Question: Our telehealth program serves multiple purposes. We provide clinical encounters and educational events such as smoking cessation support groups as well as other general health education events for the public for little or no charge to the participants. It is addressing access on the clinical side (bring needed specialties to rural locations) and access on the educational side. Without this delivery mechanism patients would have to travel a good distance to receive the care or education they need. Some would choose to forgo the travel and thus end up in a worse state. The only issue has been trying to decide if it counts or not, and then if so, how to track it so it doesn't get double counted such as by education or some other means on the clinical side.
Recommendation: We recommend counting telehealth programs as you would any other program. That is, if it is part of basic care of your patients; do not count unless you must subsidize the service to cover costs, in which case you can report as a Subsidized Health Service. When you use telemedicine as a health education and promotion tool, it counts as long as you can document that it responds to a community need and that it is available to uninsured as well as insured persons. Deduct any revenue you collect for these programs. The cost should be the true net cost to the hospital, not the time of physicians unless the hospital has a contract with them to perform this service.
Click here for more examples of telemedicine/telehealth activities that may be reported in the different categories of community benefit.