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The future of telehealth: Making it work for your practice

In the previous articles in our Future of Telehealth blog series, we talked about how COVID-19 transformed the virtual office, making telehealth much more common in today’s medical practices. We also looked at the numerous advantages offered by telehealth for both patients and healthcare providers. In this, the final article in our Future of Telehealth blog series, we share several different telehealth solutions that can help you communicate with patients before, during, and after their appointments. Keep reading to learn more about how you might fit telehealth into your changing medical practice.

Preparing for a telehealth visit

Practice Fusion offers a wide range of telehealth tools that can help you to stay connected with your practice, your patients, and your patient’s care team, even before the actual telehealth appointment. Secure and HIPAA-compliant in-practice direct messaging enables you to share patient information securely with your fellow clinicians, communicate with a specialist, or follow up about a transfer of care.1-3 Ninety-seven percent of smartphone owners text regularly, making it a smart move to consider using SMS text messaging to communicate with both patients and fellow healthcare providers.4 Secure texting can help alleviate the need for back-and-forth phone calls, saving valuable time for you and your staff. You can be even more efficient with the use of text message templates, either preexisting ones or you can create your own for common scenarios.2,3 Secure texting allows you to:

  • Help coordinate referrals
  • Provide real-time consults with other providers
  • Enable easy collaboration with patients, families, and pharmacies
  • Decrease time staff spends calling patients
  • Exchange information with patients both before and after appointments

The use of SMS text messaging can also improve satisfaction for both patients and staff.2,3

Once a patient schedules an appointment, you can send automated appointment reminders to help patients prepare for their upcoming visit. Practice Fusion Essentials allows you to send automated appointment reminders via email, SMS text messaging, or voice telephone calls.1,5 Alternatively, you can opt for a Premium integration. Premium reminders can be customized by language, time, and delivery medium. The Premium integration also includes HIPAA-compliant text messaging, broadcast messaging to patients, unlimited electronic faxing, and more.1,6

You can also prepare for your patient’s telehealth visit by having them check-in online. Online Check-In is available as part of your Practice Fusion EHR. It allows patients to complete intake forms prior to their appointments.1,7 Online check-in eliminates paper documents before and after visits. Unlike when patients complete hard copies of intake forms, there is no need to enter their responses manually into the EHR; the information is added directly to the chart note once the intake form has been completed.7 Providers can also create templates for Patient Intake forms from the Settings section of the EHR.

To use online check-in, patients must have a scheduled appointment and a valid email address. They do not require a preexisting account in the patient portal to receive or complete the online check-in form. You also need to have email reminders enabled in the EHR. When the patient receives their email appointment reminder, it will contain a link to the intake form for online check-in.7

Integrated video visit

Practice Fusion’s cloud-based EHR allows you to connect for a telehealth visit from practically anywhere, simply using your web browser.1 Practice Fusion’s integrated video chat is just as easy for patients, increasing patient access because it:2,8,9

  • Is extremely easy to use
  • Has no apps to download for patients or clinicians
  • Provides virtual visits in a secure, HIPAA-compliant environment
  • Offers the option of group calls with up to four participants
  • Provides added comfort and convenience

Telehealth video also allows you to create digital documentation during visits, with your notes and screenshots saved to a PDF summary document that can be added to the patient’s chart.9

Immediately prior to the video visit, the patient will receive an invitation to video chat as an email or text message. This message will contain a link to the “chat room.” If the patient clicks on the link within ten minutes, it will open a virtual waiting room. Then, when the doctor is ready to begin their visit, they “enter” and join the patient. The doctor and patient can talk face-to-face.8,9 There are templates available to help streamline the charting process during the visit, enabling the provider to chart through their web browser while seeing the patient virtually.1

After the visit

After you have completed your visit with the patient, Practice Fusion’s EHR allows you to create a superbill for any patient who has an assigned patient record number.1 You can add CPT codes, diagnosis codes, and modifiers to the superbill. You can also add additional notes and details about the provider and the facility. Patient demographic information will auto-populate in the superbill.10

When the superbill is complete, you can save, print, or download it. Or, if your practice is connected with one of Practice Fusion’s integrated billing partners, you can electronically submit the superbill directly to your billing software.10

You can also stay connected with patients, both before and after visits, using Patient Fusion’s patient portal.1,11 Between visits, you can message your patients directly from your Patient Fusion account. You can share information with patients, such as:11

  • Medications
  • Diagnoses
  • Allergies and immunizations
  • Lab tests and results
  • Procedures
  • Care plans
  • Upcoming and past appointments

Patients can also use the patient portal to access their health records at any time.11

