Medical practices have joined the ranks of hospitals, pharmacies, and retailers offering telemedicine services to their patients. So, how can you start offering telemedicine services at your practice?
Even before the COVID-19 virus gained national attention, a growing number of healthcare providers had embraced the concept of the telemedicine visit. As coronavirus swept the nation, telehealth gained national attention as a way to provide quality care while still keeping patients and doctors safe.
If your practice is considering a telemedicine service line, this article will help you understand the benefits of telehealth and the best practices for deploying it to your patients.
Why Should You Use Telemedicine?
The telemedicine visit is a way for providers to improve access to quality medical treatment while cutting costs. The technology, which uses video conferencing tools and the Internet, has been honed over decades into an effective treatment modality. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies show that telehealth provides high-quality care and increases customer satisfaction. Organizations around the nation, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the American Hospital Association endorse telemedicine services.
Telemedicine services offer both practices and patients several benefits, including:
- More convenient care. Telehealth reduces the wait time to see a doctor. Patients don’t have to travel to their appointment. Practices experience a decline in no-shows.
- Better care quality. Healthcare providers offering telehealth show consistently higher patient satisfaction. The quality of life for doctors and clinical teams can also improve.
- Cuts costs. Telehealth costs less for patients and reduces practice overhead.
Find Out More: Top 10 Benefits of Telehealth for Patients and Doctors
Beyond these benefits, telemedicine has grown exponentially even as the coronavirus spread around the globe. Healthcare facilities have rolled out new telehealth services as a way to triage patients and decrease the volume of those seeking on-site care. Telehealth allows providers to continue to provide care while protecting vulnerable patients and providers from the spread of this illness.
As providers make the transition to telemedicine services, there are a few steps to consider.
What Are Best Practices for Starting a Telemedicine Program?
Determining the services offered through a telemedicine visit is the first step toward successfully marketing your new service line. Understanding the approach, the tools, and how you will launch the service, will ensure a successful undertaking for you and your patients. Consider the following steps when offering telemedicine services.
1.) Make a telemedicine plan.
Not every visit is appropriate for telemedicine. You may feel more comfortable physically meeting the patient and establishing a relationship first. CMS recently waived the requirement to have a prior patient relationship before conducting a telehealth visit. However, private insurers may still require an in-person visit before paying for a telehealth encounter. Check with your private payer to be sure.
Telemedicine is a tool for your team to use. The question for your practice is how you’d like to use it. Ask your team what type of patient visit is most appropriate for a telemedicine visit? Will you offer the service throughout the day, after hours, or at another specific time? How should your receptionist pre-screen for these visits?
Telemedicine is perfectly appropriate for all kinds of encounters, including:
- Diagnosis and triage of the flu or coronavirus.
- Routine post-surgical follow-ups.
- Medication management.
- Management of chronic disease.
- Coaching or lifestyle management.
- Mental health counseling.
- Sharing test results.
How you leverage telemedicine service is up to you. However, once you decide, it’s time to consider how your approach will change practice workflows.
2.) Understand the workflows for the telemedicine visit.
From patient eligibility screening for reimbursement to the charting of notes, how will telemedicine services change your existing workflows? It’s a good idea to involve your staff early on in this process. Consider the steps necessary to screen and schedule patients. How will you integrate with scheduling? Consider the steps for documentation and billing. Finally, establish a system to collect patient data and track patient and staff satisfaction.
3.) Understand how to use the telehealth technology.
Your telemedicine partner can give you tips on how to conduct the telehealth visit, including the basic etiquette around how to conduct yourself. Prep the location where you’ll screen patients, just like you would any exam room. Each provider conducting the visit should understand the nuances of video conferencing and the steps associated with the telemedicine visit. Consider whether you’ll wear a headset with a microphone for better audio. Do you need an external camera for better video quality? Where can you find a quiet room in your practice to conduct the telemedicine visit and protect the patient’s privacy? We recommend trial runs to be sure your tea is comfortable with technology.
Find Out More: Telehealth Etiquette—Conducting the Virtual Visit
4.) Learn more about getting paid for telemedicine.
CMS just set new parity rules that reimburse telehealth the same as an in-person visit. But check with your private payers to understand their willingness to cover telehealth. Make sure your front desk, coding, and billing teams understand the nuances of telemedicine billing well before you ever see your first patient.
5.) Market the service to your patients.
Every team member should be trained on how to promote the telemedicine service. List the service on your website, and mail or email information to patients to let them know there is a viable alternative to the traditional visit now available.
Finding the Best Telemedicine Platform
If you’re searching for a telehealth app, you have lots of choices. Finding the right technology partner will require due diligence to ensure your comfort level with the tool you select. Look for a telemedicine app with these characteristics:
- Secure and HIPAA compliant.
- Reliable with high up time.
- Simple to use for both you and your patients.
- Works well on any digital device or Internet browser.
- Allows verification of patient reimbursement eligibility.
- Integrates with your EHR platform.
- Has strong customer support both for patients and providers.
If you’re concerned about implementing telemedicine services because you lack the internal resources, talk to your telehealth vendor. Companies like SpringHealthLive focus on the small to mid-size practice provider and offer a variety of value-added services to help your transition to telehealth go smoothly.
If you’re looking for the best telemedicine platform, SpringHealthLive was created by doctors for the small to mid-sized medical practices seeking the same tools that large hospitals enjoy. We offer a low-cost subscription service that is fully HIPAA-compliant.
Talk to our team today to find out more.