Although the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting every type of business, no industry is more affected than healthcare. With more people trying to stay at home — or at least avoid going out more than necessary — everyone is canceling appointments they deem unessential.
People are particularly likely to skip medical appointments for concerns about being exposed to sick people who may be infected with the virus. For clinics, this can mean a loss of profits — or even the risk of going out of business.
The Solution: Telehealth
By offering telehealth services, you can continue serving your patients. Of course, you would prefer to see patients in person, but right now telehealth may actually be the preferable option in many cases. Even the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is recommending telehealth.
Telehealth can stop your clinic losing income, keep your patients (and workers) safe from the virus, and ensure patients receive the healthcare services they still need.
The next step, then, is to create a strategy that allows you to implement telehealth in your own clinic.
1. Identify Situations That Are Suitable for Telehealth
Only certain kinds of situations are suitable for telehealth — there are still some types of appointments that require medical professionals to see their patients in person. For instance, if a doctor needs to examine a patient, a physical appointment will be necessary. However, if the appointment is a followup visit, you may be able to use telehealth.
It can be useful to divide your appointments into categories to determine the type of appointment and decide whether it would be suitable for telehealth. Instead of working on a case-by-case basis, it’s worthwhile setting out guidelines for your staff to use.
2. Find the Right Software for Appointments
Choosing the right software is key to providing an excellent service to your patients. Whatever you pick should be simple and intuitive to use. As some patients only have a mobile device, the software must be mobile compatible with both iOS (Apple) and Android smartphones. This will ensure that telehealth is available to all your patients.
The good news is that HHS is giving clinics the freedom to use the software of their choice — you won’t risk facing a penalty for not using specialist healthcare technology. You can use solutions like Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, among others. It’s a good idea to set up a business account for extra security.
3. Provide Training
It’s important that your staff know how to use software to ensure that telehealth appointments run as smoothly as possible. As solutions are easy to use, simple training documentation should suffice. In addition, you may also like to write up a basic FAQ list for patients. This will prevent technical issues occurring and allow staff to focus on medical needs.
4. Notify Patients of Telehealth Appointments
It is essential that all qualifying patients are aware that you are now offering telehealth. You have two main options: you can call all patients and ask them if they want to change to a telehealth appointment or you can message patients by email or text and ask them to call you back. Whereas the second option allows you to notify everyone faster, it may result in a large influx of calls that could be difficult to handle.
After telling patients that you are offering telehealth services, you’ll need to give them more information about the appointments. This may involve sending them a link to your website with further information along with a link to download the software. You’ll likely also want to send the patient a reminder before the appointment. You can automate all these communications to lower the workload for your staff.
5. Receive Consent from Patients
Before you can see any patient for a telehealth appointment, the patient needs to consent to the service. The consent form should also set out the terms of the service to ensure patients are clear about what’s involved with a telehealth appointment.
One option is to email patients a PDF that they can sign and send back to you.
Alternatively, you can send patients a link to a form that they can electronically sign. This is best when paired with a system that can create a PDF of the signed form and upload the form to patient records, all through an automated process.
You may also need patients to sign other forms, such as registration for new patients and followup assessments. Again, you don’t have the option for paper forms — you need to create digital versions. You can use either of the above two systems. If you choose an automated system, however, you can integrate the forms with your EMRs. This will send the PDFs as well as the data from the forms to the patients’ charts without your staff needing to do anything manually.
6. Set Up a Documentation and Billing System
You’ll also need to ensure that you have the appropriate CPT codes and visit modifiers in your system for telehealth appointments. Your CPT code manual will specify what documentation you need for the appointment.
7. Be Flexible
You may need to make tweaks after you’ve implemented the telehealth solution. For instance, telehealth appointments may have some differences to in-person appointments that you didn’t anticipate. It can be a good idea to schedule longer appointments initially to help your staff become familiar with the process.
Furthermore, you need to consider that the situation around the pandemic is changing day by day. You must be willing to adapt at a moment’s notice. This means implementing tools and partnering with a service that offers flexibility from the start.
Transitioning from in-person services to telehealth services is no small feat. You need the support of an IT team that can offer customized solutions to meet your individual requirements in these uncertain times.
Centerlogic provides you with the systems management you need to organize appointments and automate processes including patient documentation. We will make sure your patients’ data is always secure and help you implement changes to adapt your telehealth services as the situation evolves.
Centerlogic has more than 20 years of experience working with hundreds of medical companies throughout the U.S. Contact Us today to find out more about how we can help with telehealth services and custom IT solutions.