More people are insured, costs are higher, and technology is advancing more rapidly than ever before. As a result of this evolving landscape, medical professionals are looking for new ways to reach customers while patients are looking for better ways to manage their medical expenses and their health, and everyone’s wondering:

What changes to medicine and healthcare will 2016 bring?

Drug pricing is under pressure.

If you think prescription drug prices are too high, well, you’re probably right. Brand-name drug prices have increased much faster than the pace set by inflation every year for the last decade, and even generics are more expensive (Prices increased an average of nine percent in 2014). Add in the controversial practices of companies like Turing Pharmaceuticals, and there’s more pressure than ever on the market to lower the cost of prescription medication.

Only the passage of time will tell how and in what ways the American consumer can expect things to change, but it’s likely that pharmaceutical companies may try out an alternative financing model intended to spread out payments for expensive drugs. It’s also possible that we’ll see more outcomes-based reimbursement agreements struck in 2016; such agreements between pharmaceutical companies and insurers or health systems will tie reimbursement payments to health outcomes as opposed to volume, which may drive prices down.

The Fitbit and Apple Watch can expect medical-grade competition.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see someone sporting this step counter or that health tracker, but some experts contend that the potential for higher-tech, medical-grade wearables has only now begun to be realized. We’re talking devices to help the VA monitor patients with prosthetics, and those with the capacity to detect seizures in epilepsy patients; in fact, a Soreon Research report expects this sector of the wearables market to reach $41 billion by 2020.

The use and practice of telehealth technologies will continue to grow.

Because there’s an app for that. With a sharp rise in the use of telemedicine apps (32 percent of consumers had at least one health-related application on their mobile phones in 2015, up from 16 percent in 2013.) and other telehealth technologies, medical professionals are better equipped than ever before to provide exceptional care to patients everywhere.

2016 promises to be a boon year for telemedicine, and SecureVideo is excited to be at the forefront, offering the HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing solutions the medical community depends on.

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As with mental health services delivered face-to-face, clinicians working through videoconferencing must obtain Informed Consent.  The consent must be obtained at the start of services and in real-time.  Local, regional and national laws for consent must be followed and clinicians must fully understand requirements.  If written consent is required, then electronic signatures may be used, assuming there are no restrictions in the relevant jurisdiction.

The consent form used for videoconferencing must include all the information that would be included if the session were face-to-face, such as the nature of the service, record keeping, potential risks, confidentiality, mandatory reporting, and billing.  In addition, the consent must contain information about videoconferencing.  The American Telemedicine Association recommends that this include limits of confidentiality with electronic communication, emergency plan, record keeping, potential for technical failure, coordination of care with other professionals, protocols for contact between sessions, and conditions for which a referral may be made for in-person treatment.  The consent must also be presented in a language easily understood by the patient.

SecureVideo cannot provide legal advice and strongly encourages providers to consult with their professional association, legal counsel, and the American Telemedicine Association for more information.…

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Telehealth has been the story of a “revolution” that never quite materializes.  That has changed, with experts are projecting the market to grow at 20% annually over the next several years.  “Telehealth” is a term used broadly to encompass interactive videoconferencing, electronic exchange of information, remote monitoring of vital signs, patient portals, and more.  “Telemedicine” is a closely related term that refers the actual delivery of remote clinical services.  These services are increasingly available using standard internet-connections, computers, tablets, and smart phones.

Early Days

The roots of telehealth go back to 1906 when Dr. Willem Einthoven, inventor of the EKG, devised a way to transmit this data over telephone lines.  Understanding the potential of communication technology to transform medicine, a 1920s Popular Science magazine foretold of “radio doctors.”  But, the first incarnation of modern telehealth can be traced to 1955 when a remote clinic in Nebraska established a closed circuit TV connection with a hospital 100 miles away.  By the year 2000 videoconferencing between medical facilities was fairly common in rural areas, but far from ubiquitous.  Adoption of telehealth has been slowed by:

  • Restrictions in Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance reimbursement;
  • Requirement to purchase a dedicated, hardware based videoconferencing system;
  • Reliance on grants to launch and sustain programs.

Recent Developments in Videoconferencing

Internet-based videoconferencing has improved greatly over the past few years and is now possible on most computers.  A web camera and noise cancelling speaker/microphone (or headset) are the only additional requirement, and these are built-in to many newer machines.  The latest generation of tablets produces satisfactory quality, even over 4G networks.  All these factors have changed the landscape for videoconferencing and reduced the financial barrier to entry.

Reimbursement & Policy Issues

Reimbursement policies are also changing in support of videoconferencing, further accelerating adoption.  Some examples of these changes:

  • 16 states require private insurance reimburse services delivered via telehealth and more are expected to follow soon (as of March 2013);
  • The Affordable Care Act mental health parity have created opportunities for telehealth;
  • In 2012 legislation was introduced that allows providers affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver telehealth services across state lines, eliminating a requirement that the providers be licensed in the same state as their patients.

The Future of Videoconferencing in Health Care

While some providers will work with patients extensively using videoconferencing, most will only use it on an as-needed basis.  Still, medical professionals across all specializations will be expected to have this capability.  This includes primary care, psychiatry, psychology, care managers, translators, care managers, dermatology, and emergency.  It will be used to conduct follow-up sessions, minimize no-shows, determine if an in-person visit is necessary, provide services while patients are traveling, etc.   Medical professionals will also use this technology to better collaborate with other professionals.

The three keys to this are 1) the availability of inexpensive devices that produce high quality videoconferences, 2) ubiquitous internet availability, and 3) virtual meeting rooms that are easy to access, HIPAA compliant and inexpensive.  The good news is that the time is now.  So get ready, because the telehealth revolution will be videoconferenced.  At SecureVideo we’d like to help make this dream a reality.…

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