A Necessity, Not a Luxury: 9 Reasons for Enhancing Telehealth in Your Medical Practice Today

Telehealth is here to stay. While Covid-19 forced practices to cobble together quick solutions for remote visits, now telehealth is coming of age with better security, more powerful features and easier-than-ever implementation. Here are 9 important benefits of telehealth technology that can transform the way you provide care – and dramatically improve both patient outcomes and your bottom line.

 

1.    It’s not rocket science.

 

Contrary to popular belief, telehealth isn’t hard to set up. Plug-and-play technology links to your EHR, making it simple to launch and introduce to patients. Just flip a switch within the Kareo platform and you’re up and running. 

 

2.      It’s cost-effective.

 

Very little upfront investment is required to set up telehealth, especially if you have an integrated EHR like Kareo. You can convert unpaid follow-up phone calls or emails to fully reimbursable video telehealth visits. You and your staff spend less time and money commuting, and you need less office space. Some mental health practices, in fact, have converted to virtual-only consultations, eliminating the need for an office completely.

 

3.      It’s super efficient.

 

Virtual visits let you see more patients during the day. You spend less time on administrative tasks. Patients are able to schedule their own appointments, saving time for your front-office staff. Telehealth lets you maintain your existing workflow in the office for scheduling, charting and billing while reducing the need for in-person patient attention for things like checking in and room assignment. Kareo Telehealth also features unique provider links that streamline administration for telehealth visits. Best of all, Kareo Telehealth is seamlessly integrated with Kareo’s EHR, so all aspects of virtual visits are documented just like any other service in your practice, and allow advanced capabilities like electronic prescription and lab orders. These all combine to free up more time for actual patient care. 

 

Many providers say that no-shows – which frustrate staff and take a big bite out of your revenue – go way down with telehealth. Patients can be reminded with secure autotexts, so they don’t forget the appointment. Telehealth removes common obstacles like transportation, time off work and child or elder care. Telehealth sessions typically start on time, streamlining visits for both patients and providers.

 

Efficiencies multiply exponentially with features like Kareo’s new large-group capabilities, allowing telehealth sessions of up to 100. This makes it easier to conduct group sessions, offer live webinars, or include consultants on calls. Kareo’s telehealth features group notes, saving time in documentation, and lets participants go to secure breakout rooms for more intimate discussions.

 

4.    It’s appealing to patients.

 

Patients love telehealth. They don’t have to rearrange their day to see their provider. They don’t have to leave the comfort of their home, either – important especially if they are housebound, disabled or potentially contagious. Because telehealth visits can occur anytime, anywhere, patients can receive care outside of regular office hours, providing valuable reassurance and fast, personalized answers.

 

Kareo Telehealth’s picture-in-picture feature lets providers and patients stay connected in the meeting with the ability to view notes, charts, lab results, and educational material during the session. Patients also like receiving customized emails and text reminders through Kareo Telehealth, which are often perceived as less intrusive than a phone call. 

 

Clinics that adopt Kareo Telehealth report an astounding 98% patient satisfaction rate. 

 

5.    It improves patient outcomes.

 

A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that telehealth interventions resulted in beneficial patient outcomes, particularly for chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and psychotherapy, reducing mortality and hospital admissions and improving general quality of life.

 

Providers also report that patients are more likely to follow treatment plans, engage in lifestyle coaching, and manage their medications properly when they have quick and easy access to their providers. Similarly, providers say they appreciate being able to see the patient’s living environment and their physical condition during a telehealth visit. This gives additional insights into details the patient might fail to mention, or situations that might need to be addressed, like safety concerns, disruptive noise, need for assistance with daily living, etc.

 

6.    It brings in additional revenue.

 

All that time you spend on the phone or sending emails becomes billable revenue when you start doing video visits. Mental health practices can offer more group sessions, increasing return on a practitioner’s time (see below for more on group meetings). Also, when you link to software like Kareo Patient Statements, patients can cover their copays or deductibles either before or after the visit with a few clicks of the mouse or by touching their phone screen.

 

Why is electronic paying important? Self-pay and high deductibles are becoming increasingly common with changes in the insurance industry. In fact, in 2019, the Annals of the American Thoracic Society reported that insurance deductibles for those with employer-sponsored coverage had risen more than 50% in just 5 years; and 46% of the nonelderly, privately insured adult population was covered by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) in early 2018, up from 25% in 2010. Transferring responsibility from insurers to patients has caused daunting challenges for independent practices, who struggle with rising collections cases and bad debt.

