COVID-19 Crisis Spurs Interest in Telehealth

Konica Minolta Exec Speaks about Snap MD Solution, HIPAA, and Upcoming Webinar

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04/13/2020

Christine Dunne

 

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Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, Konica Minolta and its All Covered IT services division have seen quite the increase in inquiries related to telehealth solutions.

 

“We’ve started getting more inquiries from customers than collectively for five years,” said Joe Cisna, Global Director for Digital Workplace Vertical Solutions at Konica Minolta Business Solutions, U.S.A.

 

Konica Minolta has offered Snap MD’s cloud-based virtual care management solution for five years now, but it took a significant relaxation of Medicare reimbursement rules—driven by the need to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as to free up emergency rooms for affected patients—to really boost demand for this offering.

 

One view of the Snap MD telehealth solution.

 

Building on past efforts to expand reimbursement for telehealth services, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is now allowing more than 80 additional services for Medicare beneficiaries to be provided this way. These include virtual visits to office, hospitals, and nursing homes with doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and social workers.

 

A related change was the recent relaxation of HIPAA requirements by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to enable better communication between medical staff and patients at home. This paves the way for the use of platforms like Zoom and Skype for Business/Microsoft Teams.

 

According to Cisna, healthcare providers are looking to install telehealth solutions immediately. While this can be a challenge, Konica Minolta receives robust support from Snap MD for these implementations.

 

“We just renegotiated our whole contract (with Snap MD),” he said. “We just got the signatures. We’re going about 150 million miles per hour.”

 

The new telehealth opportunities are not necessarily large revenue generators, but that is not Konica Minolta’s top goal at the moment.

 

“We’re less worried about that and more concerned about what we can do to help our customers in the unprecedented times we are in,” Cisna said, noting that healthcare customers are getting crushed under the weight of the crisis.

 

At the moment, the CMS has only temporarily upped the number of reimbursed telehealth services for Medicare patients. It will be interesting to see what happens once the crisis dies down, Cisna said. Even if the government rescinds the extra reimbursements, healthcare organizations may want ensure telehealth is in place just in case.

 

“Some providers don’t ever want this to happen again…being out trying to provision technology in five days,” he said. “What might happen with telehealth, is maybe it’s one of those industry segments that has generated new life to a degree.”

 

That said, government regulation plays a huge role in corporate priorities and spending. This was also evidenced in the electronic medical records sector, where federal incentives spurred investment.

 

Cisna and his colleagues will be discussing the topic of telehealth in an April 14 webinar titled “Empowering Healthcare Organizations to Effectively Navigate COVID-19 Challenges by Leveraging Technology and Digital Tools.” Other healthcare needs to be covered include security, IT helpdesk, SOC (security operations center) service desk, compliance to interoperability, and value-based care.

 

Since scheduling the webinar, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. has announced it is using its Double 2 Telepresence Robots to enable remote telehealth sessions between doctors and patients.

 

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