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The American College of Physicians (ACP) recently issued a policy paper on telemedicine performance measures for physicians providing clinical care. These recommendations can be of relevance to behavioral professionals seeking to interact with the medical community as allowed through an increasing number of collaborative technologies. The ACP recommendations stress the importance of maintaining the quality of performance measures using more precisely defined key performance indicators (KPIS) used to evaluate telehealth care. The paper, “Performance Measures for Physicians Providing Clinical Care Using Telemedicine: A Position Paper from the American College of Physicians,” outlines ways to reduce healthcare gaps. It was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on April 19, 2023.
According to the ACP, telemedicine can significantly benefit previously underserved patients by allowing increased access and more efficient care delivery. The ACP has been focused on developing appropriate, evidence-based, methodologically sound, and clinically meaningful interventions. The ACP paper focuses on telehealth KPIS for the ambulatory care environment, including interactive audio and video telecommunications systems.
Telehealth KPIS to Address Healthcare Gaps
The ACP position paper developed the telehealth KPIS to close healthcare gaps and identify opportunities for quality improvement, accountability, reporting, and reimbursement. It presents six recommendations outlining the appropriate use of performance measures to evaluate the quality of clinical care provided through telemedicine.
The ACP telemedicine performance measure recommendations include the following:
- To ensure that telemedicine performance measures are appropriate, the ACP recommendations stipulate that any measure used to evaluate telemedicine visits must adhere to the same criteria as in-person visits. (The in-person visit has become the gold standard and is particularly relevant to behavioral professionals reimbursed by Medicare, especially since current law requires an in-person visit for telehealth coverage in 2025.)
- Furthermore, existing measures for in-person visits should be evaluated to determine whether it would be appropriate also to include telemedicine visits. (Note how this recommendation hints at a not-so-distant future when failing to include warranted telehealth services might be considered inadequate service delivery.)
- The ACP recommendations also advise that telemedicine visits should be incorporated into electronic health records systems to avoid further fragmentation of care delivery.
- To ensure that performance measures are reliable and valid for the telemedicine environment, the ACP recommends testing measures to ensure their effectiveness.
- Measures should be attributed appropriately to an individual physician, group practice, health system, or health plan.
- The ACP also recommends that measures be used to evaluate the impact of telemedicine on under-resourced communities, ensuring that access and quality of care are not harmed in communities that lack digital access.
Role of Telemedicine in Closing Healthcare Gaps
The issue of reducing disparities and closing healthcare gaps has been prevalent as telehealth expands, particularly in rural areas. In an April 17 press release from the ACP, Dr. Ryan D. Mire, President of the ACP, stated,
The goal in all of our patient interactions is to provide high-quality care…. Telemedicine can be an important tool in doing so, and we need to make sure that measures encourage that high-quality without unnecessary burden, particularly for under-resourced communities and patients.
The ACP is the largest medical specialty organization in the US, with a membership base of 160,000 internal medicine physicians, related subspecialists, and medical students in over 145 countries. The organization applies scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to closing the healthcare gaps related to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.
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