As in-person visits dwindled in favor of social distancing, telehealth became the new normal. Clinicians now have the ability to provide high-quality virtual services more easily than ever before, and the possibilities are near limitless. While telehealth was once a fringe service that was offered by few behavioral health providers, this method of care delivery is not only gaining prominence, but it’s here to stay.
1. Patient Convenience
Research has shown that patients have been receptive to telehealth, and this is largely due to convenience. YouGov recently reported a 9% increase in patient receptiveness of telehealth, increasing from 65% in 2019 to 74% in 2020. With the novel coronavirus delaying or stopping in-person appointments altogether, telehealth offers an alternative for patients in need of non-emergent care. Not only does telehealth prevent patients from exposure to COVID-19, but they also can see their doctors from the comfort of their homes.
2. Fewer Regulatory Hurdles
After the first COVID-19 diagnosis, Congress passed the CARES act that specifically encouraged providers to implement telehealth. Since then, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services eliminated certain requirements to make telehealth more accessible through Medicare, and larger insurers have waived co-payments as well.
Another key regulation change is the loosening of HIPAA privacy standards to allow conventional video chatting apps to be used in place of EHRs. Although having a telehealth solution already integrated into your EHR is the safest and most effective way to provide virtual care, the lifting of certain requirements allowed clinics to quickly use an easily accessible program like FaceTime, Zoom, GoToMeeting and other platforms that are typically non-compliant with HIPAA.
3. Conservation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Anyone working in the health care industry deeply understands the need to conserve as much PPE as possible. By making telehealth more accessible to patients, providers on the front lines of treating COVID-19 can save their PPE for those patients and reduce non-emergent patient risk of exposure. Although providers might not need to conserve PPE forever, telehealth is helping to flatten the curve as a result of low availability.
4. Broader Patient Engagement
Telehealth provides greater access to those who might have trouble seeing their provider in-person, especially during such a critical time. This includes those who are immunocompromised, anyone living with someone immunosuppressed, disabled patients and patients in rural areas with limited access to care. By offering a telehealth solution, these patients are more likely to get the care they need during a time when access to in-person care is more difficult than ever.
5. Virtual Clinical Trials
Telehealth also opens the door to virtual clinical trials. With virtual clinical trials, studies aren’t limited by location, and recruitment is more straight forward and patient engagement is simplified. Most importantly, interoperable, EHR telehealth platforms can better collect and record key patient data necessary for the approval of life-saving drugs.
Lastly, it’s important to understand that not all telehealth solutions are created equally, especially when it comes to EHR integration. It’s one thing to say an EHR has telehealth capabilities, but it’s important to evaluate whether the EHR is flexible enough to offer a user-friendly telehealth experience. Practitioners should ask themselves whether the EHR’s approach to telehealth is making virtual care easier and fully evaluate how their technology is helping (or hindering) patients.
Is your clinic in need of a more robust telehealth solution? Contact us to learn more about how Axiom Integrated Telehealth can streamline your telehealth service delivery and provide higher-quality virtual care.
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