Rapid Expansion of Telehealth
According to the IHS Markit report, the number of patients using telehealth is expected to rise to more than ten million in 2020, up from less than 350,000 in 2013. With such exponential growth, practices providing physical therapy can no longer afford to ignore the opportunity telehealth provides. Telehealth allows physical therapists/chiropractors to deliver high-quality care while improving practice profitability. Telehealth physical therapy makes it easy to support patients as they implement their treatment plan without the need of frequent office visits.
Telehealth in Physical Therapy
Using telehealth for routine follow up visits is not only more efficient for providers and patients, but it also increases the chances that patients will complete their entire treatment plan, reducing missed appointments and improving patient satisfaction.
Chronic condition management (CCM):
Sometimes patients with chronic conditions might require a short period of intensive therapy, followed by long-term care to sustain wellness. The use of telehealth physical therapy eases CCM and could be less expensive for patients.
Physical therapy is often necessary post orthopedic surgeries and other post hospitalizations care. Telehealth eliminates the need for travel during a time when patients may have limited mobility or require the use of medications that shouldn’t be used while driving.
HIPAA Compliance and State Regulations
- It is crucial to stay on top of HIPAA compliance when it comes to practicing telehealth. The transmission of data to and from various locations increases the risk of inappropriate disclosure and data breaches. You must implement privacy and security safeguards at all points of exposure, including at the originating site, across the transmission medium, and at the distant site. Examples of these safeguards include user authentication, patient verification technologies, data encryption, password security, protected wireless networks, data tracking and auditing, and others.
- Taking full disclosure and informed consent from patients is vital when it comes to telehealth. Patients should be aware of the limitations and advantages of telehealth and a well taking a written consent is a must.
- You should be aware of federal and state regulations, practice acts, and standards of care for each state in which you plan to practice telehealth. There are laws that can prohibit you from practicing telehealth across different states.
Preparing for Telehealth
- You will need a computer or mobile device, a built-in or external microphone, and a camera with video capability, and telehealth software. The basic requirement would be to have a high-speed internet connection to avoid breaks in audio or video.
- While technological advances have helped advance telehealth, technological failures can be one of its biggest drawbacks. Networks are subject to delays, interruptions, system overloads, or other technical difficulties. Because telehealth is wholly dependent on working technology, its effectiveness is severely hampered when technology fails. Researching and choosing the best hardware and software can ensure your telehealth practice is a success.
Billing for Telehealth Physical Therapy
- Billing for telehealth physical therapy can be tricky and as mentioned above it may vary by state and by the insurer. The best practice would be, verifying the patient’s coverage before the visit, and knowing the telehealth guidelines for each payer. You can ask the payers which CPT codes are eligible for telehealth billing and need to use the appropriate modifier (GT) that tells the insurer that the service was delivered via telehealth to ensure payment.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is now allowing physical therapists in private practice to bill for their face to face technology visits. Most of the insurance companies have started covering physical therapy delivered via telehealth.
Telehealth is never intended to completely replace patient care in a clinical setting, but it can make your practice more flexible to meet your patient’s needs and provide services in a greater capacity.
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