Since starting United Telehealth Corp. in May 2019, Dr. Nima Ghadimi has invested $7 5 million of his own savings to get his Scottsdale telemedicine business off the ground.
During that time, he provided about $3 million in free services because insurers wouldn’t cover those costs.
That’s changing as Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order March 25 requiring health insurers to expand telemedicine coverage for all services that normally would be covered for an in-person visit.
Ghadimi said he was glad to see the executive order as it becomes more crucial to maintain social distancing and steer clear of hospital emergency rooms except in true emergency situations.
“It addresses the current health care crisis and it gives us the ability to provide this type of care to more
patients without being concerned about how long we can continue to subsidize this program,” Ghadimi said. “The issue still remains that more than 40% of the patients that we are seeing are strict Medicare patients.”
Ducey’s order only applies to commercial employer-based insurance and Medicaid. Loosening Regulations
Medicare has loosened regulations around telehealth, allowing doctors to videoconference with patients
while in their own homes. But Ghadimi’s telehealth program is different from others because he sends a
telehealth unit with a technician to a patient’s home and then has a physician interact over a videoconference.
Ghadimi has continued to attend to patients regardless of whatever Medicare reimburses him. He covers the rest of the costs out of his own pocket.
“We’re trying to be a good Samaritan, especially in this current health crisis,” Ghadimi said. “The last thing we ask patients is what type of insurance payer they have. Even if they don’t have any insurance or payer source, we still provide the care.”
Of the 2,500 telehealth patients he’s seen since starting his business last May, he has confirmed five COVID-19 cases while testing patients in their homes during their health checkups.
“We are encouraging patients if they feel they may have contracted this virus not to rush to their primary care physician’s office or to the emergency room but to instead call their own doctors ahead of time and let them know they have been exposed to this virus so the doctor can prepare their office for accepting this patient without exposing their staff and other patients in the clinic ”
Ghadimi also has reached out to local doctors to offer in-home COVID-19 testing for patients. So far, he’s purchased 78 of Scottsdale-based GlobalMedia’s telehealth units — the same ones used in the White House and on Air Force One.
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