Overcoming quarantine to serve patients in a mental health crisis with telehealth

Faced with a sudden shelter-in-place order in April 2020, mental health therapist Lys Hunt needed a way to serve her patients through the pandemic. Before COVID-19 hit, Hunt had only a single patient who didn’t attend in-person sessions at her office. With this shelter-in-place order, she suddenly needed a telehealth solution for 15 patients per week.

Turning to video conferencing and telehealth tools that she’d previously used on a limited basis, it was clear to Hunt that these platforms could not accommodate a full schedule of patient appointments. Connectivity and customer support issues became apparent very quickly, and Hunt knew she needed to make a change to serve her patients through this difficult time.

With an emerging mental health crisis due to COVID-19, Hunt needed an application that made it easy for her patients to meet with her virtually. Because the therapist was already using ABILITY for billing, ABILITY’s telehealth application felt like a natural choice. With virtual scheduling and billing capabilities in one place, and a user-friendly platform, the transition has been seamless. Hunt has maintained a full case load throughout the pandemic, helping patients who otherwise could not have received desperately-needed mental health care.

While Hunt has begun reintegrating in-person appointments, she and her patients have no plans to go back to 100% in-office sessions. For some patients, who moved farther from Hunt’s practice during the pandemic, telehealth gives them the freedom to continue working with a therapist they know and trust. And vulnerable patients have the capability to continue to care for their mental health without putting their physical health at risk.

For more details on how ABILITY helped this New England therapist respond to a burgeoning mental health crisis in the face of quarantines, check out our case study.

Want to learn more about improving access to care with a telehealth application that goes the distance? Schedule a demo today.

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Using telehealth to expand care and protect vulnerable patients

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, therapist Janet Dyer had to quickly find a way to serve all her patients – without compromising their health or her own. As an immunocompromised person herself, Dyer needed to protect her own health so that she could continue to serve the 20 patients per week who depended on her for mental health care.

Despite being physically vulnerable, Dyer didn’t even consider closing her doors. Instead, she turned to telehealth services.

Dyer was not a complete stranger to remote mental health therapy. Prior to the pandemic, she had offered limited telehealth services to a few patients. She never considered expanding those services, though, as scheduling and connectivity obstacles made it too challenging to work at scale.

Faced with the need to provide a safe means to treat all of her patients, Dyer turned to ABILITY for a HIPAA-compliant telehealth application that offered easier scheduling, reliable connectivity and features like group appointments and screen sharing.

Her patients immediately embraced the convenience of the app, enjoying easy access directly on their phones or from their email. The app’s integration with their calendars and the automated appointment reminders made it easier for many patients to get the help they needed.

Discussing the improved efficiency and ease for her patients, Dyer said, “My patients don’t have to do a lot of planning and work for their appointments. They can wake up at 7:55 for an 8:00 appointment on a Saturday morning.” Unsurprisingly, many patients have indicated that they want to continue seeing Dyer via telehealth instead of returning to the office.

While patients enjoy increased convenience – and the freedom to conduct their therapy session in their car, home or even a local park – Dyer appreciates the efficiency of a single source for all her telehealth-related tasks. The application has saved her time and helped her streamline non-patient-focused tasks – so she can spend more time where it counts: with her patients.

For more details on how ABILITY helped Dyer serve her patients safely through a global pandemic, check out our case study.

Want to learn more about expanding care with a telehealth application that goes the distance for you and your patients? Schedule a demo today.

How a family medicine practice protected revenue and served more patients with telehealth

How can practices protect revenue while serving more patients and improving outcomes? During the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest Family Medicine was faced with a serious challenge: how to reach patients and provide outstanding care when in-person appointments weren’t an option. Thanks to the right telehealth technology, the practice was able to see more patients and maintain cash flow. “Instead of losing revenue during a time when everyone was experiencing a downturn, we’ve stayed busy,” said office manager Shanna Hammond.

In her time at Southwest Family Medicine, Shanna has seen it all: patients arriving with common colds, broken bones and chronic conditions. What she hadn’t seen before 2020 was a once-in-a-lifetime, pandemic-driven shutdown that left her office deserted. With patients unable to attend in-person appointments, Southwest Family Medicine turned to other options to treat patients virtually.

Like many practices, Southwest Family Medicine did not previously offer telehealth services. So, when faced with a pandemic and the need to see patients from afar, they turned to existing virtual appointment apps.

