Mayo Clinic is making a strong case to get Medicare on board in reimbursing telemedicine services. The Mayo electronic intensive care unit (Mayo eICU) monitors several ICU beds via a small room of monitors tracking vital signs and video images of patients. Nurses direct these monitors by zooming cameras, watching blood pressure, respiration as well as talking with those patients and contacting doctors and nurses at the hospital to inform them of critical changes and direct them if necessary. The Mayo eICU is one of the frontiers of telemedicine backed by Dr. Daniel Brown, Mayo’s chief of critical care, and nurse manager Sarah Bell. Mayo has already been approached about extending eICU services to facilities around the world. Unfortunately lawmakers and private health insurance companies are not reimbursing these telemedicine services. Consequently, Mayo is absorbing the cost of providing the eICU service to 7 hospitals that are part of the Mayo Clinic Health System. In 2014, the clinic posted income from operations of $834.3 million, up 36% from 2013.
The reimbursement issue at Mayo represents a national dilemma that health care payment policies often lag cost-saving advances in technology by several years. Medicare reimbursement for telehealth is virtually nonexistent and limited to many factors including that patients receiving it must be in a medical facility. Medicare’s stance is critical because the government program has for a long time set the trend for the private insurance market. It is a disappointment to Mayo and other health care innovators that legislation to reimburse telehealth services is going so slowly. Telemedicine language in a House bills directs Medicare regulators to come up with a list of telemedicine services to cover. The House bill has yet to vote on that bill and it could be years before new reimbursement rules are formed. The technology to remotely gather vital information and deliver care virtually is saving lives, allowing older patients to live independently, reducing patient turnaround times and even saving costs. The greatest challenges for telemedicine is getting Medicare and large health insurers on board to reimburse these effective services.
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Alison Killian is a recent graduate of Grove City College who majored in Business Management and minored in Biology Studies. She is a contributor to Medical Groups and passionate about all facets of healthcare. She plans on continuing work in the healthcare field especially in management. She is very interested in healthcare innovation and finding ways to improve the current system. She hopes to go back to school in a few years to earn a degree in medicine.