Telehealth Appointments as One of The Medicare Beneficiaries

Author: SK

It is no wonder that telehealth has grown popular during the pandemic. Yet, people are looking for statistics on the current utilization of Medicare telehealth video conferencing and telephone services. The blog provides insights on the two published reports by the Department of Health and Human Services U.S. According to the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE); Office of Health Policy, since 2019, the telehealth appointments for Medicare beneficiaries have increased intended for behavioral health and specialist services. Where virtual visits were only recorded about 840,000, which increased to over 52 million in 2020. The statistics clearly depict a significant increase in telehealth services among Medicare beneficiaries. An increase attributed to the rising Medicare telehealth flexibilities that began in the year 2020. The report has further stated that availing services of behavioral health specialists via telehealth visits alone has achieved 10.1 million.

In 2020, Medicare beneficiaries had only utilized telehealth visits. The telehealth approach gained popularity from 25% of the Medicare telehealth services to one-third of all telehealth services. In urban areas, Medicare flexibilities played a key role in increasing the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth visits. The comparison has divided telehealth visits into the urban and rural areas where Medicare telehealth services were typically adapted 50% more in urban areas than rural areas. 

Attributes of Medicare Telehealth Beneficiary 

When Medicare telehealth services were studied in terms of state usage, the results depicted that Medicare beneficiaries from Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut state frequently took telehealth appointments. Out of other remaining states; the lowest telehealth services were utilized in the states of Tennessee, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, and Wyoming. 

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While comparing the race, black members as Medicare beneficiaries took marginally fewer telehealth services with 4.7% than white members who participated with 5.3%. On the other hand, Asians and Hispanics participate as Medicare beneficiaries with 6.4% and 6.2%, respectively. Further, low-income individuals insured through Medicare and Medicaid were more likely to utilize telehealth services with 6.3% than those who Medicare only insured. Also, beneficiaries with alternative payment methods depicted a marginally higher utilization of telehealth services. Moreover, while comparing telehealth services on the type of illness, individuals with serious illnesses such as last stage renal disease and other diseases requiring home health care have utilized telehealth services more frequently than total fee-for-service beneficiaries in 2020.

Efforts To Increase Medicare Telehealth Appointments

The report issued by ASPE highlighted several aspects where Medicare beneficiaries have successfully utilized telehealth services. In maximizing the Medicare telehealth services; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has played a vital role by promoting its use among seniors. One successful effort was to reduce the geographic barriers that barred Medicare beneficiaries from benefiting from behavioral health from their homes through telehealth services. To expand the use of telehealth visits among seniors, CMS has also allowed the audio-only feature in telehealth. Furthermore, for Medicare beneficiaries; other telehealth services permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be in effect until Dec 31, 2023. Adding more features and flexibility to Medicare telehealth. 

The CMS administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, states that the ASPE report provides details on the crucial information regarding modifications brought in telehealth visits during the pandemic. Brooks-LaSure has further described that CMS also utilizes the data efficiently in combination with feedback received from providers. Who have taken Medicare telehealth services to keep expanding and adding Medicare telehealth policies that result in enhanced healthcare for seniors. 

Behavioral Health Care Model

People intrigued by the Medicare telehealth model might also be interested in the published April 2021 titled “Workforce Implications of Behavioral Health Care Models: Final Report.” The report provides a detailed overview of the behavioral health context, including how numerous telebehavioral healthcare models are being utilized to cover gaps in the availability of services while extending to come in a range of the existing workforce.

healthcare

The model has also closely studied the effect of telehealth on the delivery of Medicare and Medicaid Services. The model entails the following areas:

Synchronous interactions, which include real-time video and phone calls

Asynchronous interactions that don’t involve real-time

Monitoring of remote patient 

Interaction between consumer-provider via mobile applications

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