If you’re like most practices today, you’re already using or considering a telemedicine app. That’s because telemedicine services have skyrocketed as the best way to receive care and fight COVID-19 by following social distancing rules. But how can the average medical practice provider determine which telehealth app is best for their business? This article will provide you with a checklist for the best telemedicine app for your medical practice.
Telemedicine Services Skyrocket with COVID-19 Outbreak
A press release from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts reports the private payer processed 250,000 new virtual visits in March 2020. The provider broadened reimbursement for telehealth over the past 60-days, adding payment parity with in-person visits, removing reimbursement barriers, and expanding coverage of telemedicine services. The payer states:
“Telehealth is a critical resource—it’s allowing clinicians to continue caring for their patients, and it’s also helping limit the spread of contagion by keeping people out of emergency rooms and doctors’ offices unless absolutely necessary.”
CNBC suggests that, at the current pace, telemedicine visits will top one billion this year alone. That is a staggering number that is wildly different from the sluggish pace of telehealth growth over the past decade. Why have providers and patients increasingly turned to telemedicine services to provide healthcare?
Why Telehealth and Why Now?
Telemedicine is decades-old technology that the majority of hospitals provided well before the COVID-19 epidemic. The benefits of telemedicine technology have always included patient convenience and greater healthcare access. But the barriers to telehealth have been just as detrimental as the well-documented success stories. Simultaneous to numerous peer-reviewed studies on the efficacy of providing care via a telehealth app came the complaints from providers that reimbursement was too low. Too, CMS and private payers restricted where the service was provided, requiring beneficiaries to receive care at an originating site.
Since COVID-19, the barriers to telemedicine have been eliminated. Last month CMS announced the elimination of telemedicine reimbursement restrictions. Private payers have and are expected to follow this lead. Today, healthcare providers seeking to leverage a telemedicine app can take advantage of these reimbursement changes:
Medicare beneficiaries can receive telemedicine services in their homes, including common office visits, preventative health care, and mental health counseling.
- Any clinician credentialed to offer healthcare services can be reimbursed for telemedicine.
- Telemedicine services are now reimbursed at the same rate as an in-person visit. Payment is not tied to a COVID-19 diagnosis, but for any service covered by the payer.
Telehealth has been endorsed by the CDC and other healthcare organizations as a crucial way to provide care when social distancing is necessary to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Telemedicine services can help your practice during the pandemic by:
- Lessening the risk of exposure for your patients and staff.
- Helping to triage the “worried well” flooding our nation’s hospitals.
- Providing comfort and care to non-urgent patients during this difficult time.
For the smaller medical practice, making the leap to a telehealth app, particularly when they lack IT expertise, can be a worrisome challenge. But today’s best telemedicine applications are relatively plug and play and your team will need little to no IT expertise to use these tools. Here are some suggestions for what to look for in a telehealth app in your practice.
Choosing the Best Telehealth App
Not all telemedicine applications are created equal. HIPAA-compliance, data privacy, and security remain big concerns in the IT world. There also can be issues with commercial apps not geared for patient consent requirements. Generally, healthcare providers should screen their telehealth vendors for the following requirements:
- HIPAA-compliance: CMS recently announced a relaxation of HIPAA rules to open the door to the use of more commercial telehealth applications. These rules are temporary, so while healthcare providers may use generic videoconferencing solutions like Facetime, the security of patient data is still important. Look for teleheath apps that build patient consent directly into the upfront scheduling process. Your telehealth app should also encrypt data in transit and at rest. Healthcare data encryption converts the original information into an encoded text that can only be decoded by the sender and receiver. Too, there should be no publicly sharable links that would enable a cybersecurity breach of protected health information. Finally, the app should allow for personal verification that the clinician is talking to the correct person when providing care.
Click here to learn more about healthcare data encryption.
- Easy to use: The telemedicine app you select should be simple to use for both your practitioners and patients. While many of the telemedicine solutions used in hospitals require expensive equipment or sophisticated patient portals, online telehealth software applications should be simple to download on any device. Look for a telehealth app that views well on any screen, whether it is a tablet, cellphone, laptop, or desktop. Watch a demo of the telehealth app to determine if your patients or providers would have difficulty understanding how to use the tool. Also ask your carrier about the kind of technical support that is available should you need it.
- Simple customizations: You should be able to brand the telehealth app with your practice information, mirroring your website and creating a more familiar onscreen environment for your patients. Scheduling workflows should be intuitive and on-click, payments should be easy to provide, and the telemedicine vendor should be willing to work with you to enable your workflows to maximize the experience for your patients and providers.
Using Telemedicine Services in Your Practice
The time for telemedicine is now. The Washington Post says, “Telemedicine apps, invented for rural patients, have a critical new rule during the coronavirus: keeping you and your doctors at a safe distance.”
Telehealth is a technology tool that has been used for decades to provide safe, effective care. A telemedicine app is a way to provide your patients with a virtual house call without exposing them to the rigors of traveling to your practice and potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
SpringHealth Live offers a low-cost, HIPAA-compliant online downloadable telehealth app. Our service was designed by doctors and has a proven track record of bringing the same technologies used by large hospitals to the small to mid-size practice. We are standing by to help you transition to this new healthcare service. Please contact us today.