Is Telemedicine the New Normal?
“Consumers have been voting with their feet — or not with their feet — in this case,” says longtime healthcare industry expert Julie Rovner on the rise in popularity of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is telemedicine here to stay?
“Whether or not this comes down to a fundamental change in the way patients continue to get medical care is whether doctors continue to be paid for it.” — Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News
That’s the title of a recent piece from the New York Times and it’s something that, according to experts, hinges largely on whether Medicare and private insurers will continue to cover virtual visits after the pandemic subsides. Detroit Today’s Stephen Henderson speaks with two people who are experts on the issue.
Listen: Healthcare experts weigh in on the future of telemedicine in America
Dr. George Kipa is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
“Like everyone else, we experienced a huge increase in the use of tele-health, a dramatic, dramatic shift,” says Kipa of the surge in telemedicine since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. “Those online visits tripled overnight and access to our regular providers went up even more dramatically,” adds Kipa.
Yet, Kipa does note that while there was a significant uptick in recent months, this trend has been building for awhile and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has been working on the financial aspect of this for years. “Since 2016, we’ve actually been reimbursing tele-health and telemedicine at the same rate as in-person. So it wasn’t that huge of a change.”
Julie Rovner is Kaiser Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, who has covered health care for more than 30 years.
“Whether or not this comes down to a fundamental change in the way patients continue to get medical care is whether doctors continue to be paid for it,” says Rovner. On the cost of telemedicine, she says that “in a fee for service world, where doctors and providers get paid for services provided, there’s an incentive to do things that way. That’s the history of our healthcare system.”
However, Rovner points out that this is all still unfolding and things could shake out differently in the months ahead.
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