During these uncertain times, there is one thing that is certain, and that is that your patients still need you. Although there are many restrictions around patients being in your office during the COVID-19 pandemic, the option of telehealth is becoming a ubiquitous solution for practices around the globe. If your practice has previously thought about offering this as a solution, but have not fully adopted it, now may be your time! Telehealth can certainly be a way to continue serving your patients during the pandemic, but can also be an ongoing service from which you may find a great deal of benefits in the future.
What is Telehealth?
You can almost think of the word telehealth as a math equation and determine the definition. Telecommunication + healthcare = telehealth! Essentially, telehealth is the use of various technologies like computers, tablets, and mobile phones to remotely provide access to a broad scope of healthcare services. This can include, but isn’t limited to, clinical services, training for your staff, internal meetings, education opportunities, assessments, and more. The idea is that you can still accomplish most things needed at your practice while not always being inside the practice itself.
Telehealth vs. Telemedicine
You may have seen these two terms used in the same context, but while they are quite similar, they’re not exactly the same. While telehealth covers a large spectrum of healthcare services as mentioned above, telemedicine is strictly referring to clinical services between the patient and the physician and/or practice. The AAFP does a great job of defining the difference between the two here!
What Are The Benefits of Telehealth?
You Can Keep Your Distance
First and foremost, now is a time in which distance is key. Because there is a “practice what you preach” mentality needed right now, telehealth is an easy way to show that things can still be accomplished despite distance. Although there will still be certain procedures that require patients to be in the office, telehealth is capable of accomplishing a lot in the realm of healthcare services. Look over your list of provided services and determine which ones you’re able to do remotely. Chances are, that list will be much larger than you initially anticipated! By doing so, you will be able to abide by distancing rules, flatten the curve, and take care of your patients during this challenging time.
You Can Still Provide Care
As a physician, your main focus, even during a pandemic, is to provide the best care possible to your patients. Because telehealth was not something available at all practices prior to COVID-19, there has been a bit of a reactive process to make telehealth readily available for some. The good news is that under the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, covered health care providers will not be subject to penalties for violations of HIPAA as it concerns telehealth. You can read more on this statement here. Keep in mind that this provision does not apply to other areas of healthcare outside of telehealth, so it is important to continue to abide by those laws. When looking for a telehealth solution, try your best to find something HIPAA compliant as it can certainly benefit you in the long run. However, keep in mind that there are solutions like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom available for use when necessary.
You Can Receive Reimbursements
Under the expansion of the telehealth waiver, Medicare can now pay for office visits via telehealth across the country. This expansion is offered to a range of providers, and is a large jump from the initial regulation that stated Medicare could only pay for telehealth on a very limited basis. This allows a great deal of flexibility for practices and hospitals as well as reimbursements for video visits and virtual care. In addition, a limited number of private insurance payers are offering reimbursements to healthcare providers for virtual visits. However, it’s important to open up this dialogue quickly as there’s no known end date for any reimbursements. While we can hope that it will reach beyond this pandemic, that could change.
You Can Expand Your Reach and Offerings
It’s important that you do NOT let yourself forget about marketing your practice at this time. While it certainly may seem like things have slowed down a great deal, healthcare is an industry in which that cannot happen for long. If you’ve been thinking about expanding your radius for patient acquisition, telehealth is a great way to do just that. Because of the virtual nature of the offerings, you’re able to see patients well outside your local area, allowing for you to market yourself in many different locations! Not to mention, by offering telehealth, you’re offering something that could be much more affordable for potential patients, which can be a deciding factor between you and a competitor.
You Can Build Your Reputation
Again, do not forget about your online marketing and brand. Although patient volume inside your practice may have slowed down, telehealth can bring a fresh new crop of patients to your practice, which can in turn help build your reputation. Because telehealth visits are mostly one-on-one appointments with the patient and the doctor, it allows for a time to build rapport, which can quickly lead to great reviews for your practice. Although Google has placed a few restrictions on reviews due to COVID, they are slowly allowing for new reviews by country, so being proactive is in your best interest here!
Learn More About Telehealth
While telehealth has been around for a while, we realize it’s a new process for some, so we’re here to help as much as we can! With experience handling and marketing through a great deal of third party solutions, we understand how to create strong resource centers on your site that can gain ranking in your area and create ease of use for patients. Contact us today to learn more about telehealth and start adding to your offerings!