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Most Medicare Plan Members Unsure if Telemedicine is Offered

September 19, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints
Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) of Medicare health plan members aged 65 and over said they are unsure if their health plan offers telemedicine, while another 31 percent said that telemedicine is not offered by their plan, according to a recent survey. 
The survey, from Dallas-based healthcare technology company HealthMine, included responses from 500 Medicare members. The remaining 12 percent of respondents said that their health plan does offer telemedicine. 
The researchers noted how seniors need to be more connected digitally to healthcare services, pointing to an ongoing debate over the pros and cons of expanding coverage of telehealth and telemedicine services under Medicare Parts A and B.  Mandated by Congress, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission will study the use of telehealth services and report findings next March. 
What's more, when asked if their health plan gives them digital access to their medical history or electronic health record (EHR), 48 percent of seniors said they weren't sure; 25 percent said yes and that the information is easy to get; 21 percent no; and 6 percent said yes, but the information is not easy to access. 
Medicare plan members also revealed their communication preferences: 48 percent prefer to communicate with their plan via voice/phone, 31 percent prefer digital communication, and 21 percent prefer snail mail.
Survey researchers also made note of how in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, many seniors have more limited access to their doctors and medical facilities. This has heightened the importance of digital communications and telemedicine to help guide patients in need, they said. To this point, following Irma, several health IT solution providers said that their virtual and mobile services will be offered to customers free of charge in the hurricane-affected areas.

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