On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, an illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has swept the globe. Hundreds of thousands of people have been infected worldwide, and thousands have died since the beginning of 2020. Contagion experts expect that the number will climb exponentially before the virus is contained. Telehealth regulations had to be adjusted in order to best accommodate the pandemic.
The government response to this crisis continues to evolve, but officials are unified in their endorsement of social isolation. People, particularly seniors or those with underlying medical conditions, need to stay away from public places and groups of more than a few people. While this guideline makes sense, it poses challenges for those who need regular and timely medical care. The group that most often needs to see a doctor is the one most susceptible to the virus, which places them in a catch 22 situation. Fortunately, the government has taken action to make telehealth services more available for those who need them during this pandemic.
Benefits of Telehealth
Telehealth services, including virtual doctor's visits, have grown significantly in recent years and have enhanced the medical services available to those in rural areas and those in poor health. Simply getting to a doctor can be too much of a physical strain for many. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those with other health conditions such as heart disease can quickly become critically ill if they are exposed to a virus, especially the coronavirus. That means that seeking medical care can actually be dangerous to their health.
Since medical clinics are hotbeds of illness, the government task force on the coronavirus is urging citizens not to visit emergency rooms unless they are acutely ill. In fact, the authorities are advising those who think they might have the virus to call ahead to the doctor's office or emergency room before visiting so they can be isolated from other patients. In some cases, seeking treatment for an illness or injury could expose you to the virus.
In many instances, teleheath services can give you the medical attention you need without exposing you to the pandemic. Seniors can follow the CDC advice to isolate and still be evaluated and monitored by an experienced physician through video-conferencing, follow-up phone calls, and online services. Telehealthcare may well be a saving grace for many during this dangerous and challenging time.
Easing of Telehealth Regulations
The telehealth industry has been carefully regulated by the government to make certain it follows best practices and provides quality health care. Obviously, it cannot replace all traditional medical visits. However, it is tailor-made for this particular crisis.
Current regulations would limit these services, however. That's why the Department of Health & Human Services is recommending that certain HIPAA regulations be waived during the pandemic.
First, physicians will be able to provide telehealth services in states where they are not licensed, something they are not usually allowed to do. HIPAA requirements have also been eased to facilitate this move. This change will make it much easier for susceptible patients to have a virtual visit while remaining in their homes.
However, state governments will have to waive their current regulations as well before a doctor in Illinois can offer telehealth services to a patient in New York. Still, the potential is there for telehealth professionals to make a massive difference in the months to come. Without this option, some patients may compromise their health because they are too afraid to leave home. This fear is based on reality. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious disease, testified before Congress that COVID-19 is ten times deadlier than the common flu and has an approximate fatality rate of 3.4 percent. (The precise rate will not be known for some time.) Most of the fatalities are those over 60.
Just as importantly, the recently passed Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act allows Medicare to pay for telehealth services for beneficiaries in any healthcare facility or in their home for the duration of the crisis. In the past, patients had to show an existing relationship with the doctor, which significantly limited telehealth opportunities.
Making telehealth services more widely available during this time may save thousands of lives. If telehealth experts perform as expected, they will positively affect the future of the industry.
The TempDev Advantage
As the reality of COVID-19 has hit our health systems, implementing a telehealth solution has become the top priority for clients. We have already assisted in helping clients implement telehealth solutions so they can offer this to patients now. NextGen Healthcare recently acquired a telehealth solution by OTTO Health to offer better patient engagement solutions. Many common video conferencing services are also being used, including WebEx and Zoom. Organizations are literally implementing telehealth in days, and so your organization is best prepared for this pandemic.
We can also assist in getting our templates and billing configured to ensure your physicians are reimbursed for their work. TempDev is uniquely positioned to help your medical practice deliver the best and safest health care possible to your patients, both during and after the coronavirus pandemic. We have helped organizations steer choosing the right solution for them and implement it quickly. Telehealth, including virtual visits and a variety of online services, will be a vital part of medical care for the foreseeable future.
The TempDev team offers many other services for medical practices as well. During this challenging time, you can expect an influx of patients. Many will be afraid they have the virus and request testing. You will need to make sure that these patients are monitored and that all their tests are completed. Partner with TempDev to assist with the configuration of NextGen EHR for COVID-19 to track contagion exposure, follow-up with patients, and bill accurately.
The coming days will be challenging ones for your practice. The TempDev team can recommend all the NextGen products that will help you manage your operation. These consultants can also offer ongoing training and assistance with staffing issues. TempDev stands ready to help you manage your practice during this difficult time.
For more information, contact TempDev today here or call at 888.TEMP.DEV.
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