Telemedicine and Reimbursements: Preparing for Virtual Care in a Post-Pandemic World

Centralized technology that connects payers, providers and patients are needed to optimize telemedicine reimbursement, argues J.P. Morgan's Kerry Jessani.

The rapid onset of COVID-19 forced many healthcare organizations to implement virtual care essentially overnight. Nearly one year later, the benefits of telemedicine have continued to become increasingly clear to both patients and organizations. It has the potential to expand communities’ access to specialized care, enable higher connectivity for at-risk patients and offer greater independence for individuals facing health challenges that require frequent monitoring.

While restrictions around payer reimbursements were previously a barrier to entry for some healthcare organizations, key policies have been temporarily amended to meet the increased need for virtual care during the pandemic. But as telemedicine continues solidify itself as an important pillar of healthcare delivery post-pandemic, it will be imperative that organizations and providers closely collaborate with payers to ensure the long-term sustainability of the model.

The importance of centralized payment systems

To optimize telemedicine reimbursement in the long-term, organizations should implement a centralized technology system that connects healthcare providers, insurance payers and patients through a singular platform. A centralized system can help solve for a number of challenges related to telemedicine reimbursements and offer benefits including reducing paper processing, improving transparency for patients and lowering costs incurred from payment collections.

For example, J.P. Morgan’s InstaMed platform can streamline the online collections process, eliminating manual processes for organizations and providing patients with greater transparency and convenience. While legacy approaches to bill pay, claims processing, payment collection and reconciliation have been slow to modernize—particularly in light of recent disruptions—centralized billing and payments solutions will be key to the long-term feasibility of virtual care.

Building on early successes to better serve patients

Telemedicine has already demonstrated its ability to bridge the gap between people, physicians and health systems in the short-term by enabling patients to communicate with physicians from home and ultimately reduce the virus’ spread. It has also uncovered longer-term opportunities to better-support vulnerable populations by delivering quality care to the safety of their homes.

Looking ahead, many healthcare leaders are turning their focus to developing more permanent infrastructure for telemedicine deployment, anticipating continued demand after the pandemic wanes. The next frontier of telemedicine delivery will be for hospitals to curate their offerings for a more personalized, transparent patient experience. Health systems with easy-to-use technology and interfaces will be more attractive to patients expecting retail-like healthcare delivery.

The rapid rise of telemedicine has also underscored an opportunity to build a centralized feedback loop between all areas of patients’ care—from their doctor, pharmacist and even through data from wearable technologies—so that providers can make data-driven adjustments in real-time. By combining telemedicine with interconnectivity and the integration of data from remote monitoring tools, providers will be able to deliver increasingly sophisticated virtual care.

Building a bright future for telemedicine, together

As society treks toward a new normal, it will be important for all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem — including healthcare providers, policymakers, insurance payers and a number of others—to ensure the strides in virtual care delivery that have been made over the past several months will ultimately lead to sustained access for patients in a post-pandemic care model.

While certain policies have been recently amended to enable greater reimbursements in the short-term, healthcare providers must continue to closely track and quantify the benefits of telemedicine to inform longer-term policies that will ensure its sustainability for years to come.

It’s no question that COVID-19 will have long-term impacts on healthcare delivery. Technologies that were initially popularized as short-term solutions have demonstrated their efficacy in driving operational improvements, increased patient access and more positive health outcomes. As the benefits become increasingly clear, it will be critical for healthcare organizations to forge forward in collaboration with industry stakeholders and use lessons learned as a catalyst for the future.

Kerry Jessani is head of healthcare, higher education, and not-for-profit, middle market & specialized industries, commercial banking at J.P. Morgan.