Pivot and adapt.
That’s the name of the game for business owners facing the challenges caused by COVID-19 and social distancing. Physical therapists don’t want to wait out the crisis; they want to get back to work and provide care to their patients in need, while staying safe and respecting social distancing guidelines. Fortunately, there’s a solution to the paradoxical situation of providing treatment that’s usually hands-on, from a safe distance.
Telehealth services fill the gap caused by clinic closures, allowing treatment to continue while the therapist and patient are in their own locations. Even though widely available technology solutions have made implementing telehealth easier than ever, many clinics are not set up to use the solution or are unsure how to get started.
Here are 10 tips to get you started with telehealth, from updating your therapy billing process to determining a therapy workflow that’s most efficient for your clinic:
- Research the rules.
Federal and state guidelines can be used to help create and update your clinic policies and procedures—take time to consider if you need to modify consent forms and liability insurance to include telehealth specifically. Consider a formal process to reach out to insurance payers to ask specific questions about telehealth documentation and billing for therapy services. Also, make sure you’re keeping track of their responses.
- Basics of therapy billing.
Ensure your EHR and billing software can add any new billing codes, modifiers, and revenue codes that may be required for telehealth specific services. Work with your billing department or agency to be sure they can handle changes as well so that information flows smoothly from documentation to billing, to the claim.
- Prepare a plan.
Being thoughtful before setting up scheduling and documentation will save you time. When formulating a telehealth strategy, think about the following:
>What therapists will perform telehealth?
>What’s the length of your telehealth visits?
>Are telehealth visits scheduled on certain days or during certain hours?
Will visits focus on a specific type of patient population (e.g., low back pain)?
- Control the chaos.
Once your clinic and providers are set up for telehealth visits, talk with your team to find a way to easily identify telehealth visits on your schedule—also have a clearly defined list of therapists who will perform telehealth visits.
- Design your documentation
Determine a therapy workflow that works for your clinic and makes your telehealth visits efficient. Use due diligence to make sure you’re meeting payer-specific requirements for documentation and consider updating or customizing your clinical documentation to streamline your work.
- Marketing matters.
Connect with your patients to let them know you have a new service. Talk with your team to identify patients who have been inactive or discharged, and perform outreach or call physicians and other referral sources to let them know you provide telehealth. Don’t forget: Leverage the power and reach of social media to announce your new service!
- Schedule sessions.
Make a push for telehealth visits to fill up your clinic schedule. Consider scheduling back-to-back telehealth sessions for efficiency – for example, have specific days/times set aside for telehealth so you don’t have to run between patients in the gym. In addition, consider sending documents or materials like home exercises or surveys prior to the appointment so the patient has them ready to go for the visit.
- Treat with technology.
Through the use of videoconferencing, execute telehealth visits via a platform or solution that is secure and HIPAA-compliant. Discuss with your team to determine the best way to provide educational and treatment materials to your patients, complete documentation during the telehealth visit, and ultimately, provide amazing care.
- Beware of billing.
Be mindful and watch for claim errors or denials. Get into a habit of regularly checking with insurance payers to see if rules of coverage and billing have changed, and be ready to correct and resubmit claims if you’re able to.
- Revisit and revise.
Since this may be a brand-new endeavor for some clinics, it’s important to learn from each visit and how to improve your process and adapt. With each telehealth visit, you’ll get better and so will your patients!
If you’re new to telehealth and want to learn how to get started, important issues to be aware of, and best practices, we recommend listening to this webinar hosted by David Grigsby, MPT, Cert MDT. Dr. Grigsby has provided telehealth visits for over eight years and has been the co-owner of MidSouth Orthopaedic Rehabilitation since 2007.
Learn more about Net Health’s rehab therapy solution with an integrated secure telehealth platform.