Analysis of Outpatient Telemedicine Reimbursement in an Integrated Healthcare System

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Annals of vascular surgery


BACKGROUND: Current reimbursement policy surrounding telemedicine has been cited as a barrier for the adaptation of this care model. The objective of this study is to analyze the reimbursement figures for outpatient telemedicine consultation in vascular surgery.

METHODS: Patients first underwent synchronous telemedicine visits after receiving point-of-care ultrasound at one of 3 satellite locations of Henry Ford Health System in Michigan. Visit types included new, return, and postoperative patients. Reimbursement information related to payor, adjustment, denial, paid and outstanding balances were recorded for each telemedicine visit. Then, using an enterprise data warehouse, a retrospective analysis was performed for the aforementioned telemedicine visits. The data were analyzed to determine the outcome of total billed charges, number of denied claims, reimbursement per payor, reimbursement per patient, and out-of-pocket costs to the patients.

RESULTS: Among 184 virtual clinical encounters, the payors included Aetna US Healthcare, Blue Advantage, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cofinity Plan, Health Alliance Plan, HAP Medicare Advantage, Humana Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, Medicare, Molina Medicaid HMO, United Healthcare, Blue Care Network, Aetna Better Health of Michigan, Priority Health, and self-pay. Among the 15 payors, reimbursement ranged from 0% to 67% of the total charges billed. Among the 184 virtual visits, a grand total of $22,145 was collected or an average of $120.35 per virtual encounter. The breakdown of charges billed was 40% adjusted, 41% paid by insurance, 10% paid by patient, and 13% denied. There were 27 total denials (15%). Denial of payment included telehealth and nontelehealth reasons, citing noncovered charges, payment included for other prior services, new patient quality not met, and not covered by payor. The average out-of-pocket cost to patients was $12.59 per visit.

CONCLUSIONS: These reimbursement data validate the economic potential within this new platform of healthcare delivery. As our experience with the business model grows, we expect to see an increase in reimbursement from private payors and acceptance from patients. Within a tertiary care system, telemedicine for chronic vascular disease has proven to be a viable means to reach a broader population base, and without significant cost to the patients.

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