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Posted by Experity
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, telemedicine was a nice-to-have platform in the urgent care industry. While some larger urgent care organizations found telemedicine valuable to balance visit volume between busy and less busy clinics or for specific use cases within their business model, others were not nearly as fast to jump on the telemedicine train due to concerns about lower reimbursements, HIPPA regulations, and a lower cost-per-visit.
Since it was first introduced, telemedicine has been valuable to healthcare consumers for chronic condition management and follow-ups, quick diagnoses for sinus infections and rashes, and mental health counseling. But for conditions such as broken bones or symptoms that indicate lab testing, in-person visits remained essential.
In rural parts of the country, the availability of telehealth options was a game-changer for patients. According to the American Hospital Association, 76 percent of U.S. hospitals connect with patients and consulting practitioners through video and other technology, and almost every state Medicaid program has some sort of telehealth coverage.
When the pandemic broke out, telemedicine gave providers the ability to triage possible COVID-19 infections and determine the need for a test without the risk of staff and patient exposure. For healthcare technology providers, telemedicine was key to responding to the crisis. Experity had a telemed solution ready for the urgent care market in 48 hours in response to the demand. Pushed by the medical community, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) loosened HIPAA telemed restrictions during the public health emergency to empower medical providers to better serve patients at a distance.
While many urgent care clinics quickly implemented a telemedicine solution for two reasons:
While telemedicine has not proven to be the pandemic solution we expected, it sparked a larger conversation around its place in the urgent care space. Does it deliver value? Does it improve the patient experience? Does it improve quality of care?
Value to Patients
The value of telemedicine for patients is indisputable: patients have become true consumers of healthcare and with that, they demand more options than ever before.
For many clinics, telemed helps providers deliver the options consumers are looking for.
Telemedicine supports high-quality healthcare services for patients in rural areas, homebound patients, and those without transportation. It’s especially efficient for follow-up visits, diagnostic test review, care for chronic conditions, and medication monitoring
By reducing time away from work, school, or other responsibilities, telemed visits are convenient–an expectation of today’s healthcare consumer. An additional option for managing one’s own healthcare experience, telemedicine puts control of patients’ experiences in their hands.
Value to Healthcare Providers
Telehealth has evolved from a commodity in rural healthcare to an important option for patients in the broader healthcare marketplace. In addition to improving the patient experience, telemedicine helps clinics keep frontline workers safe in pandemic situations like COVID. It can also improve the quality of care, increase visit options available to providers, provide a good alternative for consultations, and allow clinics to spread patient visits across their clinics.
Because telemedicine removes some big roadblocks for patients, it can help doctors treat reluctant patients before their conditions become critical improving the overall outcomes.
Clinics that offer telemedicine need seamless, integrated workflows to help them provide quality care and receive timely reimbursement. When telemedicine functionality is integrated within their EMR/PM solutions, it can connect and streamline these processes.
The most efficient integrated telemedicine solutions allow providers to easily track a patient through queues, statuses, and notifications all within one practice setting. The ability to launch a video session directly in a patient chart also helps make charting more efficient and increases claim accuracy.
For clinics with multiple locations, an integrated telemedicine solution like Experity offers easy load balancing to make use of underutilized resources. Staff can track patients in one clinic alongside patients that are telemedicine eligible at other locations from a single screen. This allows them to utilize providers across their network remotely during high-traffic times of day. And in many cases, patients would prefer a telemedicine visit over a long wait
With Experity, practitioners to identify the type of telemedicine visit at charge entry (telephone only, at home or in-clinic) to ensure initial claims are more accurate and paid more quickly.
Telemedicine is one convenient, accessible tool that helps clinics foster better relationships that keeps patients coming back.
Telemedicine and Patient Engagement
It’s impossible to talk about the greater adoption of telemedicine without including the growing importance of patient engagement. While we often refer to patient engagement as a solution that includes online registration, expanded communication, visibility into wait times, and post-visit feedback, it’s much more than that. It’s a mindset.
Urgent care clinics that embrace this patient-centered mindset understand that when they engage with patients during every step of their visit encounter—in-person or virtually—efficiencies and workflows improve for clinic staff and satisfaction improves for patients and providers.
Telemedicine can provide greater accessibility, convenience, and control for patients, which makes it a critical component of the patient engagement conversation. An effective telemedicine tool should help providers and clinics improve patient engagement every step of the way. For more information about telemedicine in urgent care, download our free ebook: 5 Critical Steps to Take Before Incorporating Telemedicine into Your Urgent Care.
This blog article is a benefit of UCA's Corporate Support Partners (CSP) program. Thank you to Experity, a Diamond Level CSP.
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