These off-the-shelf appointment applications were not only clunky and difficult for patients and providers to use – they also presented HIPAA compliance issues. Worse yet, patients ran into compatibility issues with their mobile devices and desktops, creating a nightmare for scheduling and keeping appointments.

“We started out using systems that were the quickest and most familiar to our patients,” Shanna said, “but we realized that we were fighting an uphill battle with apps that weren’t designed for healthcare settings.”

To address compliance and accessibility issues, the team at Southwest Family Medicine turned to ABILITY Virtual Care, a secure and user-friendly platform that was much easier for patients and staff to use. For details on their success, check out our case study now.


ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How telehealth helped a marriage and family therapy practice expand access to care

How do you provide patients access to care when you can’t meet them in person? Like all healthcare providers across the country, Dawn Theodore faced a once-in-a-lifetime challenge in the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. But COVID wasn’t the only thing keeping patients from accessing care from the marriage and family therapist.

Even before the pandemic,” Theodore remarked, “some of my patients had trouble driving long distances and finding parking near my office. With social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, it felt like an impossible situation.”

Using generic video conferencing software helped her see her patients when they could not come to her office, but it left a lot to be desired. Some patients had trouble logging in, and limitations on meeting times caused headaches for the therapist and her patients. She needed an application that would ensure flexibility, a means to help her patients access care and HIPAA compliance.

The ABILITY telehealth application provided the safe environment that counseling patients need to share intimate details about their lives in a virtual space.

Theodore quickly discovered that telehealth was more than a stop-gap service in a pandemic. It was a means to expand access to her patients. Licensed in New York and California, Theodore can now serve patients across the country from her L.A. office. “Patients love it,” she explains in a recent case study. “I practice in Los Angeles, where driving and parking can be a massive headache. Telehealth appointments remove that barrier to care.”

ABILITY Virtual Care has also helped the practice resolve another issue with patient access: radius of care. Insurers often refer patients who live 50-100 miles away from the practice. Before adopting ABILITY Virtual Care, that commute would be practically impossible for patients in need of one or more appointments per week. With an innovative telehealth application designed specifically for healthcare, the practice can now help patients who were physically beyond its reach before.

How can the right telehealth software help your practice better serve your patients? Schedule a demo today to see ABILITY Virtual Care in action.


ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

With permanent Medicare coverage, telehealth is here to stay

Is your healthcare organization ready for the virtual revolution? Last year, the healthcare market widely embraced telehealth services to help patients who were quarantining and practicing social distancing. Many practices, however, viewed virtual appointments as a stop-gap to help provide continuous care through the pandemic. As a result, a lot of healthcare organizations have been using legacy conferencing technology and other outdated solutions.

Let’s explore three indicators that telehealth is here to stay: Medicare reimbursements, patient demand and telehealth technology that does more for patients and providers.

Medicare makes telehealth reimbursements permanent

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has confirmed that Medicare will continue to reimburse for 45% of currently covered telehealth services permanently. According to CMS, these services include, “standard evaluation and management visits, group psychotherapy, neurobehavioral status exams, and short home visits.”1

This isn’t the first time CMS has acknowledged the longevity of telehealth services across healthcare markets. Former CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, “I think the genie’s out of the bottle … it’s fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”2 Continued, permanent Medicare coverage for most telehealth appointments and services is a strong indicator that telehealth will continue to grow.

Patients want expanded telehealth appointments

Beyond reimbursements, there’s a significant demand from patients for continued virtual services. In a recent study, 71% of patients reported that they’d consider telehealth appointments with their existing provider – and more than 50% said they’d see a new provider who offered telehealth services.3

Patients are primed for virtual appointments and online scheduling – making now the perfect time to evaluate your telehealth platform. Does it provide HIPAA-compliant telehealth services, or have you been relying on a stop-gap solution that isn’t designed specifically for patients’ privacy needs? Can you easily add attendees on the fly, conduct group visits and share screens?

Discover telehealth that does more

From permanent Medicare reimbursements to patient demand, telehealth is here to stay. The right telehealth technology can help you serve more patients without overburdening providers and staff. By using the ABILITY Virtual Care application, for example, you can ensure security and privacy for patients while streamlining scheduling tasks. This innovative software allows group visits and screen sharing to enhance the patient experience. Plus, capabilities to add attendees on the fly can save time and reduce missed appointments.

