The first step to the decision to provide telehealth in your clinic is, of course, to determine whether it is feasible in your state and how to appropriately provide documentation and receive reimbursement.
A great place to start is your state practice act. But, even if your practice act does not inherently allow for telehealth services, do not lose hope! Many states have issued temporary exceptions during the COVID crisis which enable you to provide telehealth as an enhanced safety measure. You can often find resources surrounding these regulations from your APTA state chapter.
Once you have determined that telehealth services are within your scope of practice, the next step is to determine which payers in your area are reimbursing telehealth and what their requirements are. Most payers have issued specific requirements, including what services will be covered, how they should be documented, as well as how to bill. When trying to find whether your payers are currently covering telehealth, the best resource will always be speaking with the payers directly, however, many APTA state chapters have also compiled state-specific lists which are maintained with coverage information. Since these vary not only from state-to-state, but also from payer-to-payer, this step is crucial to ensuring your practice’s telehealth success.
While telehealth services have become more common in recent months, there is a good chance that it still feels new to patients. New things can be exciting and open up new horizons to patients, but adapting to new things can be challenging, especially when they might be unsure how to proceed, concerned about privacy, or unaware of the major benefits. The key to remedying these doubts is to communication with your patients clearly and often.
Make sure patients are not only aware that your clinic is offering telehealth services, but are also familiar with all the benefits of remote care. You can communicate with patients via newsletters, mailers, phone calls, social media, or even in person! Whatever your preferred communication channel, be sure to stress things such as: increased access, no travel-time to factor into their schedules, privacy in their own homes, decreased contact, and convenience.
Another major point of communication should be clear instructions on how to actually utilize telehealth with your clinic. Break down the steps for patients as simply as possible, including pictures if you can. Share this with them at several points in their experience, from the first time you share telehealth with them, right up until it’s time for their first visit. This helps to remove barriers, confusion, and even fear from their path to access and helps them to familiarize themselves with the new platform.
Finally, ensure that all of your staff has been fully trained to have conversations with patients about telehealth and answer their questions. Make sure the front desk and providers alike are comfortable discussing the benefits, giving instructions and talking about access, and answering questions about the safety of providing care digitally. When it comes to communicating with your patients, the best resource will always be the people they already trust.
A good telehealth software should not introduce additional work for you. To encourage adoption amongst your therapists, the telehealth software should be as user-friendly and seamlessly integrated as possible. When weighing your telehealth options, you should of course consider necessary points like safety and compliance, but the key to success is also asking questions such as: