If you are a healthcare professional working in the US, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that massive changes are underway in the US healthcare system.

This week’s article includes an infographic from Clarity Way that explains the changes that are both underway and coming up with the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

For our friends outside of the US, this article should give you a nice overview of what’s coming up in US healthcare reform, and help you see how similarities with your own country’s healthcare system can impact telehealth.

How does all this relate to telehealth?

Read on for just a few key points about the impact of the healthcare law on telehealth.

Note: This article is designed as a quick read and not meant to identify every single impact of the ACA on telehealth, but it should serve as a good start.

You can see the original infographic at Clarity Way’s blog post “What the Health? Understanding Obama’s 11 Year Plan for Health Reform – Infographic”.

Obamacare Impact on Telehealth #1: Increased need to alleviate demand for services

The new law will provide access to healthcare for over 20 million people who currently do not have access.

This means there will be increasing demand for healthcare services.

Yet, with a predicted shortage of about 200,000 physicians in both primary care and specialty care, there will be increasing pressure to on the limited supply of physicians to meet that demand.

Telehealth (and its various other forms telemedicine and mHealth) will “come to the rescue” in two ways.

First, it will enable physicians to reach more patients – in rural areas and medically underserved areas (this includes pockets of urban areas where there still are not enough of the right physicians available).

Even in places where there is a sufficient supply of physicians for the existing healthcare population, when health reform enables more people in those same regions to seek healthcare, these same physicians can be overloaded.

Again, telehealth can help them see patients more efficiently or enable them to get help from non-overloaded physicians who are located elsewhere.

Second, telehealth will alleviate the pressure on physicians by enabling them to coordinate care with mid-level practitioners like Nurse Practitioners (NP) and Physician Assistants (PA).

Using such telehealth tools as video-conferencing, physicians may be able to operate from a central location while mid-level practitioners see patients and contact the physicians for updates or for complex diagnosis / treatment decisions.

Obamacare Impact on Telehealth #2: Increased need to avoid penalties for poor quality care

Healthcare reform introduces penalties of up to 2% for patients that are readmitted within 30 days after discharge from a hospital.

The first set of penalties is related to readmitting patients with CHF (congestive heart failure) and MI (myocardial infarction) and pneumonia, and will expand from there.

Numerous telehealth vendors are providing solutions that will enable providers to monitor and communicate with their patients post-discharge.

By keeping a better eye on the patient’s physiological condition and how well they are adhering to their medications, etc., providers may be able to catch a problem before it deteriorates to the point that a patient has to make an emergency visit to the hospital.

Ultimately, telehealth can provide more continuous access to the patient so that you can catch issues before they get worse or prevent them altogether.

Obamacare Impact on Telehealth #3: Increased need to manage chronic disease patients

The ACA prevents payors from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

If you have cancer, diabetes, a neurological disease, etc. you will still be able to obtain insurance or switch insurers.

Of course, payors may charge higher premiums in order to absorb the inevitably higher costs of insuring such patients.

However, they will also be looking for ways to reduce the costs of providing coverage and also preventing patients with pre-existing conditions (particularly chronic conditions) from deteriorating.

Again, this is where telehealth (including many mhealth apps and solutions) will come to the rescue.

Telehealth enables providers to monitor and treat chronic disease patients wherever they are – home, skilled nursing facility, or other non-hospital setting.

This paradigm of virtual, more continuous care can help prevent expensive trips to the ER or other specialists.


Obamacare and telehealth

Editor’s Note: Clarity Way is a medically-supervised drug and alcohol rehab facility in Pennsylvania. To learn more about their services, check out their website (it's nice) at http://www.clarityway.com.

Does this article help? What else would you like to know about telehealth and the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare? Please share your comments below

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