If you’ve decided to introduce telemedicine to your practice, congratulations! You’ll find that it can help boost practice revenue, improve patient outcomes, protect against new types of competition, and even improve your work/life balance. But you won’t achieve any of those benefits if your patients don’t embrace the program. While studies show that even before the current COVID19 pandemic forced all of us to consider telemedicine our only healthcare option, increasingly patients have wanted the option of a virtual visit. But there is still a great deal of education necessary to really take advantage of the approach.
If telehealth is new to you, you might not know what questions to anticipate. We work with scores of providers and have gathered a few of the patient questions they hear most often. You should be prepared to answer:
Are virtual visits as effective as in-office care?
The first thing to point out when asked this smart question is that not all encounters are right for virtual visits. Assure the patient that if an in-person examination is needed for their concern, one will be scheduled. Once that is addressed, you can assure your patient that many studies have revealed that virtual-visits are indeed safe and effective. In fact, by increasing compliance and reducing cancellations, they can be effectively used to get better health outcomes for patients.
Will my personal information be kept safe?
Virtual visits should never be conducted on a platform that is not fully compliant with all of the HIPAA requirements that apply to in-office care. This allows you to assure your patient that the information is sent over a secure connection and that patient data is encrypted. Your telemedicine software vendor should be willing to enter into a Business Partner agreement with your practice, extending your HIPAA obligations to them.
Can you prescribe medicine during a virtual visit?
The rules for prescribing medications vary by state, but almost all allow new medicines to be prescribed or dosing modified during a remote encounter. (Most states do not allow for the prescription of controlled substances under these circumstances.) Some states do require that a doctor-patient relationship is established in-person before an RX can be made remotely. Check with your state boards so that you can provide accurate information about prescriptions to your patients.
Will my insurance pay for it?
Reimbursement for virtual-visits is a bit tricky (we’ve written all about it here), but these days, in most cases it is covered by private insurance. The COVID19 pandemic has even extended coverage to Medicare and Medicaid patients. More than 30 states have laws requiring private payers to cover these visits in the same way as in-person care is covered. Many major insurance companies will provide reimbursement for telemedicine even in states that don’t require it.
Will it be technically challenging? Do I need special equipment?
The best telemedicine platforms these days are as easy as the consumer apps that people use every day. If you can use Skype or Facetime, you won’t have a problem signing in for your visit. (Note: Most consumer messaging apps are not HIPAA compliant and should never be used for telemedicine.) The only equipment that the patient needs is a computer or mobile device with high-speed internet access (and a video camera if a video consultation will be included). The iOS or Android device your patient carries with them every day will most likely be perfectly adequate.
How do I prepare for my virtual visit?
People can be a bit nervous about their virtual visit, especially if they’ve never done anything like it before. Advise them to prepare for a virtual visit like they would any other, listing out their concerns and jotting down any questions they know of beforehand. If you and your patients are to use video in your virtual visit, you might also want to share these best practices for a great video visit.
If you and your staff are prepared to address each of these questions and concerns, you’ll likely find that patients are more than willing to give remote care a try. We recommend marketing the service to patients on your website, via email, and with posters or brochures in your office. Once they experience the ease and convenience of telemedicine, your patients will thank you.
About Direct Health
Direct Health is working to change how healthcare is delivered by recreating the doctor-patient relationship. With the secure messaging app, physicians and patients have the ability to connect via text, call, or video, from anywhere and on their schedule. This enables patients to chat with their doctor, vet, or therapist at any time, and clinicians to extend care and get paid without extra overhead or burdensome schedules. With over 20,000 doctors across the platform, Direct Health is leading the way in the future of healthcare. For more information, visit http://www.directhealth.us.
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