By Khalid Al-Maskari, CEO and founder, Health Information Management Systems (HiMS)
Telehealth has been a hot topic during COVID-19, but the technology powering virtual care consultations has been around for more than half a decade. A survey from 2014 found that 90% of healthcare organizations had already begun to implement telemedicine programs six years before the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But telehealth struggled to become a primary method of care delivery due to the negative perception of it within the health care industry. Telehealth was viewed as a claims deflection model that only treated low acuity patients, and this perception created a negative stigma for medical professionals regarding billing for telehealth solutions.
The same study found that 41% of health care provider respondents were not reimbursed for telemedicine services, and 21% reported receiving lower rates from management companies for virtual care. Health care professionals felt they were doing the same amount of work for little to no compensation, and because telehealth was typically reserved for low acuity patients, they had an exceedingly high no-show rate.
COVID-19 and the Explosion of Telehealth
The need for socially-distanced health care launched telehealth to the forefront in 2020. The pandemic forced the industry to quickly adapt telehealth for a broader spectrum of patient care, and claims models have since enabled clinics to bill virtual appointments like in-person visits.
This adjusted approach to telehealth also opened the door to potentially life-saving benefits, such as reserving in-person care for the highest acuity patients, increasing the scope of provider networks outside of a patient’s immediate location and allowing patients to receive quality care in the comfort of their homes.
According to research published by Advisory Board, doctors spend 37% of their day on administrative tasks, which shifts their attention away from patients and onto their technologies.
Because of this, it’s critical for telehealth solutions to be mindful of the pre-existing administrative burden on doctors and health care staff. Telehealth should simply be another vehicle for providing care—not an unnecessary hindrance.
With the use of telehealth, patient data management becomes particularly important. Clinicians can provide telehealth services to anyone in any state they’re licensed to practice in, but this can turn out to be a disservice if data isn’t integrated properly.
Providers who are seeing a patient for the first time through telehealth need to make sure they have access to the patient’s up-to-date medical history. By having an interoperable network of health care technology, telehealth providers can make more accurate diagnoses, collect data and bill accordingly while providing the highest level of virtual ongoing care.