Due to the urgency to expand the use of technology to help patients who need routine care, and to keep vulnerable patients in their homes while maintaining access to the care they need, CMS broadened access to telemedicine services effective March 1, 2020.
CMS and certain private payers have lifted the telemedicine restrictions during the pandemic and are paying the same rates for virtual care as in-person care. Though this waiver is only valid through the duration of the current pandemic, this change is expected to drive a large number of healthcare organizations to move forward with their telemedicine initiatives. The change from in-person to virtual medical care model for certain patient services is expected to be permanent thus resulting in expanded revenue generating possibilities.
The key question you need to ask then is whether your organization is ready and able to move forward with the telemedicine reimbursement model. We believe that if you are located in a diverse demographic area, especially with technologically savvy as well as geriatric patient population, then you can leverage telemedicine platform for video and phone visit documentation to its full capacity.
There are many regions in our nation where the patients face logistical challenges in traveling to see their provider either at a practice or a hospital. With access to high-speed internet and the electronic devices necessary to perform video and phone visits, the telemedicine approach is becoming popular with patients due to its many advantages.
Some patients who need the care of a specialist must drive long distances and invest a lot of time for each visit. Telemedicine makes it possible for patients and their primary care physicians to leverage the expertise of specialists who are not nearby.
Telemedicine can not only help generate higher revenue through increased patient base but also help serve the local communities more effectively. It enhances the ability to get secondary services to patients such as testing, imaging and other ancillary services. With new advancements in imaging and optics technology, providers can avail the latest technological tools for differential diagnosis via telemedicine visits. Some of the specialty specific examples of telemedicine services are listed below:
High-definition video based telemedicine makes it possible to diagnose and treat many skin problems remotely.
Treatment of endocrine conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease requires frequent adjustments to hormones and medications. Telemedicine reduces the burden on patients and increases the likelihood of consistent follow-up.
Patients with chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, and colitis require close supervision making telemedicine an ideal choice for monitoring and disease management.
Using telemedicine nephrologists can develop care-at-home plans for patients who have been through kidney replacement surgery and those with kidney disease.
Telemedicine can help evaluate neurological signs for mental health related issues very effectively.
Telehealth is an excellent way to monitor the mental health of patients, adjust medications, and conduct cognitive behavioral therapy.
The flexibility of place of service also enhances the providers ability to see patients at location of their choice and provide services to patients during off business hours. For instance, mobile labs and imaging stations can be easily transported into communities where organizations can provide those services and expand to meet the specific needs of the local communities.
The new model can also include hospital-at-home where an organization can provide inpatient services in limited ways for patients at home. By managing an uncomplicated patient disease without bringing the patient to the hospital, the healthcare delivery model is expected to shift out of the brick-and-mortar set-up to a large extent.
In conclusion, the current pandemic situation will cause telemedicine and remote technology to evolve more aggressively lending itself to expansion of services resulting in better patient care and higher reimbursement.