How telemedicine is changing health care for practitioners and patients

By Kathy Hargreaves, CPA/CFP/CPC & Dawn Morgan, CPA

COVID has been a disrupter for change everywhere and it has permanently altered our expectations about the way physicians, and other providers, approach the delivery of health care. When the virus was recognized as a critical threat, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a mandate which closed, or restricted, health care delivery for nonessential services. Dental visits and non-emergency physician office visits and surgeries were halted. Many providers were forced to close their doors. When the mandate was lifted, more than six weeks later, patients still were unwilling to venture into physician offices; even plexiglass shields and cars as waiting rooms did not entice them back. Practitioners turned to telehealth in response which encompassed services furnished via real-time, interactive communication technology to connect with their patients.

While telehealth is certainly not new, government restrictions on providers were such that most could not afford to offer it. As it became clear that patients were either unwilling or unable to go into their physician’s office, restrictions were temporarily lifted and the service became widely available. Given the appeal and convenience of telehealth to consumers, this technology is here to stay.

Savvy health care providers are now looking to up their game in the telehealth arena. Some of our healthcare consulting clients who are planning an expansion, or new office space, are mapping in telehealth rooms, and specialized equipment, while others have repurposed offices (and even closets) to accommodate the service. The government’s Health and Human Services funding was designed to support the expansion of remote technologies and many clients have taken advantage of that assistance. Most major health insurance carriers offer a form of telehealth coverage including Aetna, Florida Blue, Cigna, Humana and United Healthcare. Medicare, Part B, covers 80% of the virtual visit cost for preventative health screenings, evaluation and management visits and mental health counseling.

As with any foray into new territory, there have been lessons learned as to best practices for both patient and health care provider.

Providers have learned to utilize multiple screens so that they can see the patient, and read their charting, while simultaneously looking at the camera. They have learned to exhibit calm confidence, as patients sometimes struggle with technological challenges. While scheduling is different, missed appointments are rarer. Sometimes payment arrangements must be made, or taken over the phone, and because the reimbursement is lower than an in-office visit it is important to collect that co-pay or deductible.

Televisits are a good way to offer some form of expanded hours because of their flexibility.

Since mainstreaming telemedicine is still relatively new, there are best practices that practitioners should be aware of:

  • Advertise the service. Be bold. Patients actually want the service. Make sure it is prominently displayed on your website, along with the hours the service is available.
  • Develop written protocols and procedures. Train staff utilizing those protocols so that the service is seamlessly offered.
  • Offer written instructions before your patient’s visit to ensure they have a phone number to call for technical assistance and to advise of any specific software that must be downloaded for the visit.
  • Ensure protocols are in place, in advance, for gathering medical history and any other paperwork required for billing.

And for patients using telehealth, prepare for your appointment in advance:

  • Write down any questions you have ahead of time and be sure to document your vitals, such as weight and temperature.
  • Take photos in advance of any wounds, or injuries, that you’ll be discussing, like a healing surgery incision.
  • Have a notebook ready for taking notes about your treatment plan.

Preparing well for televisits will result in the same quality of care as the patient would enjoy in person, and they can experience that visit in the comfort of home while everyone learns new ways of getting things done in a post-COVID world.

Shareholder Kathleen A. Hargreaves, CPA/CFP/CPC and Tax Manager Dawn Morgan, CPA of KB Healthcare Consultants provide “best practice” service solutions to health care industry organizations, including all physician specialties, laboratories, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. The KB Healthcare team is comprised of medical consultants, accountants, certified coders and compliance specialists with focused experience in the healthcare industry. Hargreaves joined Kerkering Barberio in 1992 and was admitted as a shareholder in 1997.


You May Also Like

In his final days as director of Florida Division of Emergency Management, Jared Moskowitz speaks up

A young man in a perpetual hurry, Jared Moskowitz has been in public life for 15 years and he’s only 40. After earning his BA in political science at George

Small businesses in times of COVID-19

Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic small local businesses are slowly regaining their equilibrium with some time to reflect. Throughout the Tampa Bay area some positive constants have emerged through

Keeping it real: ACS sustains its vibrant passion on virtual platforms

Zoom confined their images to rectangles, but the virtual meeting room could not contain their passion. The American Cancer Society’s Southwest Florida team recently gathered a dedicated group of Making

Shumaker Advisors talks about leading in a crisis

Navigating the coronavirus’ challenges underscores the importance of quality information, guidance and direction in making responsible and effective business decisions. A strong ethos of community service enables Shumaker Advisors Florida

Other Posts

Qualenta Kivett and Wendi Goodson-Celerin of Tampa General Hospital recognized as black healthcare leaders to know

By J.C. Barrott Tampa General Hospital’s Executive Vice President and Chief People and Talent Officer, Qualenta Kivett, and Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive, Wendi Goodson-Celerin, have been recognized

Healthcare by Becker’s hospital review honors Tampa General Hospital as a top place to work

By J.C. Barrott Tampa General Hospital is among the top places in the U.S. to work in healthcare, according to Becker’s Hospital Review’s 2024 “150+ Top Places to Work in

Healthcare by Beckers hospital review honors 06 20 2024
St. Pete-Clearwater International adds new, Allegiant non-stop flight destinations to Evansville, IN & McAllen, TX

By J.C. Barrott New routes to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) in Florida, includes Evansville, Indiana via Evansville Regional Airport (EVV), and McAllen, Texas via McAllen International Airport (MFE). St.

USF Foundation Board of Directors adds eight new members

The USF Foundation Board of Directors recently added eight new members, to further their vision of inspiring philanthropy and administering resources that support USF’s pursuit of excellence. The eight elected

USF Foundation Board of Directors 06 20 2024