Healthcare Business Week in Review: Telemedicine; Mail Order Pharmacies; HRAs; Home Healthcare

Friday, December 6th, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

Convenience, whether in the form of a telemedical consult, a mail order pharmacy, or even an HRA, is helping to improve patient care and quality.

According to a new Kaiser Permanente study, diabetic patients who received heart medications by mail were less likely to visit the emergency room than those who picked up prescriptions in person.

Among the reasons researchers suggested were that patients with disabilities or limited transportation were better able to take their meds when all they had to do was go to their mailbox.

In the same vein, children in rural areas are provided better care when telemedicine is available.

According to a new study from UC Davis Medical Center, rural physicians face distinct disadvantages when providing critical care for severely ill or injured pediatric patients. Lack of pediatric training, access to EMRs and 24-hour pharmacist coverage contribute to the problem. Telemedicine services with pediatric specialists resulted in far fewer dosage errors, among other things.

Despite the occurrence of face-to-face meetings, many patients’ health status and risks are overlooked because of the infrequent use of health risk assessments (HRAs), according to the AHRQ.

Problematic but treatable health behaviors like anxiety, alcohol use, depression and unhealthy eating are generally not explored in a primary care visit but can be detected with the use of a new evidence-based HRA. Designed for primary care physicians, nurses and other staff, patients provide the data.

A final ruling on home healthcare payments has been issued for 2014, and is designed to better align Medicare payments with home health agencies’ costs providing care, while lowering costs to taxpayers and the 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who receive services, according to the CMS. The final rule reduces the number of home-health quality measures reported by home health agencies (HHAs).

And lastly, don’t forget to take our online survey, Reducing Hospital Readmissions in 2013. While great strides have been made in the reduction of 30-day all-cause hospital readmissions, CMS still docked reimbursement for more than 2,200 hospitals in 2013 for exceeding 30-day readmission rates for heart failure, pneumonia and myocardial infarction. In 2015, CMS penalties will extend to acute COPD and elective hip and knee replacements. Describe how your organization is working to reduce hospital readmissions by taking HIN’s fourth comprehensive Reducing Hospital Readmissions Benchmark Survey. Respond by January 3, 2014 and receive an e-summary of the results once they are compiled.

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