Telehealth: The New Group Practice Growth Vehicle

Chad Anguilm, Vice President, In-Practice Technology Services Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Over just the past six months of 2020, we have seen an incredibly accelerated evolution in the role of telehealth. It went from a rarely used technology to a basic “table stakes” capability for modified practice re-opening and revenue in the summer, to where we are now, with telehealth emerging as a robust competitive advantage for practice growth and future success for those with the vision to leverage it aggressively.

What we’re seeing is that while some practices are still struggling to take the next step in successfully integrating their initial “stopgap” telehealth piece as part of a forward-looking hybrid services growth strategy, there are others who are now growing at a rapid pace – thanks in no small part to the fact they implemented telehealth “the right way” from the start.

Those that are thriving ultimately had a similar path to success – they took the time to properly implement a complete solution – whether on their own or by enlisting a partner like Medical Advantage to guide them. Here are the steps that a group practice or MSO must take to grow its business, geographic reach, and revenue to succeed in the new competitive landscape – where telemedicine is a patient expectation and a necessary modality for success.

1) Select a HIPAA-compliant telemedicine vendor that fits your needs. There are hundreds of telemedicine vendors on the market with many being spun up daily. It is important that you meet with your EHR vendor first to see if they have a solution, if it works for you, and if not, what other vendors integrate well. It is also important to have a tightly integrated solution to avoid burning out your staff or compounding patient safety risks due to dual documentation.

2) Map out new processes and procedures to ensure staff understands protocol. If your staff does not understand why and how you plan to integrate telehealth, it will not be a great experience (think back to your likely clunky EHR implementation). From outbound marketing to front desk triaging for visits, to consents, intake questions, clinical documentation, orders, and finally billing & coding, it all needs to be done properly and succinctly – with buy-in from staff.

3) Be aware of visit types that are effective and reimbursed. Not all visits can be done through telemedicine, but there are many that can be done effectively, with high quality and proper reimbursement. It is important that staff triaging calls truly understand the visit type and reimbursement schedule when determining which modality will be most effective for each patient in an effective blended care program.

4) Market to your patients and to patients you want to acquire. Patients are the consumers of healthcare and medical offices that make it easy to do business with their office are emerging as winners. Set up your website for success, rise to the top of Google searches, advertise, boost your reputation, make it easy to become a patient with your practice, schedule televisits, and track health online, and watch your patient volume grow and revenue climb.

5) Obtain consent to treat. As I mentioned above, many organizations jumped into telehealth quickly to serve their short-term patient needs. As we catch our breath, it’s important to ensure that your documentation is in order; a great place to start is a Consent to Treat. The Doctor’s Company has published a telehealth consent form available here.

6) Ensure that quality stays at the forefront of care. It is true that CMS, Medicare and many commercial payers made it easier to see patients through telemedicine while keeping reimbursement at in-person levels during the pandemic. It is imperative that quality remains at the forefront of care if we plan to keep telehealth as a viable care channel. See “Telehealth, Everyone’s Watching” for more information on this step.

7) Incorporate Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). Patients are starting to buy in to telehealth as they begin to understand and appreciate the value of the service. Amp that up by keeping them away from the office yet still in the forefront of care by using Remote Patient Monitoring tools. Vitals, medication management and even cardiac monitoring tools can be easily deployed and used by medical offices to keep a constant eye on their patients at a distance and increase revenue for the practice.

8) Become an expert in billing and coding – or find a partner that is. Specificity became the rage in coding over the last few years due to the push for Hierarchical Condition Category (or “HCC”) coding. Prior to that it was the implementation of ICD-10. Now, we must incorporate all of this and more as we take on a new care channel in telemedicine. New codes, along with specific modifiers and proper documentation and consents are necessary to be properly reimbursed for your services.

There is no question that telehealth is having its moment right now, and those who have adopted it fully are thriving – even growing at a time when many groups are struggling to keep their doors open. Medical Advantage has assisted groups across the country to successfully launch telehealth services and grow their revenue by doing it the right way.

Specialty groups are now seeing patients across the country by using a telehealth platform in conjunction with remote patient monitoring tools. Contact us today to talk to one of our telehealth consultants about how we can help you dramatically increase your revenue and grow your practice through telehealth.

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