealth services will tack on the video and audio service to its EHR platform and boost the range of services EHRs typically offer.
At a conference in Chicago this week, Allscripts CEO Glenn Tullman provided a live demo with University of South Florida Health, one of the partners testing its service with a retirement community before the EMR company rollout next year.
mHIMSS American Well CEO Dr. Roy Schoenberg said in an interview telehealth until this point had been supported by payers who have shown increased willingness to provide reimbursement for it, but gaining acceptance for it with physicians was critical.
With these partnerships, the development of the Accountable Care Organization model of care delivery and a willingness by payers — including the federal government — to reimburse for telehealth services, he said, “we have a dramatic movement in the market from a business standpoint.”
About 40 state Medicaid plans reimburse for telehealth services and 16 states mandate private insurer coverage for telehealth ’ including four states which have passed such laws since March. Pennsylvania expanded its use of telemedicne as part of its Medicaid services earlier this year.
Telehealth’s strength has been in improving access to healthcare, particularly in rural areas underserved by providers. But it could also provide a manageable way to check in with patients at high risk for readmission, particularly since providers are facing reduced Medicare reimbursements for readmission of patients with heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia if they exceed the national average readmission rate.
But the reason why it has not been more welcomes by EHR companies could be because it’s a bit difficult to document consults and requires greater integration, a point underlined in a Healthcare Informatics article published earlier this year.
Meaningful use did not specifically address telehealth; so, even with this market’s growth, Gary Capistrant, senior director of public policy at the American Telemedicine Association, believes there will be many frontiers before integration can occur between telemedicine hardware and EHRs. “Ultimately, that’s an issue for the EHR vendors to deal with, not the hospitals,” Capistrant says. “[Hospitals] may want to be able to do it, but if [vendors] don’t provide functionality, it doesn’t happen. And what the [vendors] do is driven a lot by meaningful use, and telehealth doesn’t seem to be a priority by the ONC.”
America Well’s partners until this point have been primarily with physician groups. The move gives telehealth a broader profile and tacks on an additional service that could set Allscripts apart from some of the EHR providers that currently dominate the market like EPIC, Cerner and McKesson, according to a recent report by KLAS.
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