The Benefits of Telehealth in Today’s Times
The COVID-19 crisis has normalized the practice of virtual medicine. While these tools have been in use for decades, regulatory and financial hurdles, along with doctor reluctance, kept telemedicine from becoming more popular. The pandemic, and the importance of social distancing, increased the practical need for remote care. Telehealth models seemed perfect for treating patients without exposing them to the virus. At the same time, CMS lifted restrictions on telehealth and required parity with traditional visit reimbursement.
With these trends, telehealth encounters are predicted to soar to more than one billion this year. This article will break out the two financial and two safety benefits of implementing telehealth processes in your practice.
Supplementing For No-Shows
Besides the obvious of reduced wait times from an average of 24.1 days to almost no wait time, telemedicine can also be a revenue generator by replacing no-show appointments. In normal times, most practices will average a 5 to 7% no-show rate. If we take the average co-pay is $30 and the reimbursement is $100, just one no-show a day could cost an average price of $32,000! And remember, this is in normal times. With the threat of the virus still looming, we anticipate the average no-show rate to increase in the fall. Now more than ever, practices need to slip in telemedicine visits throughout the day to supplement any holes in the schedule caused by no-shows—a win/win for the practice and the patient.
Safety Benefits of Implementing Telehealth
During COVID-19, telemedicine was the unspoken hero of the battle against the virus. As patients were ordered to stay home, doctors quickly seized on telemedicine at a tool that could keep their patients at a social distance. The safety benefits of using the virtual video chat over traditional office visits are clear.
First, telehealth is used to triage patients, keeping them out of the waiting rooms and in quarantine in their homes. A doctor can diagnose symptoms and evaluate the patient. Since COVID-19 presents with respiratory illness, a doctor can listen and observe the patient on a video screen and decide about when or if the patient needs to go to the hospital. They can do this in a way that keeps the patients from infecting others, including clinical staff. But there is another benefit of telemedicine.
There is an increasing number of chronically ill Americans regularly receiving care at our nation’s primary and specialty care practices. These patients can receive routine monitoring through telehealth without requiring them to go to a practice and potentially expose themselves to illness.
How Long Will This Trend Last?
That’s hard to predict. The states and insurance companies have not come to a long-term agreement on what will be covered and at what the reimbursement rate for Telehealth will ultimately be. If rates are slashed for telehealth next year you will need to assess how much in person versus Tele is appropriate for a practice. Telehealth is definitely here to stay, virtually all facilities will use it in some form. The question remains; will Telehealth get equal pay reimbursement longer-term? This is still being argued in congress. No one knows definitively so it is important to stay informed. Till then, each practice has to pivot and stay financial solvent by putting telehealth measures into action.