Telehealth: 5 Things You Need To Know

What is your vision for Telehealth? Do you understand and believe in its importance and validity in the industry today? Telehealth will drastically change the Healthcare industry over the coming decade. We all understand that fact.

But separating facts from the hype is important as your practice starts to evaluate how it can implement and utilize virtual telehealth visits successfully.

  1. Telehealth Will Eventually Affect Every Aspect Of Medicine

The number of patients using Telehealth services will increase to 7 million in 2018, up from less than 350,000 in 2013.

We know it is already impacting the landscape of urgent care, but telehealth is now finding its way into specialty care with successful uses in Dermatology, Psychiatry, Behavioral Health, Chronic Disease Management, and others. Even OBGYN practices are reducing the number of in-office visits for a pregnancy by using telehealth capabilities for remote checkups at home for low-risk patients. Additionally, we are now seeing more surgeons using telehealth capabilities to effectively prep patients for surgery with a brief virtual visit, via Tele-video.

The bottom line is that telehealth is really just your next virtual exam room in someone else’s home. It requires some outside-of-the-box thinking as you integrate it into your workflows, certainly. Consider how you will interact with your patients virtually, how the visit itself will flow, and the key takeaways that you must gain from the visit. The utilization and demand numbers point to a real desire from patients for the functionality and convenience, making telehealth a perfect marketing tool to push your practice even further.

  1. Fully Integrated Telehealth Options Are Available

The first telemedicine device, called the Teledactyl, was featured in Science and Invention magazine in 1925, but never made it beyond the concept stage.

90 years later, telehealth can be seamlessly integrated into your EHR platform. Practices and clinicians often face worry over the reliability of interfaces amongst multiple products, as those bridges are often the most likely place for a breakdown in data transfer to occur, but Azalea Health is a perfect example of how seamless EHR and telehealth capabilities can be.

Azalea Health is the first health IT company to successfully integrate telehealth functionality into its solution and provide innovative services to its users as a part of a complete interoperable cloud-based health IT
platform.

Our telehealth is not only fully integrated with our certified EHR, but also fully integrated with our patient portal, mobile apps and billing to facilitate patient engagement, care coordination and chronic care management reimbursement capitalization.

This additional functionality allows for increased physician-patient engagement through live streaming video calls via a secure, HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing platform. Azalea’s telehealth features allow direct media streaming, not only between care providers and their patients, but also between healthcare providers in other organizations. These features are accessible using a mobile/smart phone.

  1. Telehealth Reimbursements Are Growing Quickly

More than 400 pieces of telehealth regulation passed through federal committees for consideration in 2017.

The reimbursement process is quickly sorting itself out as more and more states pass legislation to enable faster reimbursements for telemedicine consults. Now is the time to ensure your hospital or practice has telehealth workflows in place, has embraced this new paradigm, and is working through the integration of virtual visits into your current business processes.

Currently, 48 states and Washington D.C. mandate that private payers cover telehealth visits as they do for in-office visits, but health plans will also negotiate policies with clinicians that cover telehealth if it can be demonstrated that the service improves clinical outcomes and reduces unnecessary spending.

Liz Miller, state president of WellCare of Florida, recommended to physicians during a panel at the American Telemedicine Association’s Telehealth 2.0 conference in late April 2017 that they be proactive in negotiating with payers, and submit their claims for telehealth services provided. “The insurers want to see that you want this,” she said. “They want to see that there is a demand for this from their members.”

  1. Virtual Visits Using Telehealth Technology Are Rapidly Gaining Acceptance By Patients

81% of consumers are open to non-traditional care delivery, according to a recent study by PWC Health.

Beyond the audio and visual capabilities available today, smart phones are evolving other capabilities that will enable seamless ways to get data from the patient, into their electronic health records. Telesurveillance devices will become commonplace in our homes over the next decade, just like the thermometer and scale.

As patient demand for more flexible, accessible care options continue to increase, so to does the openness to virtual care.

A recent survey conducted by American Well found that:

  • 1 in 5 patients would switch Primary Care Providers (PCPs) to one that offers telehealth.
  • Willingness to switch to a doctor that offers telehealth is highest among parents of children under age 18 and 35-44 year olds
  • 60% of consumers who are willing to have an online telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition.
  • 79% of consumers currently caring for an ill or aging relative say a multi-way video telehealth service would be helpful.
  1. Implementing A New Telehealth Workflow Can Absolutely Be A Viable Tool For Both Cost Savings And Bottom Line Growth

After telehealth services were implemented by the V.A. post-cardiac arrest care program, readmissions decreased by 51% for heart failure and 44% for other illnesses.

Like any new tool, telehealth will require your practice to adjust workflows and processes in order to seamlessly integrate virtual visits. Workflow matters to optimize success.

Look for ways to reduce steps, remove confusion, and provide ways to make the patient satisfied with the experience but also do the same for your staff who must schedule and bill for virtual visits. Development of telehealth procedural guidelines for introducing patients to the process, ingraining the step-by-step workflows for staff, and creation of standard protocols for claim submission are critical to long-term success.

With patience and practice, many facilities are reporting successes like that of the VA above – reduced readmissions or in-office visits, newfound revenue opportunities and increased chronic care management (CCM) reimbursement, enhanced patient experience and satisfaction rates, and more. Additionally, many clinicians have found ways to successfully utilize telehealth to not only better reach their current patient bases where they WANT to be reached, but to also market to new patients as well, seeking these types of available amenities from a provider.

To learn more about how to optimize your practice’s workflows around telehealth implementation…whether for understanding successful telehealth uses case examples, better understanding the virtual visit patient intake process, assistance in documenting a virtual visit or how to maximize telehealth consult reimbursement, contact us.

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