Telemedicine has been around for decades, but modern technology has transformed the way healthcare is delivered remotely. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have improved the capacity for clear communication between physicians and patients who may not be able to arrange an in-person visit.
There is a wide range of tools used within telemedicine to improve remote care. Interactive video conferencing allows for real-time appointments with a physician. Messaging and call-back platforms let doctors and specialists have a chance to review medical records and information and call a patient back with a diagnosis and treatment plan. Home health telemedicine uses innovative tools to observe and care for patients who are recovering from illness or injury, capturing vital signs and sending patient stats back to a hospital or medical provider.
Medicare and Telemedicine
Telehealth services may be covered by Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) when they include office visits and consultations that are provided by a two-way audio and video telecommunications system. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare pays for certain Part B services furnished by a physician or practitioner to an eligible beneficiary via a telecommunications platform which is considered a substitute for an in-person encounter. Medicare beneficiaries may be eligible for telemedicine if they live in a county outside of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) or in a rural Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
You may receive telehealth care from an array of medical providers, including:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Nurse midwives
- Clinical nurse specialists
- Certified register nurse specialists
- Clinical social workers and clinical psychologists
- Registered dietitians or nutrition professionals
In order for telemedicine to be covered, these medical providers must use an interactive audio and video telecommunications system that permits real-time communication. Asynchronous “store and forward” technology, the transmission of medical information the physician or practitioner at the distant site reviews at a later time, is permitted only in Federal telemedicine demonstration programs in Alaska or Hawaii.
For services covered, you will likely pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount and the Part B deductible will apply. Some Medicare recipients with Original Medicare choose to purchase a Medigap policy. Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, plans help cover the costs that Original Medicare does not, including coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles.