The COVID-19 pandemic boosted telehealth use (aka telemedicine) providing convenience and efficiencies to patients and healthcare workers.
Telemedicine will soon become a permanent fixture option for Medicare beneficiaries.
80% of Medicare recipients indicated a satisfaction with “access and continuity of care” and that the communication, although not face-to-face was still strong.
Medicare Patients and Telemedicine: An Overnight Adoption
The COVID-19 Pandemic forever changed how seniors and Medicare beneficiaries engage with their primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, and registered geriatric dietitians. A silver lining to the stay-at-home mandates 2020 and 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic forced an overnight adoption and roll-out of telehealth (aka telemedicine). In 2020 more than 25% of Medicare patients had a telehealth experience – avoiding the logistical and time-consuming challenges of getting to a regular doctor’s office visit.
Telemedicine: No Longer a Service for Rural Medicare Patients
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, Telemedicine was a relatively new and novel service for Medicare patients living in distant, hard-to-reach rural areas. Telemedicine required special approval prior to the pandemic, when less than 20% of doctors accepting Medicare offered some form of remote, telemedicine healthcare services. Telemedicine is becoming the future of Medicare Part B services whereby more than services.
Telehealth, Virtual Check-Ins, and E-Visits for Medicare – Easier to See a doctor
The benefits of both video and audio-only telemedicine has served many seniors well with some conveniences:
- Decreased out-of-pocket Medicare costs.
- Medicare beneficiaries are using their healthcare for everyday preventative doctor visits, as well as a more convenient way of managing both chronic and acute health conditions.
- Medicare and participating Medicare insurance carriers like UnitedHealth, Cigna and Humana are treating telemedicine the same as in-person healthcare visits and are commonly billing Medicare copayment and Medicare plan deductibles at the same rates.
Telemedicine is not Technologically Complicated
Let the record clearly reflect the reality:
- Telemedicine is most commonly a simple telephone call between a Medicare patient and a healthcare professional.
- More than half of Medicare funded telehealth visits are by telephone only, whereby only one in four involved video chat such as FaceTime or Skype.
Telemedicine Approved by Medicare
The Trump administration opened telemedicine to Medicare patients in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and now the Biden administration and Congress are making the emergency order a permanent fixture and service of Medicare. The CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) made Medicare coverage available for over 150 healthcare billable services through telehealth and simplified the restrictions previously imposed by HIPPA and patient-doctor privacy and protocol.
Medicare Patients Are Enjoying Telehealth Care
A study conducted by the non-profit and independent Healthcare Coalition found that:
- telemedicine helped medically treat a Medicare population that would have otherwise gone untreated.
- More than half of the Medicare patients surveyed indicate that without telemedicine, they would have put their medical needs off, self-treated, substituted with an urgent care facility or the nearest emergency room.
Telemedicine Delivers Satisfaction to Medicare Beneficiaries
It is believed that Medicare services for senior mental healthcare and other non-primary care physician medical needs can be managed in a more productive and regular manner with telehealth. Medicare patients are surprised to receive telehealth services from their own, preferred primary care physician. More than 80% indicated a satisfaction with “access and continuity of care” and that the communication, although not face-to-face was still strong.
Telehealth and Medicare is the future – or at least a productive part of it. As seniors and other Medicare recipients are technologically savvy enough to operate a smart phone, or a land-line telephone for that matter, Medicare patients are more than satisfied by the prospect of easier and more productive healthcare visits through telemedicine.
Medicare Carrier Telemedicine Resources:
- Humana Medicare Telemedicine: https://www.humana.com/provider/news/medical-news/telehealth-services-policy
- UnitedHealthcare Telemedicine: https://www.uhcprovider.com/en/resource-library/news/Novel-Coronavirus-COVID-19/covid19-telehealth-services.html
- Anthem Medicare Telemedicine: https://www.anthem.com/blog/your-health-care/telehealth-alternative-to-office-visits
- Aetna Medicare Telemedicine: https://www.aetna.com/health-care-professionals/covid-faq/telemedicine.html
- Cigna Medicare Telemedicine: https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/member-resources/virtual-care-options