Outpatient service utilization has dropped severely, all over the country. This has, obviously, negatively impacted practice incomes, and the predicted second wave of the pandemic could make things worse, in terms of patient footfalls. With the populace scared of stepping out of their homes, and seeing clinics and hospitals as high-risk places, outpatient service utilization is likely to be low for a long time.
One obvious solution to this is the adoption of telehealth – eVisits through video consultation platforms. It offers convenience and safety to both providers and patients and can supplement practice revenues without major expenditure.
Patients and doctors alike are adapting to virtual consultations at a rapid pace. Forrester research estimates that there will be one billion telehealth consultations by the end of 2020.
There are several advantages to the adoption of telehealth:
Convert time into income: Physician time (otherwise idle because of low patient footfall) can be utilized to generate revenue for the practice.
Treat dormant patients: Patients who fear coming to the practice and are neglecting their health will receive care remotely and safely. This keeps them in the practice, provides them needed care, and increases reimbursements. Patients can be sent information about the telehealth option by email, along with information about using it.
Monetize phone consultations: Doctors have always been advising their patients on the phone, without realizing any payment. With the adoption of a telehealth platform, these phone consultations can be monetized.
Consult from anywhere: Telehealth consultations do not tie doctors to the office. They can work from their office, their home, and even while traveling. Doctors can, thus, potentially consult more patients than they could within the fixed hours of their office or hospital.
Anywhere patients: Patients from anywhere in the country or the world can consult physicians through a telehealth platform.
Convenience increases consultations: Telehealth services free the patient from driving and parking expenses and hassle. Convenience always improves utilization of services. More patients are likely to consult for their problems and follow up consultations are likely to be increase because of the convenience.
With the convenience and time saving of consultation from their homes, more patients will keep their appointments, improving revenues for the practice. No-shows are a significant revenue loss for outpatient services.
A practice offering the convenience of telehealth can compete with walk-in clinics and urgent care centers, generating more revenue.
Additional staff not required: Adoption of telehealth does not require additional staff. Only some training is needed for existing staff. Indeed, if telehealth becomes a significant part of the practice, staff requirement might be reduced.
Reimbursed by insurance: Telehealth video consultations are reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers.
Several everyday communication technologies like Skype and Facetime allow for such communication but are not considered secure enough to safeguard the patient’s confidentiality and privacy. Two important Acts, HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) provide for regulation of these matters and penalties in case of lapses.
During the Covid-19 emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued temporary waivers for regulatory compliance and allowed the use of social media platforms.
However, for practices looking to establish telehealth services that win the confidence of patients, or for the long term, HIPAA and HITECH compliant platforms are essential. It is wiser to start off on the right foot by initiating telehealth services with a fully compliant platform.
Telehealth is going to be a major part of healthcare in future. Though the pandemic may slow down, physical patient visits may not return to pre pandemic levels for most practices. Adoption of a safer, more convenient option is essential to keep patients with the practice.
TeleClinic is a HITECH and HIPAA compliant telehealth platform. It’s easy to set up, secure, and allows near-effortless virtual patient visits. Patients can consult you from the safety and convenience of their own homes, making it attractive to them.
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