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Best practice guide

Telehealth for direct-to-consumer care
For providers Best practice guides Telehealth for direct-to-consumer care

Getting started: Is direct-to-consumer telehealth right for your practice?

Direct-to-consumer, on-demand telemedicine has a lot to offer, but it’s not right for everyone. Incorporating it into your practice takes planning. It requires new ways of delivering care, but also introduces new technology, staff, and processes, as well as a new business model. Above all, you’ll want to ensure your patients have access to reliable internet services.

Integrating new direct-to-consumer services

  • Decide what kinds of services you’ll provide through direct-to-consumer telehealth. Define your current service gaps and the problems you want to solve. Some of the most common on-demand services include preventative care, filling prescriptions, follow-up care, monitoring chronic illness, and mental health.

  • Understand the community you serve. Determine what services your patients need. Make a plan to ensure your telehealth services are easily accessible by a diverse range of patients with different needs.

  • Determine your budget for new technology and customer support. Decide if you should use existing telehealth software or hire someone to create a customized platform. Determine if you have the financial resources to invest in ongoing maintenance and tech support — for example, hiring project coordinators to help get patients set up with telehealth technology, as well as IT specialists.

Exploring telehealth technology options

  • Get connected. Do your research and ensure broadband internet is available, affordable, and easily accessible in the community you plan to serve.

  • Weigh the benefits of outsourcing. Hospital systems and clinics often outsource direct-to-patient care. Partnering with private companies means the companies may provide telehealth software and even offer their own health care providers and customer service teams. Do your research to learn about telehealth vendors and familiarize yourself with service providers exit disclaimer icon . Decide how the pros and cons might impact your practice and your long-term goals.

Disclaimer: This information does not constitute an endorsement, certification, or recommendation of specific technology, software, applications, or products.

Tip: Because direct-to-patient care is sometimes provided by a third-party company that specializes in telehealth, it is important that treatment information is shared with the patient’s primary care physician. When possible, review files with the patient’s primary-care provider before and after telehealth visits.

Understanding telehealth laws and policies

  • Get familiar with state and local laws. Since you will be reaching a larger patient population than a traditional brick and mortar practice, there are different laws for telehealth services to keep in mind, including state licensure requirements. Understand the time and cost needed to stay compliant exit disclaimer icon  (video).

  • Research insurance reimbursement policies. Private insurance payers limit telehealth reimbursement to certain types of services or care. It is important to understand if the services you plan to offer are reimbursable, and if the reimbursement rates are enough to cover your costs. Insurance reimbursements can also take a long time to process, meaning you will need to have enough money set aside to cover your costs until you receive payment for your services. To get around these challenges, some private clinics or boutique direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies require out-of-pocket payments and do not accept insurance.

Many policies have changed to allow for broader telehealth reimbursement during the COVID-19 public health emergency, but these policies may change again, and coverage may end for certain direct-to-consumer telehealth services.

Last updated: February 25, 2021

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