With stay-at-home orders around the country, many practices have closed their doors to in-person visits and turned to telehealth to treat their low-risk patients, triage sick patients, and keep schedules full. But what happens after the pandemic when business operations resume? eMDs believes telehealth should become a permanent service for your practice. Telehealth can play a key role in maintaining your revenue flow as you ramp back up in-person visits and generate revenue post-ramp up. Additionally, patients that are now used to working with physicians remotely will also demand it as a continued service. It’s fast, easy, and convenient. Dr. Colin Banas, Vice President, Clinical Product Solutions at DrFirst said it best during a recent webinar: “Telehealth will soon lose the ’tele’ prefix and become known simply as healthcare.”
Your practice needs to know what they can use telehealth for and operational best practices to implement it as a long-term solution.
How to Permanently Leverage Telehealth
Once your practice can begin to take office visits again, you can still use telehealth. Not every visit requires the patient to be in the office. Turning them to telemedicine visits can save your practice and your patient time. For example, if your patient is on a new medication/dosage and you’d like to check in with them to see how they’re adjusting, you can save time by using telehealth. You will have one less room to turn over after a short visit and you save your patient travel time, as well as wait in the office. Happier patients are more likely to refer you to other potential patients as well as work with you to remain consistent in their healthcare planning.
Chronic care patients are another example of how you can leverage telehealth. Checking in with your chronic care patients for 20 minutes a month can net a $51.23 reimbursement on average, with longer visits netting even more. These can be broken down into 5-minute check-ins per week with those patients managing long-term prognoses. Using remote monitoring with items such as continuous glucose monitors (CGM), your practice can leverage a check-in telehealth visit to ensure your patient is keeping up with their treatment plan and that no adjustments need to be made.
Telehealth Operational Best Practices
While practices will differ in how they leverage telehealth, there are a few best practices to follow to help you use the tool in your everyday work.
One common concern is keeping up to date with patients’ insurance. This is something that can be easily incorporated into the appointment booking process. While on the phone with the patient, adding in a few short questions can put your practice in the position to bill quickly after time of service. Asking about insurance and ensuring they haven’t changed providers since the time of last visit is a quick way to begin the eligibility process. Some practices will allow patients to offer new insurance information prior to their telehealth visit while others will require an in-person visit to update this information. Putting rules in place for this situation will allow your practice’s telehealth visits to run smoothly at time of service and afterwards to be reimbursed.
Your practice may be worried about how to fit telehealth appointments into your practice’s schedule. The best way to do this is to block out sections of time for these appointments. For your practice, this may look like taking an hour out of the day to check on your chronic care patients. It could mean sections of certain days are blocked for follow up visits that don’t require coming into the office or your practice may decide to offer after hours appointments. Assessing the needs of your practice, as well as the needs of your patients, will inform what will work best for you.
Telehealth has the potential to be an incredibly helpful tool for your practice after the pandemic. Taking the time to assess your practice’s needs will make long-term implementation easier.