Author: Dana Jacoby
Over the last few years, telehealth services for patients have grown even more prevalent in practices of all sizes. Early this year, Forbes predicted that telehealth will continue to play an important role in the services that patients look for in a healthcare practice, regardless of specialty. But implementing telehealth effectively and understanding the advantages of using telehealth for patients can be difficult, and too often, practices make costly mistakes.
Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about how to make telehealth work for your practice.
How to Make Telehealth Work for “High-Touch” Services
Needless to say, it’s hard to conceptualize how telehealth works effectively for such high-touch services as prostate or cervical exams, yearly physicals, or other patient procedures which require a hands-on approach by nature. Even if your practice doesn’t provide too many of these kinds of procedures, research has shown that there are many benefits of meeting with patients in person, especially seniors. So how can your practice make telehealth work with ‘high-touch” services in mind?
While there is no real way (yet) to conduct certain procedures using telemedicine, there are ways to smartly utilize telehealth in the check-in and follow-up stages of such a procedure as a prostate exam. Though of course, the prostate exam itself will require your patient to come in for a physical examination by their doctor, the nurses and care staff can build in telehealth check-ups to increase the level of engagement your patients have with your practice. In this way, technology such as telehealth can actually create more touchpoints with patients and improve their overall healthcare experience.
When to Use Telehealth (and Mistakes to Avoid)
In many cases, providing telehealth services for patients can afford your doctors and medical staff a glimpse into their patients’ lives to which they otherwise might not have access. Telehealth appointments are arguably convenient for your patients, as well. But there are telehealth mistakes to avoid, especially when it comes to protecting your staff’s time, keeping your services accessible to all types of patients, and more internal factors, like handling reimbursements and making sure your staff is trained on the right telehealth technology.
Here are a few common telehealth mistakes to avoid when building it into your practice, and a few suggestions for how to avoid them.
- Rushing into offering telehealth. Be sure to fully consider telehealth software before blindly implementing it—rushing into offering telehealth before your practice is ready can result in gaps in staff knowledge, barriers to patient access, workflow confusion, and at worst, legal issues. Take time to research different telehealth platforms—if you need assistance, consult a healthcare operations advisor, like the ones here at Vector Medical Services.
- Substituting telehealth appointments for in-person appointments without consideration. There are some procedures that require in-person visits. A terrible mistake practices can make is to offer telehealth appointments to patients without building in a screening process for which kind of appointment they’ll need. The last thing you want is for patients to book telehealth appointments when they require in-person care—at best, it can create a headache for your administrative staff; at worst, it can endanger your patients.
- Assuming telehealth reimbursement will look the same as in-person reimbursement. While reimbursement policies for telehealth services are getting easier to deal with, it would be a mistake not to double-check that each patient is eligible for telehealth reimbursement. Many practices leave a lot of money on the table without even realizing it. A good way to keep on top of telehealth reimbursements is to invest in a reimbursement software.
- Forgetting to let your patients know about your telehealth services. These days, many patients—and prospective new patients—prefer telehealth appointments to in-person appointments, or at least some combination thereof. If your practice does not advertise these telehealth services, you could be losing out on business from patients who are specifically looking for telehealth services.
Can Telehealth Cross State Lines?
A big question these days surrounding telehealth is whether or not telehealth can cross state lines. In other words, can a patient who lives in Colorado have a telehealth visit with a doctor or practice in California? Can someone in Florida make an appointment with a doctor’s office in Oregon? For large-platform practices, these questions about telehealth and remote healthcare are top-of-mind. Managing telehealth across state lines requires a keen eye for the legal ramifications of such a choice, but it can be done. In most cases, practices can offer telehealth across state lines, but it’s important to check on the constantly evolving licensures needed by each state before doing so.
It can be difficult to determine when to use telehealth for your practice, but now more than ever, the advantage of using telehealth for patients is undeniable. Our healthcare operations advisors at Vector Medical Group can help you decide on a telehealth plan for your practice. Book a 15-minute consultation with one of our friendly, knowledgeable experts today.