New payment models an impetus for telehealth growth

As the focus for healthcare payment models shifts to incentivize patient outcomes and reward provider accountability, care delivered virtually and via telehealth technology will grow in prominence, according to Nina Antoniotti, director of telehealth business at the Marshfield (Wisconsin) Clinic.

To that end, said Antoniotti (pictured)--who spoke this week at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting in Baltimore--to improve reimbursements received in such an environment, providers must improve both their care coordination and care transition strategies.

"Telehealth is instrumental in really changing the health behaviors of patients," Antoniotti said. "When we think about reducing utilization, reducing admissions, reducing readmissions, if we can't engage the patient in a way that they change their own health behaviors, what we do as a healthcare system really is less effective."

Keeping people out of the emergency room and the doctor's office is the whole concept of care coordination, Antoniotti said. What better way to accomplish that goal, she continued, then to turn to technology?

"When you measure quality, you're going to be measuring across all of those indicators that we get bombarded with all the time: keeping people out of the hospital; reducing utilization; improving medication compliance; improving disease control indicators like blood pressure and A1c levels; all of those things that indicate that you're producing quality," Antoniotti said. "Now, how many of those things can you tie a telehealth strategy into?"

More and more, Antoniotti predicted, care will be pushed out to the home. Changing patients' health behaviors, she said, is about engaging them where they live.

"Telehealth is about strategies that support patients and families," Antoniotti said. "Remember that telehealth is a tool for access. There are a gazillion studies that say anytime you improve access, quality of care improves.

"Anytime you improve quality, you should hopefully also be reducing costs or keeping costs neutral, or the incremental increase in the cost is offset by the savings long-term for the patient."

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