The COVID-19 global pandemic has left many medical practices struggling to stay afloat. With mandatory lockdown and social distancing norms in place to prevent the spread of the highly infectious virus, patients are reluctant to visit healthcare providers, unless it’s a life and death matter. Seeing a significant drop in patient volume and revenue, a lot of doctors are deciding to shut down their practice temporarily.
As they say, in chaos there’s an opportunity. And COVID-19 is no different.
For healthcare providers reeling with the loss of revenue and patients, telemedicine is the new window of opportunity.
Right now, healthcare providers who previously didn’t offer telemedicine are scrambling to offer virtual visit services, both as a way to ensure patient care and as a means of making up for revenue lost due to social distancing and lockdown.
Did you know? Nearly 50% of doctors are using telemedicine to deliver patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic, up from 18% in 2018. (Source)
Telemedicine: Healthcare Providers’ Answer to Social Distancing
By offering telemedicine services, the critical message providers are giving to patients is that they are not closing down.
While the telemedicine technology has been around for decades, its adoption has been slow due to patient privacy concerns, technology costs, lack of adequate reimbursement, and physician unwillingness.
But now, with patient visits taking a nosedive, healthcare providers are turning to e-mails, texts, and telemedicine to maintain contact with patients and provide care for the needy.
Telemedicine is making a positive contribution to healthcare during these uncertain times. For instance, a lot of obstetricians are doing prenatal check-ins with virtual visits. Ophthalmologists and Dermatologists are diagnosing less threatening conditions using cellphone cameras.
Benefits of Telemedicine
To say the least, telemedicine is bridging the gap between physicians and patients, enabling everyone to stay at home and connect through virtual visits.
Even larger hospitals are quickly adopting virtual care to treat quarantined patients infected with the coronavirus.
According to experts, there are three primary benefits of adopting telehealth during this crisis:
Screen Patients Remotely: Providers can remotely stay connected to patients with a minor cold and flu-like symptoms who don’t need medical intervention. By keeping potentially infected people at home, doctors can lower the risk of transmission to others.
Provide Care for Patients with Chronic Illness: Chronic diseases can lower a person’s immunity and make him or her prone to infection if exposed to the virus.
COVID-19 can be fatal for people with compromised health, and by using virtual visits, doctors can help these patients prevent catching an infection.
Add Revenue Stream: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has loosened regulations for telemedicine reimbursements. Medicare will be paying doctors to provide telemedicine services for beneficiaries across the entire country. Medicare and Medicaid also expanded the range of telemedicine services that will be reimbursed. Even state governments are asking insurers to more telemedicine appointments.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently announced $200 million to support telemedicine services across the country.
Also, doctors often take after-hours calls from patients for follow-ups after procedures, emergencies, or just to take care of medication refills. These audio encounters are not reimbursable. But if doctors are engaging patients in video calls, these encounters are reimbursable. Even in states where telemedicine may not be reimbursable yet, patients are willing to pay out of pocket for consultation with their doctors from the comfort of their house.
The Way Forward
For healthcare facilities that have not yet embraced telemedicine, this could be the perfect opportunity to get patients on board and start providing a much-needed service that could play a pivotal role in growing your practice.
Most of the people are accustomed to apps like Skype and Zoom to keep in touch with friends and family members. Such people may be more receptive to telemedicine than you expect. And, with a wide range of easy-to-use, cloud-based apps available, it’s simple to start offering telemedicine services and keep patients safe while continuing to deliver quality care.
Of course, not all patient visits can be handled via video. There are times when a doctor needs to examine a patient in person. However, that’s the beauty of telemedicine: It allows you to save time on less critical cases so that you have more time to spend with the patients who need your attention in person.
No doubt, we are living through bizarre times. But this upheaval is fostering crucial changes. Though healthcare providers’ relationship with telemedicine services looks like a case of an overnight arranged marriage, there’s the potential for true love. Telemedicine could be the turning point for US healthcare.
We at Eye Care Leaders understand the need to move to Telemedicine and we are doing so by offering a new telemedicine option to help our customers continue to serve patients during these unchartered waters. During this time of uncertainty, please know that we continue to be staffed and are here to help as the trusted partner in eye care. Learn more about this new offering during the upcoming webinars.
For more information get in touch with Courtney Kortis at Courtney.Kortis@eyecareleaders.com.
May 1st, 2020 at 11:00 am EDT
May 7th, 2020 at 11:00 am EDT
May 14th, 2020 at 11:00 am EDT