Telehealth services bring health care to more patients, including those in remote locations with limited providers, those with transportation or related travel limitations, and those wishing to avoid waiting room risks and inconveniences. Just as telehealth services allow more patients access to care they need, telehealth also allows more providers greater access to their patients. Even small practices can easily take advantage of telehealth benefits. Follow the steps below to get started on providing virtual care in your small practice.
Planning for Telehealth: Identify Your Practice’s Goals
Telehealth services offer many clinical and non-clinical benefits and include multiple options for delivery. Before you implement telehealth services, you must determine which ones will best serve your patients and your practice.
Incorporate Staff and Patient Input
Identify your practice’s gaps in care. Review patients’ health outcomes, note any disruptions in continuity of care, and assess compliance with orders and chronic health management. Engage staff in discussions about where they encounter pain points in operations, such as processes where the practice loses efficiency, frequency of missed appointments, or revenue loss. Survey patients to highlight areas where their satisfaction is low.
Prioritize Identified Issues
After brainstorming the list of issues, prioritize and determine which most likely can be addressed by telehealth services. For example, telehealth can help patients overcome challenges in keeping in-person appointments due to socioeconomic or geographic barriers.
Preparing for Telehealth: Assess Legal and Financial Limitations
When planning for the provision of telehealth services at your practice, consider what restrictions might exist on a regulatory level or with reimbursement practices. Knowing the parameters in place will guide your decisions and your preparation. Note that in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, many agencies and insurance plans relaxed requirements temporarily.
Review Regulatory Requirements
Become aware of your state laws and state Medicaid reimbursement policies. Review any applicable state medical board guidelines. If your practice serves Medicare patients, then be sure to know the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ regulations that relate to the provision of telehealth.
Learn About Payers’ Reimbursement Policies
Reimbursement for services provided virtually is not uniform across payers. Learn what services your contracted insurance plans cover and what requirements they have for credentialing, coding, and claim completion.
Implementing Telehealth: Choose Technology
You will need to decide which telemedicine service model best meets your patient needs and practice goals. Then you must choose which digital technologies support that service model and select a vendor to partner with. Keep in mind data security and HIPAA compliance obligations.
Service Model Examples
- Interactive Medicine: Patients and physicians communicate in real-time. You could provide direct care for your practice’s patients using face-to-face video conferencing to connect to the patient’s home. If you are a specialist, you might choose to provide consultation to other practitioners. Or, you could contract with a company to offer consultations or new patients.
- Store and Forward: Share patient information electronically with a practitioner in another location for evaluation or to render a service outside of real-time.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Monitor patients at home by using mobile medical devices to collect data.
Digital Technology Options
Select the equipment and digital technology for your chosen delivery mode. Your small practice can get started with a basic HIPAA-compliant videoconference software and video equipment or a cloud-based technology solution like Carie.
Implementing Telehealth: Integrate into Practice
Develop a workflow to address daily logistics, such as appointment scheduling, and how to incorporate telehealth services into your practice with the least amount of challenges and to ensure your workflow accommodates both patient and provider preferences.
- You will need to support your providers and patients when they start using the technology.
- Outreach to patients to inform them about your available telehealth services.
- Monitor the program and gather feedback to assess areas for improvement.
A telehealth program can be complex and require significant investments of time and money, as well as advanced technical skills. But telehealth services also can be simple and affordable, with no need for special equipment. Get started easily and for free on the Carie platform, a HIPAA-compliant virtual care platform that allows patients to connect with you from any computer, tablet, or mobile device with an internet connection.