Let’s admit it: the year 2020 has been challenging to say the least. From implementing COVID-19 restrictions in-office to spending time away from trusted teams of therapists, so much of this year has felt unfamiliar. However, that’s not to say that there was nothing to be grateful for this year.
On the contrary, 2020 has been an excellent reminder of just how adaptable physical therapy practices and healthcare markets can truly be. This year has been a testament to the power of teams, the dedication of clinicians, and the trust of patients. As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, consider these five achievements physical therapy practices were grateful for in 2020.
1. Reliable Telehealth Services
The year 2020 may as well be referred to as the year of telehealth services. Following an emergency declaration regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) added a massive 135 services to the Medicare telehealth services list and expanded the types of practitioners who can provide telehealth services.¹ The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that between mid-March through early-July of this year, over 10.1 million beneficiaries received one of these telehealth services, compared to just 14,000 beneficiaries pre-pandemic.²
Rehab therapists who have been utilizing telehealth services to maintain a continuity of care for patients are also reporting confidence in the reliability and connectivity of digital appointments. According to the results of an analysis of more than 40,000 episodes-of-care, telehealth services were found to be equally effective for improving the functional status of patients at all telehealth intensity levels.³ Patients also experienced an average of two to three fewer visits, suggesting that telehealth services may promote greater efficiency of care.⁴
Between more readily available and reliable service options and the positive experience of patients using telemedicine, it appears telehealth is here to stay — and therapists could not be more thankful. In fact, in a survey of 300 practitioners, telehealth services spiked by 51 percent during recent months and are anticipated to remain at 21 percent after the pandemic ends.⁵ So, the year of telehealth is proving to benefit both patients and therapists alike.
2. Consistent Patient Engagement
Physical therapy practices are powered by patients. The start of the year made it feel as though we’d never get to interact with our patients the same way again — but telehealth services proved that was false. Despite COVID-restrictions, telehealth and secure messaging options allowed therapists to remain active with patients, thus maintaining consistent patient engagement.
Beyond digital communication with patients, therapists have also been offering online Home Exercise Programs (HEP). HEP provide simple, personalized home exercise plans online to help patients remain engaged with their plan of care (POS). For patients that are visiting in-office, automated reminder calls, texts, and emails help ensure an appointment won’t be missed. These automated reminders reduce no-shows for therapists waiting for patients in-office, providing yet another accomplishment to be grateful for in 2020.
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3. Limited Denials When Billing
Everyone loves a financial win, but one of the biggest accomplishments to celebrate this year is a reduction in denials when billing. Electronic health record (EHR) cloud-based solutions have helped gather all necessary codes, charges, and patient information in one effective system to allow physical therapy practices to streamline the billing process. Not to mention, improved HCFA (CMS1500) and UB04 (CMS1450) claims accuracy help reduce denials with validation.
Physical therapy practices took strides to improve accuracy prior to electronic submission to the clearinghouse, meaning this year, errors were flagged before denial. The addition of line-item details on remittances was another accomplishment to be grateful for in 2020, as these allowed practices to easily reconcile and post payments manually or electronically. An overall reduction in denials is significantly beneficial to the overall financial health standing of a physical therapy practice.
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4. Improved Patient Outcomes
It’s near-impossible to better your business when you’re unaware of its current performance. Enter Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO), powered by Net Health. FOTO is an electronic outcomes management system (OMS) that harnesses predictive analytics to capture and report business analytics. It offers nationally benchmarked, risk-adjusted comparisons by company, clinic, and clinician over time to improve patient care and facilitate practice growth.⁶
Practices that utilize Net Health FOTO receive everything from risk-adjusted patient-reported outcomes to convenient reporting tools to promote outcomes to referral sources. Physical therapy practices were especially grateful for immediate access to such granular insights to ensure optimal performance. This year, practices using Net Health FOTO were able to remain informed about clinic performance, quality of care, patient engagement, and similar business analytics.
5. Practice Growth in 2021 and Beyond
Advancements in telehealth services have brought talented therapists to every corner of the U.S., both rural and urban. However, the ability to even further extend practice reach to those who have difficulty attending appointments can skyrocket practice growth in 2021 and beyond. Studies have shown that telemedicine services can potentially deliver more efficient care, enhancing an opportunity to compete in a value-based reimbursement world.⁷
Aside from cutting-edge telehealth advancements, other digital services can assist in continued practice growth. Advanced business analytics can entice more referral resources and improve consistent patient engagement. Plus, ultramodern EHR software solutions offer Digital Marketing Services (DMS) to grow your practice with an improved online presence and reputation. Combined, these factors can power compound growth through the upcoming years.
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This year was a reminder that life can get tough, but healthcare workers are tougher. Alleviate some of the most common grievances of physical therapy practices with Net Health® Therapy for Hospital Outpatient and Private Practice.
1, 2, 5, 7U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HHS.gov News, “HHS Issues New Report Highlighting Dramatic Trends in Medicare Beneficiary Telehealth Utilization amid COVID-19,” 28 July 2020.
3-4Net Health, Private Practice Therapy, “2020 Study Shows: Telehealth is as Effective in Rehab Therapy as In-Person Care,” 6 November 2020.
6Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes Inc, Home, “Outcomes Management System,” 6 November 2020.