We all have witnessed how the COVID 19 Pandemic has brought on new, little-known terminology to the healthcare forefront. Terms like telehealth and telemedicine have now become more mainstream in the healthcare community and not many are aware of the subtle differences in definition.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is defined as the broader method of delivery of health-related services (clinical or non-clinical) including provider and patient education, medical care, health information services, and self-care via telecommunications and digital communications technologies.
Although telehealth and telemedicine often are used interchangeably, telehealth has become the overarching term for the broader array of digital healthcare activities and services.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is defined as the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients utilizing telecommunications technology for clinical services This means that telemedicine is more around the utilization of technologies and telecommunication systems in administering healthcare to patients such as cell phones, video calling, and internet-connected computers in clinical, vs. Non-clinical services
COVID 19 made this opportunity more relevant as a way to allow patients medical care without running the risk associated with having to go into the doctor’s office.
Telehealth Applications and Services
The internet and mobile devices have become commonplace in our lives and it is only natural that we would want to be able to leverage that technology for convenience, improved care, and promotion of access to healthcare.
Some of the things that telehealth can help with are:
- Addressing physician shortages
- Providing access to specialists in less-resourced hospitals
- Education and training both of patients and practitioners
- Patient engagement
- Better communication between providers for treatment collaboration
The Future of Telehealth/Telemedicine
To get a better idea of the future of telehealth MGMA did a Stat Pol in February 2021 asking healthcare leaders what they expected to happen to their organization’s telehealth utilization in 2021. The results where 2 out of 3 expected their telehealth utilization to change – 31% said they thought it would increase, 35% said they thought it would decrease and 34% saw no change. Among those who saw an increase, they stated that patient demand and the convenience of it would be the driving factors. For those that said they saw a decrease moving forward, they expressed coverage concerns, expecting payers to discontinue current reimbursement levels. They also noted their patients and/or practitioners preferred in-person visits.
Since the start of the pandemic, Medicare telehealth usage has increased exponentially due to the increased flexibilities brought about by congressional and regulatory action. But most of the flexibilities hinged upon the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) remaining in effect. Norris Cochran, Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services stated in January that the PHE will most likely remain in place through 2021.
The question everyone is looking to have an answer to is “what happens to the expanded access to Medicare telehealth once the PHE expires?” Some flexibilities can only be modified by Congress. There are efforts underway to permanently repeal statutory restrictions that, previous to COVID-19, served as roadblocks. The challenges in making these waivers permanent are the lack of cost data to the Medicare program and quality outcomes. However, incremental steps have been made by Congress recently in expanding Medicare telehealth by allowing for greater flexibilities for specific services.
Only time will tell how much the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way telehealth is viewed and if lawmakers will see the benefits once the PHE is over.
Who is Billed Right?
In 2006, two business partners had a vision of creating holistic services that can help improve medical billing operations. They started by listening to doctors and building a service model around what doctors need the most. As a result, Billed Right’s Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) model was born. The focus continues to be on solving the problem, rather than selling a product, and hence, Billed Right’s advanced RCM model revolves around personalized service in today’s corporate world, while still cutting costs and improving both patient care and practice revenue. No matter what challenges physicians face, we never waiver from our goal to be a partner in strategy to promote practice growth.
Contact Billed Right to learn more.