Telehealthvisit

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!

 

Sources:

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.

 

Sources:

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.