3 Ways Health Care Providers Can Sustain a Telehealth Practice
The COVID-19 pandemic created an increased demand for telehealth services as it quickly became critical for health care providers to deliver care remotely, safely, and conveniently.
To help sustain and improve patient care through telehealth, providers have to stay on top of the changing landscape. Telehealth.HHS.gov is a resource that contains the latest information providers need, all in one place. Here are three ways practices can improve their telehealth operations and maintain effective and efficient levels of service for patients.
1. Plan long-term telehealth workflow
The process for setting up and managing patient visits may need to shift to accommodate a growing number of telehealth appointments. Begin with a few key considerations to save time and frustration.
Before telehealth visits
- Train your health care team on how to deliver telehealth services.
- Identify your practices’ availability for telehealth appointments.
- Determine how patients schedule telehealth appointments.
- Establish how your health care team will access patient information for each visit.
- Consider the support you’ll need to provide to patients with limited English proficiency, those living with disabilities such as hearing loss or visual impairment, and caregivers or other persons who need to assist a patient during the telehealth visit.
During telehealth visits
- Verify the patient’s equipment is working and discuss what to do in case of connectivity disruption.
- Confirm the patient’s identity and location.
- Create a patient crisis plan in case of emergencies.
- Ask if the patient has the privacy they need.
- Keep the visit as much like an in-person visit as possible using friendly body language and eye contact.
After the visit, make sure to document the visit as a telehealth appointment and provide patients instructions for follow up.
2. Stay on top of changing telehealth reimbursement and billing
Reimbursements for telehealth continue to evolve. During the pandemic, the federal government, state Medicaid programs, and private insurers expanded coverage for virtual health care services, including:
- HIPAA flexibility for telehealth technology: Providers have more flexibility to use everyday technology for virtual visits during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Medicare and Medicaid policies: Federal COVID-19 waivers and regulatory changes now make it easier for providers to deliver telehealth services to Medicare and Medicaid patients.
- Telehealth licensing requirements and interstate compacts: Providers can deliver telehealth services across state lines, depending on rules set by state and federal policies.
- Prescribing controlled substances: During the COVID-19 public health emergency, authorized providers can prescribe controlled substances via telehealth, without the need for an in-person medical evaluation.
3. Engage patients in telehealth
The transition to telehealth is an adjustment for patients, as well as for health care providers. Preparing patients for remote medical care will help ensure a successful and meaningful visit.
- Let patients know about the availability of telehealth services and help them address potential challenges so they have equitable access to care.
- Help patients to better understand what telehealth is, the benefits of virtual health care, and how to schedule a telehealth appointment.
- Obtain an official informed consent form from the patient once they decide to make a telehealth appointment.
- Consider some patients may need assistance setting up telehealth technology.
- Provide tips for how patients can prepare for their telehealth appointment.