It may be hard these days to pull your attention away from Washington, but it’s necessary.
Whatever the people in Washington do, or don’t do, about the Affordable Care Act, your clients still need protection against catastrophic health problems that could cost them the ability to live on their own.
For some, improvements in telehealth services, or efforts to provide health care through telecommunications and electronic information networks, could make a big difference. Improved telehealth systems could slash the cost of keeping people with severe health problems in their homes. Some might be able to continue to work, either inside or outside the home.
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Telehealth providers are pushing state and federal policymakers to make health plans pay as much for telehealth services as for otherwise comparable in-person services.
The plans are thinking about adding telehealth benefits, and ways to tighten telehealth benefits provisions, to maximize the amount of care value per dollar spent.
Florida legislators have responded by setting up a state advisory council to come up with telehealth support recommendations.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration recently worked with the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to prepare a major telehealth report, to give the council information it can use when developing the recommendations.
Related: Could insurers get Grandma Wi-Fi?
Here’s a look at some AHCA findings that might be of interest to advisors who help clients protect themselves against health, disability and long-term care risk.
Florida health coverage providers were great about filling out their state telehealth questionnaires. (Image: iStock)
1. Some players are a lot more engaged than others.
The AHCA telehealth team based part of its report on results from surveys of 54 insurers, 11,900 health care-related facilities, and tens of thousands of licensed health care professionals.
All 54 health plans completed questionnaires.
About 49 percent of the health care facilities responded, with response rates ranging from 40 percent for clinical laboratories, up to 87 percent for pediatric extended care centers.
The report team described the licensed professionals’ response rate as “relatively limited.”
About 32 percent of the medical doctors responded, but only 3 percent of the occupational therapists and 5 percent of the hearing aid specialists filled out questionnaires.
Related: A futurist’s view on healthcare
In Florida, many hospitals can videoconference with patients. (Photo: Thinkstock)
2. Hospitals are the biggest telehealth users.
Long-term care planners might think of telehealth mainly as a way to keep people with serious chronic health problems out of nursing homes, but acute health providers see it as a tool for improving the quality of the care they deliver.
Hospitals, in particular, want to use telehealth tech to improve care, and they operate big buildings full of professionals who can help them get telehealth tech to work.
About 46 percent of the participating hospitals said they videoconference with patients, and 18 percent said they use remote patient monitoring systems.
The moral: Technology should help level the playing field for the little player. But in reality, the great big hospital is the player with the staff that knows how to get Skype to work.
Long-term care providers are not yet making heavy use of most telehealth services. (Photo: iStock)
3. Long-term care providers are starting to scratch one surface.
Florida home health agencies and hospitals are starting to use remote patient monitoring systems to look after patients who need short-term post-acute care or long-term care, and that’s about all most post-acute care providers do with telehealth services.
The long-term care providers were good about getting their questionnaires in. The response rate was 43 percent for the state’s assisted living facilities, 44 percent for the home health agencies, and 72 percent for the nursing homes.