A new billing code could help hospitals promote the use of wearables to improve lives for patients with chronic conditions.
Chronic disease is a critical and growing problem for Americans. While women and men experience conditions at different rates, women tend to be affected earlier in life, and thus need care longer. According to the CDC, nearly half of Americans have a chronic disease, and per a March 2018 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the number is growing.
The study paints an interesting picture of healthcare spending: “In the U.S. alone, chronic diseases account for nearly 75 percent of aggregate healthcare spending, or an estimated $5,300 per person annually. In terms of public insurance, treatment of chronic diseases comprises an even larger proportion of spending: 96 cents per dollar for Medicare and 83 cents per dollar for Medicaid.”
While the public health aspect of this issue might look grim, it presents an interesting opportunity for hospitals to both improve patient care and to market chronic-care services to women, who seek out preventive healthcare at a higher rate than men. Bonus: Hospitals and health systems can get reimbursed for providing these chronic care services. In 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced a new billing code for healthcare providers, code 99490, which lets them bill for “non face-to-face care coordination services.” The code came with restrictions that made adoption slow, so in 2017, CMS updated the requirements to make billing easier for providers and introduced three new codes that allow for more significant or longer-duration patient interactions. In 2018, it was further updated to include compensation for physicians who review patient data, such as information from wearables and health-tracking apps.
All this means that hospitals and health systems have a new opportunity and a new financial incentive to incorporate the use of telehealth technology with their chronic-condition patients. This is a double-win for health systems: People love wearables, and wearables that generate health data are particularly favored by women. If your hospital or health system hasn’t yet invested in incorporating data from wearables into EMRs or patient evaluations for women with chronic conditions, now is a great time to start — and then to start marketing that you do this.
Since the incidence and number of chronic conditions increases as people age, and increasing age tends to correlate with less adoption of technology, it will be important to clearly show in your marketing materials that you help walk patients through the best ways to use wearables to improve their health. For instance, you might create a video that portrays a female patient being instructed by her doctor on how to use a wearable, and then shows a follow-up visit where her doctor interprets the data she’s generated to improve her care plan.
Improving patient outcomes is all about harnessing opportunity, so take this chance to expand your hospital or health system’s repertoire of data tools while you improve life for women with chronic conditions.