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Telehealth: Dispelling Misconceptions

Although telehealth utilization is at an all-time high, some healthcare organizations are still hesitant to adopt telehealth services or integrate them into the care they’re providing patients in the office. Most objections stem from a lack of information, either about the process, the technology or the efficacy of telemedicine. However, the feedback about telehealth in general is almost always overwhelmingly positive, and with the right tools, setting up a successful telemedicine program will result in positive impacts on healthcare organizations, their clinicians and the patients they serve.

Below, we’ve dispelled some of the most common misconceptions about telemedicine. Whether you’re considering implementing a telehealth program, trying to get support from other stakeholders at your practice or wanting to increase patient engagement with your existing program, there’s helpful information for everyone.

Patients will not accept it

The truth is more patients than ever before are seeking care via telemedicine and are typically just as satisfied with the care they receive, if not more satisfied, than with the care they receive at more traditional appointments.

Pre-pandemic, telehealth utilization had already increased significantly in early 2020 compared to a year prior, the American College of Physicians found. Video visits were up 7% in January 2020 from January 2019. And a 2020 LocumTenens.com survey found that 62% of respondents said their practice increased telehealth utilization during the pandemic.

While those who aren’t avid technology users might have previously been hesitant to schedule virtual visits, the necessity of staying home to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 has made many patients more willing to try it, as has the temporary loosening of telehealth restrictions to help make care more accessible.

Another reason many patients are eager to take advantage of telehealth offerings is that it saves them time and provides them access to specialists whose care they wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive. Patients living in rural areas are just one example. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 46 million Americans (15%) in the U.S. live in sparsely populated areas with low housing density and hours away from urban centers. Many practices also have difficulty staffing clinicians in rural areas.

Prior to the advent of telemedicine, patients living in rural areas had to choose between time consuming and often costly travel and not receiving the care they need. But telemedicine makes it easy, eliminating the physical barriers that prevent patients from receiving treatment. Primary care practices or other healthcare organizations are able to adopt telehealth technology that allows them to serve as a space where their patients can connect with specialists located in other areas around the country.

 

Still have questions or concerns?

The technology is too expensive and too overwhelming

The technology needed to adopt or participate in a telemedicine program is usually much less expensive than most people think! Healthcare organizations can typically procure the basic technology needed to get their telehealth program off the ground for under $4,000. And LocumTenens.com provides a basic telehealth set up for our clinicians working from their homes.

Telehealth icon
Technology should be thought of as an investment. Investing in telehealth technology and opening a telehealth service line opens the potential for increased revenue for your practice.

Like all kinds of technology, telehealth technology ranges from basic to elaborate. Most healthcare organizations opt for a more basic setup as they’re getting their program off the ground. However, as these healthcare organizations begin to realize the benefits and cost savings of telemedicine, many upgrade and build on to their existing systems with different peripherals that make their encounters more productive. For example, digital stethoscopes allow remote clinicians to hear patients’ heart and lung functions with the assistance of another in-office staff member.

Even the most elaborate telehealth technology is no more overwhelming than the technology that most clinicians are already utilizing during their more traditional encounters. If you do run into any trouble, though, LocumTenens.com has a 24/7 in-house technology support team that specializes in telehealth and is always there to support you.

 

We don’t have dedicated space for this

When integrating telemedicine into your brick and mortar practice, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated space for telehealth visits! The rooms where you currently provide care for patients are more than enough. Telehealth equipment for facilities can be portable and stored on a cart with wheels so that it can easily be moved from room to room in order to serve more patients. Mobile telehealth solutions give your practice and your clinicians maximum flexibility.

Telehealth photo
The majority of clinicians who conduct visits via telehealth do so from the comfort of their own home offices, where all that’s required is a professional, comfortable setup that can house a laptop, external monitor, webcam, a speaker and microphone, keyboard, mouse, USB hub and printer.

As technology advances, it often gets more streamlined. Many of the technological components necessary for a successful telehealth encounter are already combined to minimize the space required. For example, webcams, speakers, microphones and more are already built into most laptops.

 

Our providers don’t really believe in the efficacy

If telemedicine wasn’t an effective and productive form of medicine, patients wouldn’t report such high satisfaction with telehealth services.

With telemedicine gaining popularity, there will likely be more formalized research conducted about the efficacy of telehealth. Below, you can access some existing research.

Another reason why so many clinicians enjoy practicing telemedicine? It helps alleviate burnout by improving work/life balance. Telemedicine increases efficiency, allowing clinicians to take back their time and enjoy a more flexible schedule. And because patient satisfaction rates are typically higher when it comes to telemedicine, clinicians are happier.

 

Reimbursement is a challenge

Reimbursement for telemedicine services has improved significantly over the past few years, and it’s only going to get better.

Many states have parity laws and CMS is becoming more favorable to full reimbursement. Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia have private payor parity laws, and more have pending legislation. Because each state has different laws, we are happy to help you determine what is required in your state for your practice to reimburse. If you practice or acquire a clinician though LocumTenens.com, we also have a billing specialist that we partner with to help walk you through the process.

Telehealth reimbursement

 

Telemedicine is not real medicine

Telemedicine is real medicine. Thanks to today’s technology, telehealth encounters really aren’t all that different from face-to-face encounters. The loosening of telemedicine restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of many involved in the healthcare industry to the red tape that makes telehealth encounters different from face-to-face encounters. The discussions taking place today about telehealth legislation and access to care are likely to lead to permanent change that will continue to make virtual encounters even more like telehealth encounters.

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