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Reimbursement of Apps for Mental Health: Current Practices and Potential Pathways

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Reimbursement of Apps for Mental Health: Current Practices and Potential Pathways

August 11, 2019

Reimbursement of Apps for Mental Health: Current Practices and Potential Pathways

Although apps and other digital and mobile health tools are helping improve the mental health of Americans, they are currently being reimbursed through a varied range of means, and most are not being reimbursed by payers at all.

The aim of this study was to shed light on the state of app reimbursement. We documented ways in which apps can be reimbursed and surveyed stakeholders to understand current reimbursement practices.

Individuals from over a dozen stakeholder organizations in the domains of digital behavioral and mental health, care delivery, and managed care were interviewed. A review of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCSPCS) codes was conducted to determine potential means for reimbursement.

Interviews and the review of codes revealed that potential channels for app reimbursement include direct payments by employers, providers, patients, and insurers. Insurers are additionally paying for apps using channels originally designed for devices, drugs, and laboratory tests, as well as via value-based payments and CPT and HCSPCS codes. In many cases, it is only possible to meet the requirements of a CPT or HCSPCS code if an app is used in conjunction with human time and services.

Currently, many apps face significant barriers to reimbursement. CPT codes are not a viable means of providing compensation for the use of all apps, particularly those involving little physician work. In some cases, apps have sought clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration for prescription use as digital therapeutics, a reimbursement mechanism with as yet unproven sustainability. There is a need for simpler, more robust reimbursement mechanisms to cover stand-alone app-based treatments.

The full article can be downloaded below.  

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