In most states, therapists are not required to have a prior in-office relationship with a patient before beginning treatment. This makes video visits a suitable option for initial patient assessment and treatment plan development.
Multiple studies have shown that video visits are an effective way to provide individual therapy in a variety of specialties. Patients get the one-on-one attention they need, and providers can use their time most effectively.
Whether a patient receives intensive treatment in-office or via video, telemedicine provides a convenient and cost-effective alternative for follow up visits, allowing the patient and therapist to remain connected as long as clinically indicated.
Telehealth is an effective way to monitor the mental health of patients, adjust medications, and conduct cognitive behavioral therapy. Video visits can be effective for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, as well as for couple and family counseling. The approach is also used for addiction counseling, grief therapy, and anger management. Psychiatrists and other physicians are able to prescribe and manage medications without the need for in-office appointments.
Telemedicine makes it easy for physical therapy professionals to offer flexible care for their patients from anywhere, reducing missed appointments and promoting successful completion of physical therapy treatment plans. Therapists can check patient progress, address issues, and assist with exercises and other treatments. The approach maximizes efficient use of time for providers and patients alike.
Speech therapy requires one-on-one, personal interaction between the therapist and patient. Telemedicine using high-quality audio and video offers a welcome alternative to numerous in-office visits. It has been proven effective in treating patients at home as well as in school settings. The convenience of video visits increases the likelihood that patients will stick with their treatment plan and achieve the desired outcomes for therapy.
Occupational therapists and their clients are perfectly positioned to benefit from the use of telehealth technologies to deliver health and wellness, habilitation, and rehabilitation services across multiple practice settings. Occupational therapy practitioners are using telehealth as a service delivery model to assist clients with developing skills, incorporating assistive technology and adaptive techniques, modifying work, home, or school environments, and creating health-promoting habits and routines.
Respiratory therapists are increasingly turning to telemedicine to educate patients about their disease, teach self-management skills, counsel patients on how to recognize the symptoms and triggers of their illness in order to minimize acute exacerbations, demonstrate proper inhaler techniques to improve medication adherence and provide smoking cessation counseling. School-based programs are also being developed to provide asthma education to children.
Missed appointments, failure to adhere to treatment plans and infrequent visits all contribute to sub-optimal outcomes for therapy patients. Video visits make it easier for patients to stay engaged in their treatment, receive regular care, and follow-up as instructed.
Video visits take less time than in-person ones and eliminate many time-consuming administrative tasks. This lets therapists spend more time with patients or see more patients each day. These efficiency gains can increase practice revenue without any additional administrative overhead.
Because therapy visits tend to be more lengthy than typical medical visits, no-shows and last minute cancellations are a serious problem for therapists. Video visits eliminate many of the issues such as trouble getting time off of work, transportation problems, and child care availability that cause no-shows in the first place.
The ability to see patients from anywhere also gives providers a great deal of flexibility. You can work from home or extend hours into the evenings or weekends, improving work/life balance.
Survey after survey shows that therapy patients are happy with the telemedicine experience. In fact, patients are increasingly using the availability of telemedicine as a deciding factor when selecting healthcare providers of all types.
By eliminating barriers to care, video visits improve patient outcomes. Patients can receive the consistent care which is so vital to the therapeutic process.
Telemedicine eliminates proximity as a factor for patients choosing a provider, expanding the number of options significantly, especially for people in rural or underserved areas.
In addition, the option of telemedicine makes it possible for patients to maintain relationships with therapists even if they move or you do.
Will my patients feel they’re receiving the same quality of care via telemedicine as they do in the office?
Studies show that 97% of patients who are seen remotely by their provider feel they receive the same quality of care as an in-person visit. Additional research has validated the effectiveness of telemedicine. For example, one group of researchers followed 241 depressed elderly veterans, some of whom received treatment via telemedicine, while others received in-person care. At the end of one year, there was no meaningful difference in symptom relief or satisfaction between the two groups.
Even patients who are not technically savvy find telemedicine simple. Basically, anyone with a smartphone or computer and is willing to receive remote care is qualified.
Each state decides if they want to mandate reimbursement for telemedicine visits. If you’re among the 30 states that do mandate it, you’ll be reimbursed at the same level as an in-office visit. (Check our state map to see if you live in a state with a parity law.)
In addition, many insurers recognize the value of telemedicine and will reimburse for video visits even if the state does not require them to do so.
Because patient information is being exchanged, telemedicine software is required to be HIPAA-compliant. To find out more about purchasing telemedicine software, reference the next section, “Finding the best telemedicine software.”
The two terms are essentially the same as far as therapists and other practitioners are concerned. Certain states differentiate between the two in the legislation, but the distinctions don’t influence the regulations around practicing telemedicine or telehealth.
Here’s what to look for if you’re shopping for a telehealth solution
In order to be reimbursed for telehealth services, the remote interaction must contain real-time audio and video. Additionally, the video quality should reflect that of an in-person interaction and avoid frequent freezes or choppiness.
Because sensitive patient information is being exchanged, any telehealth software you decide to purchase must be secure and HIPAA-compliant. Skype and FaceTime, for example, are unsecure video conferencing platforms and should therefore never be used for patient appointments.
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.
Even if telemedicine reimbursement is mandated by a state, certain insurance plans may still be exempt. Selecting telemedicine software that performs eligibility checks is a great way to lessen the burden on office staff.
The best way to ensure telemedicine software adoption will be simple for you and your staff is to find a product that integrates directly with your existing EHR.
Every state has specific regulations surrounding the practice of telemedicine. By finding a product that offers compliance support, doctors don’t have to worry about researching their state’s telehealth regulations.