Medicare Covers More Telemedicine Services for 2015

Last week ended on a high note for telemedicine advocates with CMS adding 7 new codes to the Medicare telemedicine billing schedule that will be reimbursed for 2015. The new services include:

  • psychotherapy
  • prolonged office visits
  • annual wellness visit and related matters
  • remote chronic care management
  • remote patient monitoring

The proposed CMS physician fee schedule also included changes to value-based payment modifiers, off-campus provider-based departments, global surgery code, physician payment Sunshine Act
ambulance fee schedule, Physician Compare Website, PhysicianQuality Reporting System, and PhysicianFeedback Program. The American American Academy of Family Physicians has summarized the finalized rule, highlighting issues concerning primary care physicians.

This is another step forward in a year of impressive growth for telemedicine. Several new telemedicine bills on the table to expand Medicaid coverage of telemedicine, the most recent being the ACO Improvement Act. The added codes show that the federal government is getting serious about using telemedicine as a regular part of health care.

In the UK, the NHS is also getting serious about using telemedicine and using consumer technology to lower their medical bills. A pilot in Airedale, Yorkshire has completed over 4000 virtual visits in the home to lower emergency admissions for respiratory illnesses by 60 percent. Another pilot that sends text messages to diabetic mothers has reduced patient emergency admissions by 50 percent. Health minister Dr. Dan Poulter projects health savings of up to £5 billion (about 8 billion USD) by using iPhones and new consumer health technology.

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