Discover telehealth that does more – for you and your patients. Schedule a demo of ABILITY Virtual Care today.


1. “CMS Finalizes Meaningful Expansions of Medicare Telehealth Service Coverage Through 2021,” Kristin Allen, CMS, December 14, 2020, https://www.healthmanagement.com/blog/cms-finalizes-meaningful-expansions-of-medicare-telehealth-service-coverage-through-2021/

2. “’The genie’s out of the bottle on this one’: Seema Verma hints at the future of telehealth for CMS beneficiaries,’ Laura Dyrda, Beckers Hospital Review, June 3, 2020, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/telehealth/the-genie-s-out-of-the-bottle-on-this-one-seema-verma-hints-at-the-future-of-telehealth-for-cms-beneficiaries.html

3. “Four new statistics that prove that telemedicine isn’t just a pandemic fad,” Andrei Zimiles, Medical Economics, July 8, 2020. Accessed March 3, 2021 at https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/four-new-statistics-that-prove-that-telemedicine-isn-t-just-a-pandemic-fad

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How to Master Webside Skills for Telehealth Success

For many practices, a successful transition from in-person to online care is about much more than finding the right virtual care platform. It’s also critical to consider updated regulations regarding telehealth, patient access to and literacy of technology, and building webside manner skills.

Webside manner” is the technology-conscious approach to meeting with patients online. It’s a new skillset for many healthcare professionals across specialties and organizations – to share their medical knowledge via a computer or phone screen in a way that is simultaneously tech-savvy and mindful of the patient’s experience, while still delivering quality care.

For providers who are looking to get more comfortable practicing in a digital space, we’ve identified the top five tips to master webside manners.

1. Set the scene

It’s best to take all virtual appointments from the same place every day and to make sure the dedicated area is ready for an online meeting.

Take a look at the wall or backdrop behind you. Is there too much art hung up or items on a shelf that could be distracting to your patients? Are there bright colors, big windows or moving objects? Any of these things can take away from your virtual meeting simply by being in the background.

The ideal setting for a telehealth appointment is one where there are no more than a few items visible to the camera other than yourself. This ensures you are the focus, not the art, plants or books behind you.

2. Know your angles

Once you’ve identified the best place in your home or practice to conduct telehealth visits, it’s good to know where to place yourself in relation to the camera.

Too close can be a little awkward or intimidating. You don’t want your face to take up your patients’ entire screen in their view. Too far and you become less of their focus and risk sound quality if the microphone can’t easily pick up your voice.

The best place to be in relation to the camera is centered, about a foot away. Also make sure that you are not backlit; it’s better to have lighting in front of you so that your face and expressions are clear. Avoid backlighting or dim lighting.

3. Take your time

In addition to pre-visit preparations, remember to take your time during each session. Patients are navigating this new setup, too. Those seeking mental health may have heightened levels of anxiety or stress. Elderly patients may need a little coaching on how to work the virtual meeting tool you’re using. Children may have trouble focusing and those who are caregivers for others may have many questions throughout the session.

Everyone is navigating this new setting together. While most patients and their families will be comfortable using the technology, many people may wonder if they’ll receive the same level of care they’ve come to expect. Give each patient your full attention throughout the session, be mindful of their unique needs and make the conversation more than just a medical assessment.

4. Practice and train

If you have a comfortable background, good angles and enough time for each patient, you may just need a bit of practice. Getting better at running a telehealth visit is like any other skill – it improves with repetition.

Once you’re satisfied with your telehealth skillset, share it with others. Take time to walk your scheduler, admin and/or biller through the platform you’re using. Show them the whole process. While some aspects of the visit may be more pertinent to their responsibilities, having a general understanding of your overall telehealth processes will be helpful for everyone in your practice as virtual visits become more widely used.

5. Continue to improve

We understand it can be challenging to be both the care provider and the producer or tech support for telehealth. Even with an easy-to-use virtual care platform, there will be learning opportunities that continue to arise as you, your patients and your staff get more comfortable with telehealth.

As such, your webside skills will evolve. The more you use telehealth and establish simple processes from scheduling to capturing payment for virtual visits, the more confident you’ll be in not just the medical assessment you provide, but in the way which you’re caring for patients.

