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WEDI, CAPP Unveil New Resources for Telehealth Program Development

The Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) and the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP) have released new documents designed to help healthcare providers in developing and launching telehealth and telemedicine services.

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By Eric Wicklund

- With the gradual adoption of connected health services in the healthcare industry, there’s seemingly no shortage of resource materials for health systems and other sites interested in developing a telehealth or telemedicine program.

Add two more to the list.

The Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP), a California-based coalition of multi-specialty medical groups and health systems, has unveiled “A Roadmap to Telehealth Adoption: From Vision to Business Model.” Also weighing in is the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI), whose telehealth workgroup recently issued a Telehealth Resource Guide.

WEDI’s eight-page document is designed to identify resources, including federal and state regulations and policies, pilot programs and use cases, to help providers looking to launch their own telehealth programs. The organization’s telehealth workgroup plans to update the document twice a year.

The Washington, D.C.-based coalition, formed in 1991 by the Department of Health and Human Services and designated in 1996 as an advisor to the HHS on health IT issues, has long advocated for telehealth and telemedicine.

CAPP’s eight-page document, meanwhile, seeks to identify the challenges and goals in develop[ping and launching a new service platform.

“Telehealth tools have the potential to transform healthcare delivery by improving access, quality, and efficiency,” Stephen Parodi, MD, CAPP’s chairman and associate executive director of The Permanente Medical Group, said in a press release. “However, there are significant barriers in realizing these benefits due to current cultural, regulatory and payment practices. At this pivotal time, we must ensure telehealth services are deployed in appropriate ways that are embraced by physicians and patients alike.”

In its document, CAPP lays out six principles to a connected health strategy:

A telehealth platform should integrate with existing care platforms, not create new silos of care. “Telehealth tools are most effective when they are used in the context of an already-established relationship between a patient and an accountable healthcare delivery system,” CAPP says. “In that setting, telehealth encounters with a patient’s own provider or system are simply another means of delivering integrated, comprehensive care and supporting the capability to provide value-based care.”

Healthcare providers should focus on improving quality, access and convenience, rather than getting hung up on the costs of care. “Short-term savings for payers should not be the most important feature of telehealth,” the organization says. “In the experience of most CAPP groups, telehealth visits via phone or video did not replace in-person care, but rather augmented it. Potential cost savings will be realized in the long term as telehealth tools expand access to preventive care and disease management, eliminating the need for more costly interventions in the future.”

Look beyond fee-for-service models of care.  “Payers must liberalize the rules under which they reimburse for telehealth under both FFS arrangements and by expanding the use of capitation, bundling, and other risk-sharing agreements,” CAPP says. “Medicare has recently signaled its intent to loosen some of the telehealth payment restrictions in rural areas and to ease some provider billing challenges, but it’s unclear what impact the changes will have.”

A lack of cohesion in federal and state telehealth regulations is hindering growth. Of particular concern, the organization says, are state laws that hinder providers who want to use telehealth and telemedicine in multiple states. State licensing boards should be working to improve that concern.

Consumer education is critical. While consumer demand is pushing the healthcare industry to adopt digital health, many are unwilling or uninterested in using telehealth because they haven’t been taught how to use it. “Many CAPP groups have found that patients are more willing to try telehealth technology when their own doctor or clinic staff suggest these services,” the organization says. “Patient education should include information about what can and cannot be accomplished with telehealth so patients understand when it can augment or substitute in-person care, and when it can do neither. Patients also need to understand the privacy implications of using various types of technology in telehealth.”

The industry needs continued investment in evidence-based best practices. “Evidence-based research about best practices in telehealth must continue to develop and promote clinical guidelines, expanding to include multiple conditions and specialties as well as optimal workflows for incorporating telehealth into daily clinical practice,” CAPP says.

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