So what is it?
Telemedicine and telehealth are considered synonymous. They are used interchangeably to essentially describe the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.
As for the definition that really matters, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) define it as “a two-way, real- time interactive communication between a patient and a physician or practitioner at a distant site through telecommunications equipment that includes, at a minimum, audio and visual equipment.”
What does this mean?
This means that patients no longer have to physically show up at an office to receive care! They can receive care from the comfort of their home. Originally telehealth services were growing at a slow rate due to Medicare’s very narrow coverage for these services. As of 2019 this is no longer the case, CMS has not only added more codes to account for a multitude of telehealth services, but they also removed the “originating site geographic requirement for telehealth services targeting treatment of substance use disorder or a co-occurring mental health disorder” While this was removed mostly to aid in combating the opioid crisis, it can realistically double the volume of individuals who receive care via telemedicine in the behavioral health field! With CMS making these changes to allow for easier patient care and coverage through telehealth, it’s only a matter of time before other insurance companies jump on board. (If they haven’t already)
Giving Telehealth some serious thought now? Here are some Pros and Cons of offering Telehealth services.
- Convenient and accessible healthcare for patients - It allows patients who live remotely, are homebound, have contagious illnesses, or simply can’t take off work to access care from virtually anywhere.
- Healthcare cost savings - Remote analysis, monitoring services, and electronic data storage significantly reduced healthcare costs for providers, patients, and insurance companies.
- Extended Specialist or Referring physician Access - Providers would be able to refer patients to the specialist they need, regardless of location. This also means that providers will have access to treating patients from a larger geographical area.
- Increased patient engagement and quality of care - When patients know how to easily reach out to their physician, they are more likely to become attentive to issues they are having rather than disregarding it due to not having enough time to go in for an appointment.
- Technical Training and Equipment - In order to effectively implement telehealth in your practice, your staff needs to be trained correctly in order to ensure maximum return on investment. If this is done properly, the cost of implementing it will be minimal. This can also lead to a decrease in staff.
- Medical Record Access - On demand telehealth services, where patients can be connected to a random telehealth provider, is only great if there is an effective EHR system in place for providers to access all of the patient’s records.
- Fewer In-Patient Consultations - In some instances, it is best to treat someone in person.
- Internet Connections - The real time audio and visual requirement means that there will have to be a strong internet connection to communicate effectively.
- Policy and Regulation Rules - Healthcare laws, reimbursement policies, and privacy regulations have struggled to keep up with the increasing demand of telemedicine services. The change in Medicare has been a huge step in the right direction.
The list of ‘cons’ related to telehealth can easily be avoided if telehealth is executed properly, which is why so many providers are beginning to integrate this into their practice.
To be very clear, telehealth is NOT something any provider can do simply by downloading a platform like skype.
There are specific platforms that need to be used in order to properly treat patients via telehealth, AND you need to become accredited to do so through ATA-CHQI. These telehealth platforms used to be costly for private practices, but that is no longer the case. More affordable solutions for individual practitioners are becoming available to purchase, and large enterprise telehealth services run by payers and health systems are offering options that bring the telehealth capabilities into the hands of all the affiliated individual practitioners.
As patients begin to realize how much easier it is to be treated via telehealth, it will only be a matter of time before they are specifically seeking providers that offer these services. Early adopters/providers will have the ability to completely redefine their revenue stream as telehealth gains popularity among patients.
Interested in learning more about telehealth?
Start by clicking here to visit the American Telemedicine Association and learn how to become an accredited telehealth provider! I also recommend checking out the links below for more information.
Stay tuned for next months blog where we will continue to provide more information on telehealth or contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
McLaughlin, George. “Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring Trends 2019.” Redox, Redox, 27 Feb. 2019, www.redoxengine.com/blog/telemedicine-remote-patient-monitoring-demand-2019/.
Bennett, Jay Holder. “Integrating Telehealth into Existing Practice.” American Well, American Well, 27 Sept. 2018, www.americanwell.com/integrating-telehealth-into-existing-practice/.
“Telemedicine Benefits and Disadvantages, Telemedicine Pros and Cons.” Revisit, EVisit, 25 May 2018, evisit.com/resources/10-pros-and-cons-of-telemedicine/.