Telehealth, including virtual visits, has exploded in the last several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pace of the expansion may not continue. Still, due to widespread acceptance of the technology and the changes in medical practice operations accommodating the new normal, it seems that telehealth and virtual visits are here to stay. It also doesn’t hurt that patients seem to not only accept the new concept, but they have favorable overall opinions of it.
While some of the expansion of telehealth and virtual visits may have been initially fueled by the pandemic, thus causing regulations to be relaxed for both treatment requirements and reimbursement, it seems now that Congress and the Administration may be moving towards decisions that will enable patients to take advantage of a new way to access the healthcare system. Similarly, providers may have a new way to add value to the system with enhanced patient care in a more efficient manner for themselves and the payors.
Notwithstanding the acceptance of telehealth and virtual visits by providers, patients, and payors, there is one significant danger to this new concept. In almost every instance of an in-person provider-patient encounter, whether it occurs in a physician practice, a clinic setting, an ER, or a home health visit, the requirements of obtaining accurate data concerning a patient’s vitals, recent history, and changes in condition, are essential to make critical decisions about that patient and course of treatment. Self-reported data is sometimes not accurate or sufficient to make those critical decisions. A patient may then still end up either in need of an in-person visit to the provider or worse, in an ER where costs skyrocket.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and Chronic Care Management (CCM) are tools that providers can utilize to educate and treat patients. Patients with chronic diseases are particularly vulnerable to exacerbations of underlying conditions that can quickly, without data-backed intervention, escalate into life-threatening situations, either real or perceived, that sends them to an ER or causes them to access other after-hours resources that are both expensive and usually not very satisfying to the patient.
Just as telehealth and virtual visits have seen widespread acceptance by providers, patients, and payors, RPM, either alone or in conjunction with CCM, sees widespread acceptance. For patients, it’s a comforting lifeline that grants them instant, 24/7 access to a healthcare professional without burdening the provider. Providers have real objective data on which to make their recommendations for a course of treatment or behavior modification to enable patients to experience better outcomes and higher satisfaction. Additionally, providers see reduced administrative burdens on their practices, such as less frequent flyer calls, reduced after-hours calls, reduced repetitive refill requests, and less emergent appointment requests, resulting in more efficient scheduling and staffing. At the same time, providers can significantly increase revenue as Medicare and other payors have provided reimbursement for these services, just as they have for telehealth and virtual visits. They recognize the value add that these services bring to the healthcare system at large. It’s a win-win-win.
Most medical practices and other providers choose to outsource RPM and CCM to avoid costly equipment purchases or leases, monitor software requirements, and utilize existing or additional staff time. CMS now allows these services to be outsourced completely, so it’s really just about finding the right partner that can provide all of these services in a seamless partnership with the provider.
NavCare is that partner.
We are a care management organization founded on more than 30 years of leadership experience serving healthcare systems, private physician practices, home health and hospice organizations, and other providers. NavCare provides high-quality clinical services that demonstrate a positive impact on the health and well-being of patients while adding significant value to our provider partners.