Telehealth Implementation with COVID-19 Telehealth Program Funding

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides grants to qualifying health care providers in order to help them fund the telecommunications, information, and device resources needed to deliver remote care during the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the program provided a total of $200 million in funding to qualified applicants. The first round of funding provided financial support to over 500 health care facilities.

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Update on 2021 Telehealth Legislation

Top Federal priorities for 2021 include the Telehealth Modernization Act and The Protecting Access to Post-COVID Telehealth Act that aims to make permanent changes to 1834(m) that would, amongst other things, remove constraints of the originating and geographic site and allow for the types of providers to expand. The main purpose of these measures is to ensure patient choice and satisfaction, expand reimbursement policies, and provide adequate care to underserved, at-risk, and senior populations by allowing them to choose telemedicine options and access the care they need at their homes.

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Telehealth vs. Telemedicine

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the increased use of telehealth tools. During the past year, many patients and providers that had never heard of telehealth or telemedicine before started using it. With all the talk about remote patient care, you may often hear the terms telehealth and telemedicine being used interchangeably, and you may wonder what is the difference between the two?

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Free Plan with Unlimited HD Video on a HIPAA compliant Telehealth Platform

The unexpected global outbreak of COVID-19 has undeniably influenced the increased usage and awareness of telehealth in providers and patients that may have never used or heard of telemedicine before. For this reason, many believe that telemedicine is a modern invention. However, the concepts of telemedicine and remote patient care, as well as the need for it was recognized many years ago.

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What’s new at Vivadox

At Vivadox, we constantly strive to understand the needs of our customers and help them provide excellent patient care remotely. Based on the feedback we received from our valued customers, we have carefully designed new features that will help optimize telemedicine workflows and increase convenience for both providers and patients.

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Impact of telehealth on COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis

Telemedicine

Ever since the pandemic onset in March 2020, coronavirus became one of the most important topics in our everyday lives. For over a year now, we are constantly being reminded of how serious the COVID-19 illness can be and what preventive measures we need to take to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

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Telemedicine beyond COVID

While 2020 was uniquely challenging for the collective world, the human spirit responded the way it usually does – digging deep, being resourceful and innovating to beat the odds. We saw our frontline workers take care of us notwithstanding the little personal protection that they could access, vaccines developed and distributed in record timelines and we all adapted to new virtual ways of working & accessing services to keep the economy going.

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What telehealth claims reveal in the times of COVID-19

It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the shift in healthcare from mostly in-person care to predominantly virtual care. With the need to free up the hospital spaces for the rising number of COVID-19 and other emergent patients, many providers shifted the follow-up and chronic care to virtual. In addition, many specialist appointments are now conducted virtually.

This rapid change of treatment delivery in just a matter of months has made a significant impact on the different aspects of telehealth.

Telehealth impact study gives us a detailed insight into the telehealth claims data during the COVID-19 pandemic by observing different trends in numbers of telehealth visit claims, the distribution of in-state vs out-of-state claims, and the distribution of claims by clinical classification of primary diagnosis. The analyzed data includes millions of claims per month, including private insurances and a limited number of Medicare and Medicaid claims.

The key takeaways from the study are as follows:

  • The total number of telehealth claims rose 24x from February to April of 2020.
  • Almost 50% of all health claims were telehealth claims of April of 2020.
  • Behavioral and Mental health is the leading category in primary diagnosis for telehealth, almost 5x the next major category.

The study shows that all states experienced considerable growth in the number of telehealth claims in 2020 and that this number reached its peak in April of 2020 when many of the non-urgent care providers’ offices were closed. In the following months, the number of such claims started dropping due to many providers opening their doors or finding ways to combine telehealth with face-to-face visits.

To learn more about the study and view the findings visit https://c19hcc.org/telehealth/impact-home/

For a fully interactive report visit https://c19hcc.org/telehealth

Challenges of Telemedicine Implementation in Solo and Small Practices

Challenges of Telemedicine

COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the increase in telemedicine adoption in 2020. Providers, some of which have never used telemedicine before, had to quickly adapt and start providing virtual care to their patients. Many providers went from no telemedicine at all to almost completely operating virtually.

While bigger hospitals and practices had structure and resources to quickly respond to the situation, many solo and smaller providers struggled.

Telemedicine implementation is in no way a simple task for a practice of any size. If the situation was any different, and there was no state of emergency, the process of assessing the need, researching available platforms for the best solution, considering costs, analyzing and optimizing workflow to accommodate for telemedicine, implementation of the chosen solution, training, patient education, and piloting would take months. However, due to the extreme circumstances, all these steps had to be completed in a matter of days.

For solo and smaller practices, the rapid implementation posed an even bigger issue as they do not necessarily have personnel to dedicate to telemedicine implementation. In addition, many of them have neither funding nor infrastructure as bigger hospital and practice systems.

For those reasons, many solo and small practices do not see the value in long-term telemedicine implementation as the constraints of existing regulations and policies that are currently relaxed to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic pose a huge constraint on the finances. If many of their patients would not be able to use the telemedicine services with their current insurance plans and reimbursement regulations, how can such an investment be justified? Hence, many utilize all sorts of non-HIPAA compliant communication platforms to interact with their patients at this time of crisis mainly as a stop-gap measure.

However, telemedicine is becoming more than just a tool, it is becoming a necessity due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. Many benefits and conveniences that telemedicine provides to the patients have resulted in high patient interest in telemedicine appointments. As more and more patients are introduced to telemedicine the demand for such service is on the rise. Where appropriate, patients can access the healthcare they need from the comfort of their homes, with minimal time spent.

Carefully considering and making an investment in a telemedicine tool can help a solo and small practice have a higher patient retention rate and cover the areas that they normally would not be able to due to location constraints and lengthy travel times. In addition, providers can reduce no-show rates and book more back-to-back appointments, even outside of the conventional office hours.

A group of lawmakers are putting the focus back on post-COVID-19 long term telehealth legislation with the introduction of the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act, which aims to retain some emergency telehealth access and coverage rules put in place over the past year to address the Covid pandemic.

“Telehealth has been a game-changer during the Coronavirus pandemic, ensuring that patients can continue to get care while reducing the spread of the virus during routine medical visits,” US Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) said in a press release. “However, patients could face an abrupt end to the practice once the pandemic is over, even though it’s long been a proven and cost-effective way to get care. … This bill ensures the expansion of telehealth can stay in place and be used for continuous care during future disasters and emergencies.”

What is a solution to these problems? Solo and smaller sized practices should look for a low cost but yet powerful telemedicine solution that can provide the full capability and HIPAA-compliant security they need for remote patient care while staying on the budget. This will help them prepare them for a post-COVID-19 telehealth world

With a quick and simple onboarding process, the Vivadox telemedicine platform is designed with solo and small practices in mind. This HIPAA-compliant telemedicine solution comes with zero setup costs and is accessible from any device.  The intuitive flow on both provider and patient side does not require a lot of training to use. Choose from one of three affordable plans and start your telemedicine practice today with 30 days free trial.