An encouraging prediction? Two Foley & Lardner attorneys with evidently a great interest in healthcare predict that 2016 may very well be The Year of Telehealth. Why? They cite accountable care organizations (ACOs) and the coordinated care at the heart of their model as a protected activity under the Medicare fraud and abuse waivers. “Coordinating care, such as through the use of telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and other enabling technologies”is “an activity reasonably related to the purposes of the Medicare Shared Savings Program and therefore is eligible for protection under one or more of the fraud and abuse waivers”. National Law Review, mHealth News. While from the legal point of view this may be significant, there’s been a concatenation of other factors.
What are the drivers for telemedicine and telehealth in ACOs? In the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), which is one model, ACOs must leverage savings, and perhaps the largest is avoiding unnecessary hospitalization costs among ‘high-risk’ patients–those with chronic disease–and usually more than one. They are also over half of high ER/ED utilizers. The Federal agency behind Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has since 2011 been signing up ACOs in risk and value-based payment models that offer incentives such as shared savings. In 2014, only 28 percent of ACOs in the MSSP program earned shared savings bonuses. (more…)