Experts predict that the telehealth industry will reach $9.35 Billion by 2021 - an astounding leap from just $2.78 Billion in 2016. And, in a recent survey by American Well, 20% of patients say they would change doctors just to be able to access telehealth services.
So, if you haven’t yet dipped your toe in the telehealth waters, you could quickly find yourself left behind. But, don’t despair. Here are a few basics to get you started on your journey.
What is Telehealth?
CMS states that telehealth is “the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision, and information across distance”.
Whereas, telemedicine is generally considered the “face-to-face” time of virtual care, telehealth encompasses the sharing of health data with remote sites (such as MRI results with a specialist at another hospital).
Whether you’re on the fence about implementing telehealth services or trying to make the case to other decision makers, proving the return on investment can be one of the hardest parts to getting started. Here are three key reasons adding telehealth services to your practice is a wise investment:
- Improved Patient Care: A variety of studies show that the quality of patient care improves with telehealth services. For example, a Geisinger Health Plan study found that heart-failure patients participating in a telemonitoring program saw a 23% decrease in hospitalizations and a 44% decrease in re-hospitalizations.
- Patient Retention: Your practice is, at the end of the day, a business. And, like any other business, you must meet your patients’ needs to stay competitive and profitable. In the American-Well study previously referenced, 34% of patients cited time constraints as reasons for delaying needed care. This indicates that if you’re not offering telehealth services to meet patient needs, they’ll find a physician who does.
- Increased Billable Services + Reduced Costs = A Healthier Bottom Line: Providing telehealth services for routine care improves the likelihood that your patients will “visit,” which increases your billable services. In addition, telehealth enables you to take advantage of the expertise of highly paid personnel without the full burden of their salary cost. The combination of increased revenue and reduced costs is a win-win you can’t ignore.
Getting a telehealth program off the ground may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you start small. Consider these first-steps:
- Pick Your Service. Consider polling patients about which services they would be most likely to use remotely. Just be sure that the service(s) you select are eligible for reimbursement from Medicare and private insurance. (For more on reimbursement for telehealth services, check out this training).
- Evaluate your policies. Telehealth introduces a scary new world for privacy and liability issues, not to mention staff oversight. Update your privacy and privileging and credentialing requirements and review data encryption and security Here is a training session to help ensure that your telemedicine activities are safe from data breaches. Data Breach Warning: Protect Your Patients and Practice from Breached Information.
- Review your state-specific regulations. Most states have their own rules governing the use of telehealth within their borders, from the frequency with which it can be used to the pre-requisites of this mode of care. Brush up on your state’s specific regulations to ensure a smooth launch. Check out your state’s specific guideline’s in the Center for Connected Health Policy’s Annual Report: State Telehealth Laws & Medicaid Program Policies.
- Meet Patient Needs. By providing telemedicine services you can meet your patients’ desire for faster, cheaper, higher quality healthcare…before your competitors do.
- Better Outcomes. When your patients keep more of their preventive visits, they can stay healthier and experience enhanced quality of life.
- Compliance Concerns. Telehealth opens up a variety of new compliance, reimbursement, and liability issues that you must address and overcome.
Learn more about how you can implement and get paid for telehealth services with these online training resources from Coding Leader:
- Telemedicine: Comply and Get Paid: Learn specific strategies from virtual care network expert Adam Darkins, MBChB, MPHM, MD, FRCS to improve patient care and build revenue with telehealth services.
- Telemedicine Finally Get Paid: New Guidelines Lead to Reimbursement for Telehealth Services: Coding expert Catrena Smith, CCS, CCS-P, CPC, CIC, CPC-I, CRC, CHTS-PW walks you through exactly how to correctly code and bill for telemedicine (non-face-to-face) services so you can finally get paid more of what you deserve.
- Avoid Telemedicine Claim Denials by Knowing Your Site: Get a quick primer on Medicare’s site definitions and how to use modifiers for telehealth services.
- Telehealth Index: 2017 Consumer Survey, American Well, http://go.americanwell.com/2017ConsumerSurvey.html
- Can Telemonitoring Reduce Hospitalization and Cost of Care? A Health Plan’s Experience in Managing Patients with Heart Failure, Geisinger Health Plan, http://www.amchealth.com/_files/published-outcomes/PopulationHealthManagement-GeisingerHFStudy-May2014.pdf