The medical industry is in a perpetual state of evolution. Why? It’s an industry that must continuously evolve to answer the demands and challenges that come with new technologies.
In the 90s, the advent of the Internet introduced a way for providers and patients to be able to communicate more efficiently, especially across long distances. However, with that came concerns about security, patients’ privacy, and misinformation surrounding medicine and medical conditions. The industry has had to develop systems and policies to address these concerns.
The same is happening now with a new technology that similarly could impact healthcare in a similar way as the internet: telemedicine.
Telemedicine is “the remote delivery of healthcare services.” Although telemedicine has technically been around since the late 1950s, the Internet, combined with video streaming platforms like Skype and Facetime, allows doctors and patients to “meet” virtually across pretty much any distance.
Telemedicine is making healthcare more accessible and cost-effective, and it’s increasing patient engagement. However, just like the advent of the Internet, telemedicine is introducing some new challenges and concerns for healthcare providers.
Let’s examine a few:
- Know The Rules and Regulations – Before you decide to take on telemedicine as part of your practice’s offerings, make sure you understand state and federal rules and regulations. You must also keep in mind that, as with most new technologies, regulation is usually a few steps behind. This means if you do take on telemedicine services, you must be diligent and stay current on any changes that could impact what you are doing.
- No Standard Set of Rules – Another regulation-related concern associated with new technologies is it takes time for a standard set of laws to be written and adopted. This is particularly evident on the state level. What is right for your state may not be correct for a potential patient in another state. Make sure you understand not only your state’s laws that apply to your practice but to the laws that apply to your patients’ states as well.
- Be Mindful of HIPAA – HIPAA regulations still apply to telemedicine patients. Review your current internal processes relating to HIPAA to ensure you are following everything you should, and then apply those processes to your telemedicine efforts.
- Data Management and Security – Conducting medical appointments online will open you up to hackers and other people intent on accessing your patient’s data and your data. Before taking on any telemedicine patients, review your security measures, and make sure your data is stored correctly and securely.
- Internal Processes – Taking on telemedicine will be a significant change for many practices. Prepare your practice by speaking with your office manager, any physicians who intend to take telemedicine patients, and any key personnel to ensure everyone understands the policies and procedures you need to follow. Draft a set of guidelines and distribute them amongst your staff so everyone is on the same page.
- Must-Have Insurance Contracts – Before you take on any telemedicine patients, make sure you speak with the insurance companies to get the contracts you need to have the telemedicine visits covered.
- Codes Will Change – A virtual visit is not the same as an in-person visit. We understand that you know this, but this means that the coding for telemedicine patients will be different. Make sure whoever does your billing and coding understands this and is aware of the codes they need to use.
Telemedicine presents an excellent opportunity for healthcare providers to help more patients and grow their practices. However, if you are not careful, you can end up causing some major short- and long-term problems for your practice AND patients. Before you get started, make sure you have all your bases covered and prepare your practice to take on this new challenge.
As always, if you need help with the coding, billing, or contract part of the process, please let us know!