A checklist of essential resources and considerations.
You’ve read the statistics on medical and counseling accessibility. Over 20 years, patients drive 270 miles on average for medical appointments. Telehealth will give your practice a boost and make your care more accessible to patients. Great! So, then, how do you start providing telehealth services?
This quick guide will help you get started.
Make a plan
You’ve decided to start offering telehealth services. To do so, you need to have a plan of action.
WHEN: How are you going to work telehealth services into your schedule? Some providers like to set aside one day a week to offer telehealth sessions; others work it into a specific time of day throughout the week. You may decide to only offer telehealth in the case of emergency on your end or your patients’, or to cope with bad weather. Whatever you decide, create a plan and stick to it for a period of time (at least a month) so you can see what works and what doesn’t for your practice.
WHERE: Will you offer telehealth services out of your practice, or out of your home? Consider the pros and cons to both (for example, the flexibility of conducting sessions from home vs. the convenience of having all your records at the office).
FOR WHOM: Another planning consideration includes who will have access to telehealth services? Will it be the patients that have an address furthest from your practice? Will you enable access for all your patients? What functions of your practice make telehealth more difficult or impossible (testing, for example) and how do you plan to work around that?
WHO: Finally, if you are a practice with more than one provider, who will conduct telehealth sessions? Will it be you, or a coworker?
To offer telehealth services, you need some basic technology. Two things are especially important: a fast internet connection and a good platform. You need to be able to offer video conference calls with reliable connection and few glitches, while not sucking up all your practice’s or house’s bandwidth or data.
The “platform” – the software you will use to conduct telehealth services – is equally important. Your conferencing platform needs to be accessible enough for you and your patient to set up and use easily, reliable and secure (more on security below). We’ve included some links below of platforms that are particularly well-suited for telehealth:
What about HIPAA?
Protecting your patients’ privacy is a big concern especially in regard to telehealth. You need to ensure confidentiality and security of your patients’ information while conducting telehealth sessions. This directly applies to what platform you use. You want to make sure that whichever platform you choose for video conferencing does not track and send information to third parties (hello, Google!). Often, platforms designed specifically for telemedicine will ensure they are HIPAA compliant – see Chiron’s home website as an example.
This article by Kareo outlines some great tips to improve data security.
The Back End: Rules and Codes
Finally, you need to ensure that you are complying with your state’s license laws and regulations for telehealth and up-to-date on insurance companies’ telehealth policies. Regulations regarding telehealth for providers vary from state-to-state. For example, Minnesota has the following regulations (read them here). Check with your state’s board for your specialty to ensure you are eligible to offer telehealth services.
For providers in “parity states,” most insurance companies will reimburse telehealth services- check with the carriers you participate with for their policies and details. Government-funded plans such as Medicare and Medicaid – there are some good articles on understanding their policies. Our team at MediBill uses this resource as a guide.
If you come up with a strategy for implementing telehealth into your practice, incorporating virtual sessions will be a painless way to make your care more accessible and marketable.