Telemedicine helps hospitals double revenue

Hospitals that used telemedicine technology and referred patients to children's facilities saw their revenue increase significantly, according to research published this month in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.

For the study, researchers retrospectively examined billing information for patients transferred from 16 hospitals that used telemedicine. They compared information before and after implementation of telemedicine tools from July 2003 to December 2010.

The researchers, from the University of California Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, found that the average number of patients transferred annually by 16 hospitals using telemedicine to children's facilities nearly doubled following deployment of such services, from 143 transfers before deployment to 285 after deployment. In that same vein, the researchers determined that average annual hospital revenue for the facilities examined jumped from $2.4 million before telemedicine deployment to $4 million afterward.

"In a competitive healthcare region with more than one children's hospital, deploying pediatric telemedicine services to referring hospitals resulted in an increased market share and an increased number of transfers, hospital revenue and professional billing revenue," the researchers concluded.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week proposed a policy change to the 2014 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule that would expand payment for telehealth services. It proposes to change the definition of "rural" to avoid disruptions in services if a location's geographic designation changes.

The American Telemedicine Association has called government a "lagging partner" to telehealth, erecting barriers to adoption for two decades. A bill aimed at boosting telehealth to reduce hospital readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas was reintroduced in Congress earlier this year.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract