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Now is the Time for Telehealth - But How Does Your Practice Start?

A few weeks ago, we released a blog about what telehealth services are and how they can help your practice maintain patient contact during this time. However, telehealth services are not only a tool to treat patients during this COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth is looking to be the future of medicine and right now is an ample opportunity, with increased reimbursements, relaxed regulations, and a lighter clinic flow, to dive into telehealth and discover how your practice can use this to be profitable both now and then in the future. With that said, where does your practice start? First, decide where to start. What services is your practice able to offer virtually? Which of your providers are going to provide them? Which locations are going to participate? Many of the practices that we support have been offering routine follow up visits, post operative visits and initial triage services over Telehealth for now. Next, write out the full workflow of the patient’s visits. We typically do this with our offices for in clinic visits to ensure that the patient’s experience is seamless and easy. The same thing should be done for a telehealth visit with the below processes: 1. Scheduling Process - how does the patient schedule the appointment? Is there an online scheduling software? Does the patient call to schedule and how is the visit notated as teleheatlh in the practice management software? 2. Pre-Visit Instructions - how does the patient get the information necessary to attend the virtual visits? Does someone call to confirm the appointments? Are instructions sent via email? Does the patient have access to video systems or does the visit need be done via voice only? This step is one that can be missed easily but is really important to confirm this information to ensure the schedule stays on time. 3. Preparing the Physician for the Visit - The provider also needs to be prepared for the visit. This includes access to documentation of previous visits, charting for the virtual visit and access to the virtual visit sites. In our practices, we find some providers are able to transition easier than others between virtual and in person visits. 4. The Actual Visit - with correct preparation, this should be the easiest step of the virtual visit for the physician. 5. Documentation & Follow Up of the Visit - After the visit is complete, the physician needs to ensure all documentation has taken place correctly and the type of visit has been notated within the chart. Also ensure that there is a process to schedule any additional followup appointments with patients. Many of the steps above will depend on the software that your practice decides to use. There are many products out there, some that will interface with your EMR directly, some offering free trials during this COVID-19 pandemic and others that have in depth monitoring systems. Make sure to research what is best for your practice and it’s needs. Lastly, start slow. Try out a few visits with a few providers to make sure the process is working smoothly for patients and providers, alike. Adjust these processes as necessary to ensure that the visits are working for your providers and your patients. Once everyone adjusts to the new systems, go ahead and expand services and make sure you let patients know that you are seeing patients via telehealth and encourage them to call to schedule. As always, Nolan HCS is here to help as your practice adjusts to it’s new normal.

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