Telehealth Is Playing an Increasingly Important Role During Coronavirus in the USA
The strict privacy regulations established by HIPAA have played a large part in restricting the use of electronic communications and platforms for medical interaction until recently. The rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic created a need to minimize contact with other people to cut down the risk of infection, and the declaration of a national emergency opened the door to relaxing the rules in order to increase safety.
One major result has been an increase in telehealth. Follow-up appointments are one of the most common applications since these often only require a conversation and seeing the appearance of the patient to give the practitioner the necessary information to determine whether the patient is recovering acceptably or some other action is needed.
Telehealth Visits Limit Exposure
Doctors and patients are finding many benefits to telehealth visits. The primary one while COVID-19 is a threat is the reduced exposure, both for patients and healthcare providers and staff. In many people, the virus is asymptomatic for 5 to 14 days, and can remain symptom free for up to 21 days. That means that anyone coming into the office could be carrying and spreading the disease without having any clue that they have even been exposed to it themselves.
Not only does each patient have the potential to infect other patients, but every person working at the facility also could become infected, and in turn pass the virus along to patients they encounter over the next week or two until they start to have some indication that they are infected. The highly contagious coronavirus is best contained by isolation, even from health care facilities.
Access to Care Can Be Increased by Telehealth
Prior to the coronavirus, there was already a push to increase telehealth to serve the disabled and people in rural areas where it can be difficult to get to the doctor’s office. Physical ability and finances both impact a patient’s ability to get to a medical facility, which can result in missed appointments and lack of needed care.
One of the most important steps in controlling the coronavirus pandemic is testing people who may have the disease. Because COVID-19 symptoms include many of the same things as colds and flus, people who have a cough and fever, etc. may tend to try treating it at home. Telehealth has been a useful tool for interviewing these patients to determine whether they need to be tested for the coronavirus. This is especially true in areas where tests are not readily available and may require a visit to an emergency room.
Making Telehealth Appointments Free for Patients and Covered by CMS Increased Numbers
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started allowing practitioners to charge for telehealth visits, which made it feasible to see patients that way. Previous restrictions on the type of provider who could bill the agencies for online patient visits have also been relaxed. They now include nurse practitioners, psychologists and social workers for certain things.
Telehealth Isn’t Just Being Used for Coronavirus
The rapid growth of telehealth has been thanks to the coronavirus, but it doesn’t only apply to COVID-19-related appointments. Because of the need to minimize all direct human interaction, healthcare providers of all kinds are making use of electronics.
In addition to CMS, private insurers are also allowing much more to be done on electronic platforms. Providers are able to see more patients because there is no need to move them around and clean rooms in between each one.
Any kind of appointment that can be done online is being done that way, and patients and providers are finding it very convenient. If the method can help improve quality of care and make it more likely that people with special needs get access to the care they need, it is likely that many of the new processes will stay in place after the emergency is over.
At Medcare MSO, medical billing and revenue cycle management is all we do, so we constantly update our system and software to keep up with the latest modifications to the billing codes and payer requirements. Give us a call today at 800-640-6409 to find out how to streamline your billing and increase revenue.