Lights. Camera, Care: Telemedicine Gets High Ratings
“In a health crisis where medical advice boils down to ‘stay at home and stay away from others’ to protect us from COVID-19, telemedicine is poised to become a much more significant part of care delivery,” Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, wrote in The Boston Globe last year during the pandemic (https://bit.ly/3dZopRo). At Community Physicians, we’ve been part of the telemedicine evolution since well before the pandemic, but we took it to the next level to provide care during the COVID-19 crisis.
Not a Trend; This Tech Is Here to Stay
Telemedicine has emerged as an essential tool in the last year; it’s enabled physiatrist like us and others to continue providing care while keeping residents safe. It’s made the best use of limited resources, and it’s given residents some much needed –and very welcome—social interaction.
The benefits of telemedicine are real:
- Expanded access to care, with the ability to reach more patients.
- Improved clinical workflows and increased practice efficiency.
- Cuts patient costs and improve health care quality.
- Reduces the time/logistical challenges of getting patients to physician offices and rehab centers.
- Improved patient satisfaction.
Yes, telemedicine has been essential during the pandemic, but don’t think it’s going away. Virtual visits won’t ever replace live person-to-person encounters. However, facility leaders, practitioners, patients, and others have come to embrace it during the pandemic.
Even the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is sold on the future of telemedicine. In December 2020, the agency authorized additional telehealth waivers, including waiving the requirements of section 1834(m)(4)€ of the Act and 42 CFR § 410.78 (b)(2) which specify the types of practitioners that may bill for their services when furnished as Medicare telehealth services from the distant site.
The waiver of these requirements expands the types of health care professionals that can furnish distant site telehealth services to include all those that are eligible to bill Medicare for their professional services. This allows health care professionals who were previously ineligible to furnish and bill for Medicare telehealth services, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and others, to receive payment for Medicare telehealth services.
CMS also extended a waiver allowing the use of audio-only equipment to furnish services described by the codes for audio-only telephone evaluation and management services, and behavioral health counseling and educational services.
Staff Are Getting in the Act; and Patients Are Stars!
Facility staff who were previously uncertain about telemedicine also have come to appreciate it. We’ve worked with them closely to ensure they know how to use the technology and that they are confident about their roles. Because we integrate to use of telemedicine into their existing workflows, they see that these “visits” don’t put an undue burden on their time. In fact, it frees them to focus on direct patient care. They’ve seen how we can make recommendations, order medication, adjust the care plan, and answer questions in real time; and staff appropriately see this as win-win.
If you think residents are resistant to technology like this, think again. In our experience, most of them like it and some love it. They feel like they’re ‘on TV.’ We can talk them without masks; and this makes conversations easier and more productive. Particularly during a time when they are isolated and can’t see their loved ones, they relish these interactions; and we can even bring families into these virtual visits so they can see firsthand that their loved one is safe, comfortable, and continuing to make progress on therapy goals despite the pandemic.
We’d love to share our telemedicine experience with you. Contact us today and learn how.