Increased Importance of Telehealth
Small practices tried their best to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic and telehealth helped them a lot to survive in these challenging times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telemedicine has only grown in importance. Experts predict that by 2025, the size of the telehealth market will reach $17.2 billion. In a world where social distancing has become the new norm, medical providers need to offer patients alternatives to traditional in-office visits. Research also shows that small medical practices are turning to telehealth in increasing numbers for many other reasons. These include things like increasing patient satisfaction, improving the quality of care, and reaching patients that struggle to make it in for in-person visits. Some of the interesting facts that highlight the increased importance of telehealth in small practices are as follows:
- 79% of patients reported that scheduling telehealth follow-up visits are more convenient than arranging traditional in-person office follow-ups
- Approximately half of all American adults reported avoiding going to the doctor due to the cost
- 1-in-5 people have delayed seeing a doctor, reporting that doctor visits to take too long
- Overburdened doctors spend an average of just 20 minutes with each patient
- Patients in rural areas experience a lack of access to medical care. Rural patients live an average of 17 minutes from the nearest hospital while 25% live more than 30 minutes away
Widespread Adoption of Telehealth
Over the past few years, CMS has dramatically increased both the frequency and scope of telehealth reimbursement, these efforts multiplied during the outbreak of COVID-19. On March 6, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (the ‘Act’). The Act included a provision allowing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain Medicare telehealth payment restrictions.
What this means is that patients that were not previously eligible for telehealth services, like that outside of rural areas or living at home, are now eligible. The waiver of these restrictions occurred under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act and is known as an ‘1135 Waiver’. HHS also announced that it will waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations during the pandemic. What is interesting about the government’s actions is that they further validate the effectiveness of telemedicine to treat patients.
In a world where social distancing may become the new norm, it will be interesting to see whether the measures will be adopted on a long-term basis. If so, the use of telehealth will only increase beyond its already exponential growth. Providers that fail to adapt to this changing landscape will be left behind.
Increased Practice Revenue
Small medical practices are especially concerned that incorporating telehealth into their practices would hurt their bottom lines. Providers offering telehealth services are able to see more patients in the same amount of time. This is because telehealth appointments are more efficient than in-person visits. There are also fewer cancellations and no-shows, and practices can experience revenue growth without having to hire additional staff or acquire more office space. Telemedicine also opens a new revenue stream. Many providers conduct follow-ups with patients over the phone. Providers are not reimbursed for these calls.
However, providers that conduct follow-ups with patients using telemedicine technology are reimbursed. Consider a small practice with two physicians. Suppose each physician took on a modest 3 telemedicine appointments per day or a total of 30 per week. At an average reimbursement rate of $72, the practice would bring in an additional $112,320 per year in revenue, all without increasing their working hours. The practice will also have significantly reduced their costs and freed up desperately needed resources. Most importantly, providers will put more money into their pockets.
Telehealth is here to stay
Telehealth is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. In recent years, small medical practices have begun offering their patients telemedicine services at increasing rates. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine services are needed now more than ever. The health of the American public depends on patients having alternatives to traditional in-person medical treatment. If you are worried about telehealth reimbursements then think about outsourcing your telehealth billing to Medical Billers and Coders (MBC).
Telehealth billing can be confusing since codes are relatively new and guidelines are constantly changing. We can assist you in complete revenue cycle management and can bring maximum revenue for offered telehealth services. To know more about our telehealth billing and coding services, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org/888-357-3226.