Telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients - is not yet ubiquitous and the reasons for this vary greatly, both within practices and directly with consumers (patients). It’s a common misconception that delivering patient care over the “internet” is daunting, not secure and doesn’t provide the same level of care as one-on-one “concierge” style office visits, which include physical touch. However, telemedicine can provide your billing clients with a convenient and accessible way for their patients to access care as well as help providers capture time spent on follow-up calls that have normally gone unreimbursed.
Questions about how it works, how consumers pay for it and how practices can be reimbursed, often makes telemedicine seem ambiguous. To be able to communicate telemedicine’s benefits to your clients, it’s important to first acknowledge which cases (i.e., patient symptoms) are the best fit for a telemedicine appointment.
For example, let’s say you have a craving for your favorite pasta from a popular restaurant in your town, but you are currently in your pajamas after a hard day at work. Now with the popularity of restaurant delivery services, you don’t have to get dressed, drive to the restaurant, be seated, get served and wait to pay the bill – all to eat your favorite pasta. That restaurant has found a way to extend their food service, bring in additional revenue and keep their hungry customers continually coming back—whether in-person or not. And like a restaurant, telemedicine is a great way for practices to extend the value of their care and provide additional sources of income. If practices take care of their patient’s needs and answer their questions via video conferencing, it is an opportunity to build patient loyalty to the practice.
Here are 5 examples as to why practices are offering video visits:
- Practices can generate incremental revenue – Practices can convert unpaid patient phone calls into fully billable video visits! Additionally, providers can squeeze in more visits and generate income from people who are generally classified as ‘no-shows’. With Kareo telemedicine, no-shows are recorded at under 5%.
- Increase patient satisfaction and retention – Patients can avoid the frustration of having to take time off work, battle traffic, find parking and waste time sitting in a waiting room that is full of other sick people.
- Improve clinical outcomes – Simply put, patients have easier access to providers and vice versa. Telemedicine provides not only the opportunity to provide an immediate assessment of patients, but there is improved compliance to the treatment plans prescribed related to items in #2.
- Create work-from-home flexibility – It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, working from home these days provides many benefits including flexibility, reduction in stress and care delivered within a positive environment for both the provider and patient.
- Cut down on urgent care center demands – Consumers are more likely to wait to speak with their doctor if options like telemedicine exists.
The benefits of telemedicine open the doors for new opportunities.
Now, let’s take a look at some classic cases your clients could use telemedicine for:
- Surgical Pre-Op Preparations: Telemedicine allows for the delivery of clear instructions prior to surgery, reducing those pesky pre-surgical “no-shows” and saving valuable (and costly) operating room time.
- Surgical Post-Op Follow-up: These visits are a mix of educational and consultative – perfect for telemedicine. Physicians and staff can check incision areas and bandages visually and confirm adequate healing with high-definition video capabilities. This empowers providers to deliver the necessary guidance patients need as they go through their healing journey and reduces readmission rates without the patient ever having to leave home.
- Gastroenterology: While a common procedure, no one enjoys a colonoscopy. Providing patients with a quick telemedicine visit before their appointment can help reduce anxiety and enables care teams to pep talk them through the amount of GoLYTELY they need to drink.
- Cardiology: The latest medical device technologies, like wifi-based blood pressure cuffs and wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) Holter monitoring recording devices allow doctors to record and read patient heart rhythms as well as other significant vitals from the comfort of their home or office. Telemedicine allows them to deliver results and address problems with their patients before they become long-term, acute issues. On the flip side, it empowers patients to self-manage and prevent extended hospitalizations.
- Psychiatry: For your mental health provider clients, telemedicine can be just as effective, if not, more effective than in-person care for this specialty. Psychiatry offices, while nicely outfitted with a comfortable couch and neutral aesthetics, may not always be a suitable environment for distressed patients. Telemedicine provides a convenient and comfortable way for patients seeking immediate assessment and treatment. Allowing patients to take a video call from the comfort of their own home is more likely to put them at ease, making them more susceptible to treatment ideas.
- Geriatrics: Getting around is typically a challenge for patients in their older years; telemedicine removes the barrier from having to get into the car or onto a retirement home shuttle to go see their doctor. It provides quick care and providers can identify health issues before they become persistent acute care admission problems.
- Platform for common ailment assessment: Patients oftentimes have non-critical, non-life-threatening issues or check-ins that require a quick verbal review, like lingering cold symptoms, seasonal allergies, lab result recap or medication refill. These problems can be resolved with a quick video call, rather than a lengthy in-office visit. Patients can leave the frustrations of having to take time out of their day to drive to the doctor and wait in an office chair that hasn’t been disinfected in a while. Instead, they can receive an assessment, treatment plan and prescription overview directly from the comfort of their own home.
There is a myriad of use cases for telemedicine that extend beyond the list above. No matter the specialty, Kareo telemedicine supports all practice to patient interactions on HIPAA-compliant video streaming that can seamlessly be integrated into Kareo’s EHR and practice management software.
Don’t forget a communication plan!
So, let’s say you have a client that’s sold on the benefits of telemedicine and the best use for their patients and they purchase a telemedicine service, like the one included in the Kareo EHR program. Implementing a good communication plan to share the new, improved services with patients is the next step! My doctor, for example, offers telemedicine and the only reason I know about it is because I found it while digging around her website trying to find another piece of obscure information. I know I would be more likely to schedule a telemedicine appointment the next time I am sick rather than going to urgent care. That’s more money into my doctor’s pocket.
Forming a good communication plan is key to making telemedicine successful for the practice. First, your client’s providers and staff can simply inform patients at the end of their visit. A practice should consider creating some in-office promotional materials, like flyers, posters and incentives that encourage telemedicine appointments. If a practice already has customer outreach emails, like a monthly newsletter or holiday announcement, it’s a great platform to tie in the new offering. Also, a practice should consider announcing their new telemedicine capabilities on their website, patient portal and mobile app, if applicable. Once a practice’s telemedicine program is up and running, they should also encourage their patients to leave a review and feedback on the practice’s website.
If you’re interested in learning more about Kareo’s telemedicine application, check out our recent webinar ‘5 Reasons why you should start telemedicine in 2019,’ or visit our website at https://www.kareo.com/telemedicine.