 

As telehealth increased in popularity during the pandemic, some clinics reported a decline in patient payments. Why? The office visit is typically the best time to collect. And with remote visits, office staff had less opportunity to ask for payment or run credit cards in person. That’s why it’s essential to select a telehealth solution that integrates seamlessly with office management software and permits remote electronic payment via credit card.

 

7.  It’s getting better all the time.

 

When the Covid pandemic hit and the nation went into lockdown, telehealth became a must-have throughout the medical industry. Early adopters of robust telehealth solutions were way ahead of the curve; almost everyone else had to use an ad hoc solution like Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, Zoom, or Skype or even landlines or cell phones. HIPAA allowed “non-public facing” solutions for a while because of practical necessity.

 

But this is changing quickly. Telehealth is ubiquitous today. Patients are no longer content with consumer-type communications with dubious security. They expect integrated platforms, where providers can access charts and other records during the visit. They want high-definition video. Solutions are therefore becoming more powerful and sophisticated, with enhancements that make telehealth more like an in-person visit. 

 

Take group meetings, for example. Before, patching in a participant often resulted in a dropped call, and transmission quality degraded with additional callers. Typically, only a few participants could join. Kareo Telehealth allows up to 100 people to attend a telehealth meeting. Another Kareo enhancement is the custom waiting room. Patients “knock” upon arrival, notifying your office that they’re there.

 

Practices that don’t want to take the leap into 100% telehealth can offer a hybrid model, giving patients the option of an in-person or virtual session .

 

8. It’s especially good for mental and behavioral health practices.

 

The Journal of Global Health reports that “telemedicine makes mental health services more accessible as it helps patients avoid stigma, and get treatment from the privacy of home.” Numerous studies have proven the efficacy of telehealth. For instance, Stroke Magazine published a study showing the benefits of using tele treatment to reduce anxiety in stroke patients. Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry stressed the importance of telehealth in expanding “access to care for hard-to-reach and underserved populations with restricted mobility due to mental, medical, or geographical challenges. Telemental Health reduces or eliminates the need for travel for both patients and clinicians and delivers remote services cost-effectively while maintaining the quality of care

 

As a result, in times of public health crises and national and international emergencies, the value of Telemental Health cannot be overstated.”

 

Proven efficacy is important, because the use of telemental health has seen an enormous increase since the pandemic hit. KFF and Epic Research found that “telehealth visits for outpatient mental health and substance use services went from virtually zero percent in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to a peak of 40% in mid-2020 – and continued to account for more than a third (36%) of such visits in the six months ending in August 2021.” The report attributed this rise to an increased need for mental health services during the pandemic.

 

Nowhere has the trend toward telehealth been more prevalent since the pandemic peak than in psychiatry. While telehealth has replaced up to 17% of all outpatient and office visit claims, the figure is 50% in psychiatry and 30% in substance abuse, according to McKinsey

 

 

9. It prepares you for the future.

 

No one can predict if (or when) another pandemic might strike, or how it might be transmitted. Experts say, though, that COVID-19 is surely not the last we will see of its ilk. Other types of disasters such as wildfires, tornados, floods or wars could easily upend current care delivery practices as well. Having a strong telehealth in place helps to prepare your practice for unforeseen eventualities. In fact, the technology is proving to be so useful and cost effective we can expect it to be ubiquitous in the near future. Health Science Reports predicts that telehealth “will be expected as part of routine and integrated service provision, medical training, and the profession of medicine, and its widespread adoption will bring healthcare delivery into the 21st century.”

 

With advances in technology and a changing healthcare landscape, there are really no downsides to adopting telehealth. If you’re looking to streamline your practice, improve your profitability, and give patients more of what they want, maybe it’s time to check out a robust, integrated telehealth solution. 

 

If you are looking to upgrade your telehealth technology or haven't embraced offering telehealth services yet, now is a good time to get started and Kareo can help. Chat live with a Kareo representative, email a question, or vist our telehealth information page for more information.

About the Author

Alesa Lightbourne is a prize-winning author, professor and former dean of an international business school. As a freelance writer, her clients have included Fortune...

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