Will 2016 Be the Year of Telemedicine Benefits and ACOs?

January 19, 2016

Will Rumsey

Employee Benefits News  is a great resource for those of us who want to keep up with the ever-changing trends and news in employee benefits. We need to know how changes in the healthcare industry will affect our employees, and we want to know that we’re investing our company’s resources in benefits that will improve not only our office culture, recruitment and retention, but our employees’ lives.

EBN’s December article, “2016 Will Be the Year of Telemedicine and ACOs,” caught my eye. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are networks of providers whose model is driven by patient outcomes versus traditional fee for service. In other words, they are focused on preventive care and patient outcomes rather than the number of services a facility or physician can provide each year.

Telemedicine benefits are a great tool for ACOs because they allow for medical providers to follow up with patients via technology, saving costs and improving outcomes.

To Sum It Up

In short, the author (Nathaniel Lacktman) says that the conversation around adopting telemedicine will take a new turn this year: “If 2015 was the year that brought telemedicine directly to consumers, 2016 will be the year of telemedicine and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). ACOs are expected to increase the use of telemedicine technologies as a way to improve patient quality, achieve greater cost savings and meet Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) patient threshold.”

Telemedicine has great things to offer that align with the goal of ACOs: short- and long-term savings, increased patient satisfaction, and increased triggering of shared savings incentives.

Our Take on Telemedicine Benefits

We agree that telemedicine benefits will be increasingly used to remove unnecessary cost from the delivery of high-quality patient care. In the healthcare industry, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) dictates how healthcare will evolve as they are responsible for paying a large portion of healthcare bills annually. The fact that CMS is embracing telemedicine and pushing for interstate licensing arrangements for doctors will benefit the non-CMS population as well.

We agree with most major points that EBN makes in this article, but we would also like to add some thoughtful fuel to the fire; ACOs are not addressing the biggest trend healthcare will see in the coming decade--consumer-driven healthcare and the accountability of healthcare organizations to patients (aka healthcare consumers) in the form of greater transparency and value-driven healthcare. Our hope is that being more accountable to patient outcomes and controlling cost will lead to greater transparency and value-driven healthcare in the coming years.

2016 will be an exciting one in the healthcare space. And one thing is especially exciting to us: Everyone in the employee benefits space will begin talking about telemedicine benefits. Whether in relationship to ACOs or not, patients and employers will benefit from increased access, lower costs and better outcomes for patients. We continue to believe that consumers and employers will drive changes in healthcare as they have the most “skin in the game.” We are excited to see how things evolve this year and how employers and employees will benefit.

Originally published Jan 19, 2016 3:36:23 PM.