Protecting Patients’ Access to Care and Coverage With Telehealth
Telehealth has changed the face of the healthcare market. Through the use of electronic communication and information technologies, providers and organizations can deliver medical care from any distance — including halfway around the world if necessary. Solutions like virtual visits, remote monitoring, and real-time medical information exchange are opening doors for patients by improving access to care.
How to Add More Telehealth Options Into Your Mix
As a provider, you should leverage telehealth for many reasons. Perhaps you want to learn how to improve rural healthcare for those patients you currently cannot reach. Maybe you’re tired of non-compliance and missed appointments due to limited patient transportation. No matter why you want to offer your patients and clinicians more telehealth advantages, the following strategies can help.
1. Make sure you provide sufficient telehealth training and resources.
If you expect your population of stakeholders to support and use telehealth, you need to educate them on the process. Without training and resources, healthcare providers (and patients!) may not be able to use telemedicine technologies effectively. Conversely, the more your providers know about their telehealth choices, the more high-quality remote care they can provide.
An example of training would be an in-person or online course about using specific telemedicine platforms and tools as well as the expected workflow around a virtual visit. Plan to follow up on any training once the staff has had time to utilize the technology or new hires are made. Or, create an accessible web-based library of videos, “best practices” documents, and other educational collateral that you can then share with all your clinical teams.
2. Map out your reimbursement processes.
You’ll want to know more about the reimbursement process before deciding how to structure your telemedicine services. CMS and many insurers are making this process more manageable. However, there are still varying rates depending on whether a visit is in your office or via a telehealth system.
Remember that not all patients are covered by insurance. Be sure you have a structured reimbursement model to offer uninsured patients so they understand their financial obligations. Transparency around office visit coverage is always a good policy. By knowing your rates, you can expand your telehealth services appropriately and figure out how to create a good mix of virtual and in-office visits that serve your organization’s and your patients’ needs.
3. Pursue funding for telemedicine.
Funding streams are readily available for telemedicine initiatives, particularly those related to rural communities. If you’re serving rural patients, you may be eligible for funding to help pay for improved technologies such as sophisticated, user-friendly software, systems, and devices.
Not sure where to start? Try talking with healthcare providers you already collaborate with that offer telehealth. Finding out what other providers are doing can be a huge asset. Collaboration and partnerships between healthcare providers, technology companies, and other stakeholders can increase your capacity to deliver telehealth options and learn about new funding opportunities.
4. Promote the benefits and availability of virtual visits.
Patients may have heard about telemedicine or telehealth but may still be unfamiliar with how it can be used. Teaching them to use telehealth can increase their support for telemedicine technologies as a whole. Offering virtual visits for appropriate care situations is also a major differentiator and marketing benefit for healthcare organizations, so promote this in your service offerings.
Be sure to highlight the convenience and accessibility of telemedicine for those who may not have tried it before. You can also talk about any potential cost savings. Take travel costs or time away from work, for instance. Even if patients pay a little more out of pocket for a telehealth visit, they can avoid commuting times, fuel costs, and other vehicle-related costs. Seeing the full advantages and benefits of telehealth technologies can motivate people to at least try the numerous telehealth options available.
Access to care has become more equitable now due to wider telehealth adoption. Telemedicine and virtual care models are already considered a standard approach to facilitating relationships between patients and providers.
Let’s keep this going to build patient retention and create new revenue streams!