For support in establishing a successful, stress-free telehealth experience, connect with our team to make your virtual visits the best they can be.


Is telehealth right for your practice? Key considerations for physicians interested in virtual care

The rising use of telehealth over the course of this year has signaled a loud and clear message across the healthcare landscape: telehealth is the future of patient/provider interactions.

However, how telehealth works and for what purpose varies widely among providers. Some prefer to use virtual visits only when necessary or for routine appointments such as checkups and pre-ops, while other providers use telehealth throughout their treatment process.

If you’ve started to assess the possibilities of offering telehealth but are not yet sure whether it’s right for your practice, here are 5 key things to consider.CC

1. Consumer-centric industry shifts

As emphasis on value-based care and high-deductible health plans continues to increase, patients are seeking more than just the kind of care they need – they’re shopping for the best possible match. They’re researching the reviews and accomplishments of providers, comparing costs of care and searching for the most convenient appointment location.

What could be more convenient than going to a medical appointment without leaving the house (or office)? With 81% of patients being more likely to select a medical provider who offers telemedicine over one who does not1, telemedicine can not only give your practice more flexibility, but potentially attract more patients.

It’s important to be competitive and to position your practice for success in an increasingly consumer-focused market, in addition to offering quality care.

2. Your patient population

While industry trends are good indicators of how to evolve your practice, so is your patient population.

Do you mostly treat elderly patients? Do you typically see a mix of young to senior adults in a day? Is your specialty something that needs to be done hands-on, or can you provide consultative conversations without an in-person visit?

These are critical questions to consider as you assess the opportunity to offer telehealth. You need to be confident that this kind of care is well-received by your patients and that it can uphold your standards of care.

If your patients are mostly older adults, telehealth could be a great way to routinely check in with them regarding their treatment plans vs. requiring them to come in for in-person visits. Patients who are younger may be more engaged in the treatment suggested simply because it is convenient and technology-driven interactions are familiar to them.

Telehealth can also provide a way for health-conscious individuals – those who are highly aware of the risk of contracting COVID-19 or even the flu – to receive the care they need without having to leave their home. The more you consider the needs and habits of your average patient, the easier you can identify where telehealth best fits into their care journey.

3. Practice processes

Another factor to help determine if telehealth is right for you is to consider your practice processes. From patient intake and scheduling to how you prepare for and conduct each visit, the right telehealth strategy can simplify and streamline your daily operations.

When patients complete their forms online, they’re better prepared to be on time for their in-person or virtual appointment. When you’re able to review documents within your telehealth portal instead of relying on paper forms, there’s less friction in the pre-appointment steps needed to prepare for seeing a patient.

Similarly, telehealth can make the tasks of your team easier by better organizing patient claims, payments and prescription details. When everything is one place, there’s less time spent by all parties sharing or finding key information – and more time spent focused on the root cause of each patient’s health needs.

4. Potential ROI

The next aspect of telehealth to consider is the possible ROI it could provide your practice, both financially and in terms of patient outcomes.

Many factors influence financial ROI. Upfront, there are the costs of purchasing and implementing your telehealth platform of choice, time to train staff and ensuring your practice insurance covers telehealth. In the long-term, investing in telehealth may result in lower costs to maintain your physical practice, reduced no-shows and potentially increase billable hours as a result of flexible scheduling.

Additionally, telehealth can help increase patient retention and satisfaction, while also reducing acuity levels.

5. Acting vs reacting

The final indicator to determine if telehealth is right for you is the choice between leading the way now or mimicking the success of others later. Telehealth is currently growing in popularity but not yet the norm. However, that’s where telehealth is headed; it’s set to become a standard part of providing healthcare.

The opportunity to help shape telehealth is still available, but as it is more widely adopted, there will be a transition from defining standard processes and metrics of success to simply adhering to what those are.

To start offering telehealth now is about more than giving patients a physically distant option or creating a bit of scheduling flexibility, it is the time to decide if you want to leave a lasting impact on healthcare – and your own practice.

Finding the right partner for your practice’s telehealth strategy

Ready to implement telehealth in your practice? Take the first step to establishing a strong telehealth strategy by choosing your virtual visit platform. Learn more about our new telehealth application today!