Embracing telehealth

Telehealth is a great solution for many types of visits, but it is important to keep in mind that it won’t work for every medical need, such as visits requiring certain tests and some forms of emergency care. In addition, although insurance companies have been increasingly covering the cost of telehealth visits since the pandemic, some services still may not be fully covered. This can potentially lead to out-of-pocket costs for the patient.12-14

However, as the COVID-19 crisis begins to wane, it appears that telehealth, in some form, may be here to stay. Without telehealth, healthcare providers would not be able to connect with patients as easily, not only during the pandemic but also going forward.14 This is especially true for patients who are immunocompromised and for patients who have difficulty accessing healthcare.12,15,16 There are also numerous situations in which patients have shown greater benefit from telehealth care than from face-to-face healthcare alone.13,15,17 In addition, it’s important to offer telehealth services to patients who will simply appreciate the convenience and potential cost savings they can provide.9,12,13,16,18,19

Implementing a full virtual care strategy requires a custom approach tailored to your practice’s specific needs. Practice Fusion can help you identify which telehealth features are best suited your situation. To learn more, click here.

References:

  1. Practice Fusion Telehealth features for your Virtual practice. Practice Fusion. Accessed May 31, 2021, https://help.practicefusion.com/s/article/Telehealth-features-for-your-Virtual-practice.
  2. Telehealth. Updox. Accessed May 31, 2021, https://updox.com/solutions/telehealth.
  3. Secure Texting & SMS with Updox. Updox. Accessed June 1, 2021, https://updox.com/solutions/telehealth/secure-texting-sms.
  4. Secure Texting: Improving the Patient Communication Experience. Practice Fusion. Updated March 10, 2020. Accessed May 31, 2021, https://www.practicefusion.com/blog/secure-texting-for-patient-communication/.
  5. What is the appointment reminder process for Practice Fusion Essentials? Practice Fusion. Accessed June 4, 2021, https://help.practicefusion.com/s/article/What-is-the-appointment-reminder-process.
  6. Updox integrated with Practice Fusion. Updox. Accessed June 6, 2021, https://info.updox.com/pf-premium.
  7. What is Patient Intake (Online Check-In)? Practice Fusion. Accessed June 4, 2021, https://help.practicefusion.com/s/article/What-is-Patient-Intake-Online-Check-In.
  8. Updox Telehealth Video Chat for Patients (How it works). Updox. Updated April 20, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2021, https://info.updox.com/telehealth-videochat-patients?hs_preview=zqiQPmqW-28523663816.
  9. Video Chat with Updox. Updox. Accessed June 1, 2021, https://updox.com/solutions/telehealth/video-chat.
  10. How do I create a superbill? Practice Fusion. Accessed June 7, 2021, https://help.practicefusion.com/s/article/How-do-I-create-a-superbill.
  11. Using Patient Fusion to connect with and engage with your patients. Practice Fusion. Accessed June 7, 2021, https://help.practicefusion.com/s/article/Using-Patient-Fusion-to-connect-with-and-engage-your-patients.
  12. Telehealth: The advantages and disadvantages. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed June 1, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/telehealth-the-advantages-and-disadvantages.
  13. Telemedicine benefits: For patients and professionals. Medical News Today. Updated April 20, 2020. Accessed June 1, 2021, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/telemedicine-benefits.
  14. Whelan C. 17 Benefits of Telemedicine for Doctors and Patients. Healthline. Updated November 9, 2020. Accessed June 1, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/healthcare-provider/telemedicine-benefits.
  15. Kircher SM, Mulcahy M, Kalyan A, Weldon CB, Trosman JR, III ABB. Telemedicine in Oncology and Reimbursement Policy DuringCOVID-19 and Beyond. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. September 30, 2020 doi:10.6004/jnccn.2020.7639.
  16. Hasselfeld BW. Benefits of Telemedicine. John Hopkins Medicine. Accessed June 1, 2021, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/benefits-of-telemedicine.
  17. Blasco A, Carmona M, Fernández-Lozano I, et al. Evaluation of a Telemedicine Service for the Secondary Prevention of Coronary Artery Disease. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention. January/February 2012 32(1):25-31.
  18. Updox. Maximizing Virtual Care in 2021. 2021. Accessed June 1, 2021. https://info.updox.com/hubfs/2020_Marketing%20Assets/04_Other/2021_Updox_VirtualCare-Report.pdf.
  19. The Road Ahead: Maximizing Virtual Care Strategies for the Future of Healthcare. Updox. Updated March 25, 2021. Accessed May 31, 2021, https://blog.updox.com/updox-resources/the-road-ahead-maximizing-virtual-care-strategies.