The benefits and advances in telehealth represent such a significant shift in healthcare delivery that we in the industry can’t stop talking about the phenomenon.
Reports show that consumers are now ranking convenience and access as the most important factor in making healthcare decisions, beating out insurance coverage, doctors’ and nurses’ conduct, and quality of care. A recent Adobe report shows consumers are increasingly using technology to access healthcare, with 57 percent of traffic to consumer health information websites coming from mobile devices.
With an increasingly digital society, patients want the ability to see a provider virtually rather than always needing to go into the office. As such, offering telehealth services is no longer seen as cutting-edge; it’s what patients expect.
There are, of course, concerns around telehealth. Perhaps you’ve wondered if telehealth works for your particular specialty, if it is good medicine, how the reimbursements work, or if you even have time to add in telehealth visits? These are natural concerns, and we invite you to explore data and stories that can help alleviate these worries.
Myth: Telehealth Doesn’t Work For My Specialty
Providers from almost every specialty can leverage telehealth platforms. While not suited to every visit, telehealth is another instrument in a provider’s toolbox to improve access and continuity of care for patients.
Here’s a small sampling of use cases from different groups:
- Primary Care: Regular follow-up for chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, etc.), acute illnesses (influenza, gastrointestinal illnesses, etc.), anxiety and depression medication management.
- Pediatrics: ADHD medication management, acute illnesses, asthma follow-up, rashes.
- OB-GYNs: Health counseling for perinatal care or gestational diabetes ; education for pregnancy, lactation, and postpartum services.
- Endocrinology: Adjustments to various hormone, hypertension, and diabetes treatments.
- Cardiology: Managing coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and hypertension.
- Pulmonology: Performing follow-up visits, including medication adjustments and prescriptions for COPD, asthma, and bronchitis.
- Neurology: Managing neuropathy symptoms and disease progression for Parkinson’s patients.
- Proceduralists: Preoperative assessment and instruction as well as postoperative follow-up that does not require a physical exam.
Myth: Telehealth is Bad Medicine
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) notes, “Telemedicine should be a resource that enhances continuity, comprehensiveness, and capacity for primary care practices.”
Telehealth is not applicable for all situations. But there are many uses for this technology that achieve what the AAFP prescribes and dictates for good medicine. Maybe you’re caring for a patient who was just diagnosed with diabetes and needs lifestyle counseling or a depressed patient who needs behavioral support. Perhaps you’re treating a homebound patient who can’t get into the office, but seeing her helps you determine if she needs to go to the emergency department. All of these scenarios and many more can be a good medical use of telehealth.
Patients who might have skipped their visit due to work, personal conflicts, or limited mobility can now receive care. Additionally, the convenient nature of telehealth makes life easier for patients — and for providers. This means patients are more likely to seek care when they need it, and it gives providers the option of treating patients from their home, which may alleviate burnout.
Educating patients on the appropriate times to choose telehealth is the key. Providers should make sure to explain the correct times to use telehealth versus seeking care in-person.
Myth: I Won’t Get Paid For Virtual Visits
Historically, there was a lack of a sustainable fee-for-service revenue model in offering telehealth. However, according to the National Law Review, “Most states have adopted parity laws nudging commercial insurers toward full coverage of telehealth services … Many of the state parity laws not only improve reimbursement but also ease some of the restrictions around patient care.”
Furthermore, recent announcements by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicate plans to “allow Medicare Advantage plans broader flexibility in how coverage of telehealth benefits is paid to meet the needs of their enrollees.”
CMS notes that Medicare beneficiaries are becoming more tech-savvy, and as such, “CMS is working across the agency to promote beneficiary access to telehealth … [and] allow greater ability for Medicare Advantage enrollees to receive telehealth from places like their homes.” These regulations are anticipated to take effect in 2020.
Myth: I’m Too Busy / My Schedule is Already Full
Telehealth typically does not add busyness to your schedule; it adds convenience.
Offering telehealth services does not mean that providers need to take on more visits; rather, providers can better manage their daily schedule and work smarter by swapping some in-office visits for virtual ones. Virtual visits offer more convenience for the patient which leads to fewer late arrivals or no-shows by eliminating transportation issues and work/personal conflicts.
While your schedule may currently be full, it’s important to plan for the future. Many providers lag behind retail clinics, urgent care centers, and payer-led or direct-to-consumer telehealth services in offering the access and convenience consumers are growing to expect. Telehealth helps practices stay competitive with urgent care centers, drive efficiencies within the practice, and meet the needs of consumers without significant investments in staff, services, or infrastructure.
Telehealth is an indispensable tool for increasing patient engagement and health outcomes. However, it is not the only technology that can improve your practice’s performance. Subscribe to the blog to stay informed of the latest healthcare news and innovations!