1 “Should You Offer Telemedicine Services? Patients Weigh In” , Lisa Hedges, Software Advice, Inc, August 5, 2019, https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/should-you-offer-telemedicine-services/


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

telehealth visit

Looking beyond COVID-19: the top 3 telehealth challenges to start combatting now

The use of telehealth has rapidly expanded across the healthcare landscape this year as a response to COVID-19, and this growth is not expected to slow down any time soon. In fact, Frost & Sullivan forecasts, “a sevenfold growth in telehealth by 2025 – a five-year compound annual growth rate of 38.2%.”1

However, new opportunities to deliver and receive care come with new challenges. Most providers and patients have been flexible this year, each party doing the best they can to engage in safe, efficient healthcare interactions in their new settings. But as we look beyond the circumstances we’re in, now is the time to seriously consider offering telehealth long term.

Here are three of the top telehealth challenges to be aware of so you can best provide virtual care for years to come.

1. Patient adaptation

Although patient demand for telehealth is increasing across healthcare, some age groups are more prone to pursue virtual care than others. A recent survey found that young patients (ages 18 to 24) are more receptive to telehealth, while those aged 35-45 said COVID-19 has not increased their use of telehealth services.2

For providers who have largely elder patient populations, there will likely be a need to familiarize patients with telehealth. Patients may have trouble requesting a visit online, entering their virtual visit room, updating forms online and/or accessing their post-meeting treatment plans. Physicians and their team should be ready and patiently willing to demonstrate how their telehealth platform works, to build patients’ comfort level with this form of care and to persuade those who are hesitant to try telehealth.

2. Staff proficiency and efficiency

Just as some patients will need more telehealth support than others at first, some staff members may need a bit of extra support to operate telehealth efficiently as well.

It’s important to stress telehealth training with every person on your team. Whether for online scheduling, ensuring patient information is provided and up to date, or billing and payment processing, your front-office team needs to be fully proficient with your telehealth service. Otherwise, there’s risk of double work being done at various points of the telehealth treatment cycle, not to mention a decrease in patient satisfaction.

To best ensure staff efficiency while offering telehealth, schedule regular trainings with your team, conduct a feedback survey with your patients to best understand how they are enjoying their experience, and most importantly, make sure you’re using the right telehealth tools.

Your platform should be more than simply HIPAA-compliant. It should be easy for staff and patients to use, and its connection needs to be reliable during every encounter, no matter where you or your patient are.

3. Telehealth compliance and regulations

The final post-COVID-19 telehealth challenge is to prepare for the changes in regulations and compliance that are likely to come. The requirements around communication devices3 and in-state licensure4 for telehealth have been lenient to promote physical distance and safety during COVID-19. As we better combat the virus, these leniencies will be replaced by more stringent requirements.

This will affect both pre- and post-visit operations, and the sooner you and your staff are up to speed, the better. Continue to keep an eye on CMS regulations for further updates regarding telehealth, but also be mindful of local guidelines. As new requirements are released, ensure your telehealth process is HIPAA-compliant, use the appropriate billing and reimbursement codes, and train your team on non-COVID-related codes, tools and processes to use going forward.

Navigating the new normal together

The good news about all the post-COVID-19 telehealth challenges is that they are common challenges many healthcare providers will face – and overcome – together. Healthcare has never been more united and forward-thinking than it is today, and while there are still many issues to resolve, there are even more accomplishments to be proud of and opportunities to seize, particularly in terms of implementing telehealth.

To continue learning how to best succeed with telehealth long term, click here.



1 “Telehealth set for ‘tsunami of growth’, says Frost & Sullivan,” Mike Miliard, Healthcare IT News, Accessed July 28, 2020 https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/telehealth-set-tsunami-growth-says-frost-sullivan
2 ”Survey: Americans’ perceptions of telehealth in the COVID-19 era,” Bill Siwicki, Accessed July 28, 2020 https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/survey-americans-perceptions-telehealth-covid-19-era
3 “OCR Announces Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency,” HHS Press Office, Accessed July 28, 2020 https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/03/17/ocr-announces-notification-of-enforcement-discretion-for-telehealth-remote-communications-during-the-covid-19.html
4 “U.S. States and Territories Modifying Requirements for Telehealth in Response to COVID-19,” FSMB, Accessed July 28, 2020 https://www.fsmb.org/siteassets/advocacy/pdf/states-waiving-licensure-requirements-for-telehealth-in-response-to-covid-19.pdf


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.