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Telemedicine for Sports Medicine

Telemedicine is gaining popularity in a number of medical specialties because it is an efficient and cost-saving method of providing care. It is particularly well suited for sports medicine, facilitating the diagnoses, treatment and prevention of sports related injuries both on and off the field.

Telehealth in Sports Medicine

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Game Time Assessment

When an athlete is injured during a game, or when a concussion is suspected, it is important that they get an immediate, accurate assessment and that a smart treatment plan is implemented. Telemedicine makes it possible for sports medicine specialists to assess the severity of an injury without being present on the sidelines.

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Training Support

Sports medicine specialists provide support during training periods by offering nutritional advice, devising workout regimes, and answering the patient’s health questions. Telemedicine technology makes it possible to provide, and be reimbursed for this support without requiring frequent visits to the office.

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Rehabilitation

Many sports related injuries require a period of rehabilitation before the patient is fully recovered. Conducting visits via video makes it easier on patients who may have limited mobility. Doctors can monitor the progress of rehabilitation, and ensure that patients are following through with physical therapy or other instructions.

How is telemedicine used in sports medicine?

Making the right call for student athletes

Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether an injury should prevent a student athlete from returning to the game. Telemedicine makes it possible to take that decision out of the coach’s hands and put it into the hands of a trained medical professional.

 

Reducing the number of ER visits

It can be difficult for athletes, coaches and parents to determine if an injury requires immediate medical attention in the emergency room, or if a later follow-up will be sufficient. By leveraging the knowledge of sports medicine doctors via video, unnecessary trips to the ER can be avoided.

 

Treating traveling athletes

When someone is injured during an away game, they can miss out on the continuity of care that comes from seeing the same sports medicine doctor regularly. Telemedicine enables the patient’s doctor to travel with them without actually hitting the road. (Regulations and policies about treating patients who are not in the same state as the provider vary.)

 

Post injury follow-up and therapy

The healing process for a sports related injury can take weeks or months. Patient outcomes are improved when the provider and athlete work closely together to follow a rehabilitation plan that may include medications, rest, physical therapy and a slow return to normal activities. Conducting all or some of these visits via video is ideal for patients who can’t drive due to their injury or otherwise have limited mobility.

The benefits of telemedicine for sports medicine patients

Expertise When You Need It

It is not practical for most school or recreation leagues to have a physician present at every game or practice. However, it is precisely during these times that someone is likely to become injured. The great advantage of telehealth technology is that an on-call sports medicine specialist is only a few clicks away.

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Peace of mind

Can an injured player return to the game after sitting out for a few plays? Is ice and rest the right way to go, or does a potentially broken bone require emergency x-rays? Could this be a concussion? These are all questions best answered by a sports medicine specialist.

No-hassle recovery

The process of healing can be as painful as the injury itself. Fortunately, telemedicine eliminates the cost, hassle and wasted time of in-person visits. You can keep in close contact with your physician, follow through with instructions, and have your medications managed properly without spending any time in the waiting room.

FAQs about telemedicine in sports medicine

Using secure, two-way video and audio communications allows sports medicine providers to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients no matter where they are. Whether it’s being virtually available on the sidelines, or overseeing a long rehabilitation process, providers can be very involved in the care of athletes without requiring frequent office visits. The approach also allows providers to expand the geography of their market, supporting patients who may not live near a sports medicine specialist, or who travel to events.

Yes. Programs for this type of remote diagnosis have been in place for years with excellent results. While some injuries require and immediate, in-person assessment, many can be safely assessed using high-definition audio and video.

Telemedicine reimbursement mandates are determined on a state-by-state basis. Anyone who practices in one of the 26 states that mandates private payer reimbursement will be reimbursed at the same level as an in-person office visit. (Check our state map to see if you live in a state with a parity law.)

Absolutely! Telemedicine is required to be secure and completely HIPAA-compliant. Fortunately, solutions like Chiron Health are designed to meet tough HIPAA standards for privacy and security.

Unfortunately, it depends. Regulations depend on the state the patient is in. Many simply require that a prior relationship has been established, while others allow the practice only in emergency situations. Because these regulations are changing rapidly to keep up with emerging technology, it is best to check the regulations of each involved state frequently. Many organizations are working to eliminate the patchwork of regulations to make it easier for doctors to treat patients wherever they happen to be.

Finding the right telemedicine software for your practice

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Real-time audio and video

The most widely used form of telemedicine is real-time audio and video. This is also a requirement for reimbursement in most states. Additionally, the video software should reflect the same quality as in-person interactions. Avoid anything that freezes frequently or provides only blurry/choppy video.

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Fully HIPAA-compliant

Telehealth products must be secure and HIPAA-compliant and fully encrypted. Because sensitive patient information is being exchanged, services like Skype and FaceTime should never be used to see patients.

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Appointment logs

For record-keeping purposes and in the unlikely event an audit is requested, telemedicine software needs to provide a record of every interaction, including patient, payer and provider details.

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Patient eligibility checks

Even in states where private-payer reimbursement is mandated, certain plans will be exempt. By finding a telemedicine product that offers telemedicine specific eligibility checks, reimbursement complications are minimized.

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EHR integration

With all of the software sports medicine providers are being asked to use, make sure a prospective telemedicine platform integrates directly with your EHR. This makes workflows easier on doctors and staff.

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Legal and compliance support

The type of care that can be provided via telemedicine is highly regulated on a state-by-state basis. In order to ensure adherence to legal regulations and best practices, choose a telemedicine platform that offers compliance support for its clients.

See how telemedicine is transforming sports medicine

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