We spend most of our time in this space educating patients and providers about the benefits of telemedicine. After all, there’s a lot to love. For patients, video visits mean reduced health care costs, no travel or waiting time, less time off from work, reduced risk of catching another illness, and increased access to specialists. For practices, telehealth increases productivity and profitability, allows providers to serve broader markets, encourages more patient engagement, and allows for the more strategic use of staff.
With all of those benefits, why isn’t everyone doing it?
Some important and reasonable concerns keep practices and patients from going all-in on telemedicine. Fortunately, most of them can be addressed by a combination of education and technology.
Reimbursement Policies and Laws are Tricky
There is no doubt that provider reimbursement for telemedicine is complicated. Each state has their own rules and regulations, and private insurance policies are all over the map. The good news is that payment for video visits is trending in the right direction. More than 30 states now have laws either on the books or in the pipeline that require private insurers to reimburse providers for video visits, often in parity with in-office encounters. Private insurers also recognize the value of telehealth and more are providing coverage even when the law does not require them to do so. Even Medicare and Medicaid are starting to rethink old regulations that created barriers to remote care.
Fortunately, practices don’t need to wait for all of the payers to get in line behind telemedicine. The best telehealth solutions for practices include reimbursement validation. When a video-visit is scheduled, the system automatically checks to see if the patient is eligible for a video visit. You can even find a solution that offers a reimbursement guarantee.
Technology Can Be Expensive and Intimidating
In the early days of telemedicine, video visits required expensive, specialized equipment that could only be used by people with extensive training. That’s why, the hub-and-spoke approach, which required patients to be at a medical office site, while their provider connected with another physician elsewhere, was developed.
The rise of the internet and mobile devices has changed all of that. Modern telemedicine applications are easy to install and use for providers and patients alike. Updates to the system are automatic, and it can be accessed any time from anywhere. It is critical, however, to choose an application that was developed for this purpose and makes efficient use of internet bandwidth, which can be limited in medical office buildings. It is also necessary to pick a provider that will provide technical support for your staff and patients. Finally, although there is an investment required, the cost isn’t likely as much as you think, and the price can be more than recovered with increased practice efficiency and revenue.
Continuity of Care is a Concern
When people think of telemedicine, they often jump to the online-only providers that have become so popular over the last few years. The concern with this type of care is that providers won’t have the personal insight that comes with consistent treatment by the same caregiver over time.
Patients in a practice that doesn’t offer telemedicine face a tradeoff between continuity of care and convenience. Providers risk losing revenue and patient relationships if patients opt for online care services, even part of the time. That’s why it makes sense for practices to integrate telemedicine. Patients can see their regular provider, remain loyal to the practice, and still enjoy the convenience of video visits. Providers retain that revenue and can offer the high-quality personalized care that comes only from long-term relationships.
Not every case is a good fit for telemedicine. However, there are plenty of situations that don’t require an in-office exam. Medication management, behavioral health, follow-up visits, test reviews, lifestyle coaching, and more are all safely and effectively provided remotely. Don’t let these obstacles get in the way of transforming and modernizing your practice. By learning more about the available technology and making a smart choice on which to implement, you can achieve better practice performance and enjoy happy, loyal patients.