One of the latest innovations in telehealth uses old technology, the television.
MedSign CEO and Co-Founder Tom Conroy developed a TV technology called Qortex so that his father, a WWII veteran who didn’t use a computer or smartphone, and others like him can access both video and audio components of telehealth.
Qortex provides access to visual, voice and vital signs data in real time.
“This is a new paradigm, as opposed to a new standard,” Conroy said. “You have to create a system that is easy to use. “
The cost for Qortex system providers is around $ 99 per month. Doctors log in and click on the patient’s name for the scheduled call. A message displays on the TV indicating that there is an incoming call, with instructions to press OK on a remote control to begin two-way virtual communication.
Internet access is required for Qortex to work. Many televisions today are smart televisions, which creates a system out of the box. However, a smart TV isn’t necessary, Conroy said. Rather, Qortex turns television into a smart platform through the use of a cable system that connects to the Qortex box, enabling pass-through technology.
While some experts have claimed that older people use computers and smartphones to access their doctors for telehealth visits, they are generally referring to the younger population of older people in their 60s and 60s, not the older people. adults in the 90s like her father, Conroy. noted.
The Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans cover telehealth visits, but they do not reach the populations who often need virtual care the most. These include not only the elderly, but also the poor and disadvantaged, he said.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
MedSign released Qortex in March, just as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and a public health emergency of international concern, and the United States declared a public health emergency.
During the pandemic, the use of telehealth exploded.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have issued new flexibilities on the use and reimbursement of telehealth visits during the public health emergency. CMS recently began proposing to make some of these flexibilities permanent following President Trump’s executive order on improving rural health and access to telehealth.
But providers and private insurers still weigh in on the future of telehealth depending on CMS and Congress policy, especially around payment.
On the supplier side comes the concern of whether the payment parity between an in-person or virtual visit will remain at the end of the pandemic. Telehealth requires an initial investment that some hospitals and doctor’s offices may be reluctant to make if the reimbursement is not there. So far, CMS has yet to weigh in.
Private insurers are still developing telehealth reimbursement policies through 2021 and beyond.
“Commercial carriers reimburse at the same level as in-person visits, we know that will change,” Daniel Marino, managing partner of Lumina Health Partners, said at the HFMA annual digital conference yesterday.
Reimbursement for telehealth home visits is still in question.
Under waivers issued during the pandemic, Medicare can pay for an office, hospital, and other visits provided through telehealth, including at a patient’s residence. Prior to this waiver, Medicare could only pay for telehealth when the patient receiving the service was in a designated rural area.
Providers should know that they can be reimbursed for a telehealth visit provided at home, Conroy said. Insurers need to be familiar with the technology, and the technology is not following Trump’s executive order, he said. But he thinks that by next year that will all change in favor of telehealth.
THE BIGGEST TREND
The Qortex system is currently in use by home care agencies in Florida and Southern California.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has also shown interest, Conroy said. An AV team visited MedSign. “They told us how to be a supplier to the US government,” he said, but the announcement of a deal is still pending.
Telehealth has the ability to help prevent hospital readmissions, which cost hospitals $ 800 million in fines in 2019, according to Conroy. Eighteen percent of all discharged patients return to the hospital.
Instead of sending nurses in person who can see maybe six post-acute patients a day, virtual visits can more than triple that number. Chronic care management can also be done through telehealth, he said.
Challenges await all stakeholders: providers need a fully integrated system; payers, including CMSs, need to know that services will not be overused through virtual and in-person care; and all need fraud prevention practices in place.
Conroy is amazed, he said, that “in 2020 we do not have the capacity to provide quality care from the comfort of our home.”
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