3 reasons ACOs should embrace telemedicine

Accountable care organizations may soon be putting more focus on the use of telemedicine--technology that can help reduce costs and increase quality of care.

Next year "may be the year of telehealth and ACOs," Nathaniel M. Lacktman and C. Frederick Geilfuss II, of Foley & Lardner LLP, write at the National Law Review.

ACOs have shown early signs of success, FierceHealthcare previously reported, but the care delivery model continues to undergo changes to meet the needs of providers who strive to improve care and lower costs.

In the healthcare industry at large, telehealth this year, more than ever, has made its mark. Three reasons Lacktman and Geilfuss think ACOs should use the technology include:

  • Waivers: Telehealth services are among the waivers in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), which shows that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the Inspector General believe the technology can help the program, "and therefore is eligible for protection under one or more of the fraud and abuse waivers," they write.
  • Incentives: This year, many ACOs did not reach benchmarks for quality and costs savings, and they need to "move the needle further" to get financial incentives. In addition, increasing quality will be all the more important when new payment models come into play. Telemedicine can help with that.
  • Room for growth: Currently, only 20 percent of ACOs use telehealth, Lacktman and Geilfuss write. But with new waivers, lessening of barriers for the technology and a need to improve quality, the use of the tools can do nothing but help ACOs improve their financial incentive payments.

Over the summer, CMS, in its final rule on MSSP called on ACOs to describe in their applications how they will promote the use of health IT to boost care coordination.

The rule lists electronic health records, data aggregation and analytics tools, telehealth services, remote patient monitoring systems and health information exchange services as enabling technologies.

In addition, healthcare stakeholders have said that technology will be an integral part of the "Next Generation ACO" model.

Joe Peterson, president of Specialists on Call and chairman of the Alliance for Connected Care, said that model will be critical to the spread of telehealth.

To learn more:
- here's the National Law Review article