Telehealth: Keeping Patients and Caregivers Connected and Safe

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Blog

Known COVID-19 cases have now surpassed 311,637 with at least 8,454 deaths. Hotspots now include cities like Chicago, New Orleans, and Detroit and are expected to grow. States are scrambling to prepare as best they can for increasing cases that, by some estimates, could reach over one million with hundreds of thousands of deaths. Practices are on the front line during this crisis, alongside hospitals and clinics, as they care for our most vulnerable population.

On March 27, the president signed a $2 trillion stimulus package to help protect individuals and businesses from the economic impact of the virus. Specific include:

Eliminating the constraints of the telehealth provisions as demand escalates during this time of quarantine and social distancing, putting greater stress on providers and their staff. Leveraging telehealth and remote patient monitoring is beneficial for providers in multiple ways:

  • Keeps vulnerable patients safe, reducing exposure and spread
  • Maintains care plan compliance, limiting emergency visits
  • Helps clinicians assess and triage patients in their homes
  • Enables clinicians to monitor patient health and quickly address any changes
  • Reduces social isolation and loneliness, both proven to increase physical and mental conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression
  • Decreases the risk of complications that can lead to hospital admissions or readmissions

Telehealth also benefits providers, especially now that they are in high demand. Previously scheduled in-person visits can now be virtual visits held at a convenient time and place for both patients and providers. Providers can also leverage telehealth to expand services areas, especially in rural settings.

Telehealth Codes

Virtual Check-Ins & E-Visits

Clinicians can provide virtual check-in services (HCPCS codes G2010, G2012) to both new and established patients. Virtual check-in services were previously limited to established patients.

A broad range of clinicians, including physicians, can now provide certain services by telephone to their patients

-CPT codes 98966 -98968; 99441-99443

Remote Patient Monitoring

Clinicians can provide remote patient monitoring services to both new and established patients. These services can be provided for both acute and chronic conditions and can now be provided for patients with only one disease. For example, remote patient monitoring can be used to monitor a patient’s oxygen saturation levels using pulse oximetry.

-CPT codes 99091, 99457-99458, 99473- 99474, 99493-99494

Beyond COVID-19

No one knows precisely how long it will be before the impact of COVID-19 begins to wane. But experts agree that it could reemerge at any time in the future, as could other similar viruses. It behooves providers to embrace telehealth as a longer-term solution. As a nation, we are getting sicker. Today, 117 million adults have one or more chronic health conditions, and more than 25% have at least two. With the aging of our population, the situation will become even more dire. Seventy-seven percent of people age 65 or older have at least two chronic conditions. Besides the cost to patients in terms of health, chronic conditions cost the nation’s economy. An estimated 80% of the $3.6 trillion in annual healthcare spend is due to chronic conditions.

Clearly, there is an increasing need by healthcare providers to address the chronically ill population to aid in the reduction of hospitalizations, readmissions, lengths of stay, and costs. But physicians are hard-pressed to find resources to help monitor, collect, and manage data in a way that provides the level of insight needed for making more informed clinical care decisions. Finding, paying for, and maintaining the IT and infrastructure to support these activities brings even greater hardship. Fortunately, physicians, practice groups, ACOs, hospitals, and healthcare systems can now leverage third-party vendors to help provide their patients with remote patient monitoring. At the same time, providers add what could be significant revenue every month through new RPM incentives. In addition to immediate additional income, improved patient outcomes will be inevitable, which means increased payer reimbursement, enhanced patient satisfaction, and greater long-term financial viability.

Combining RPM with CCM can increase patient compliance through daily monitoring of patients’ vitals. To be most effective, RPM programs should include daily medication monitoring and reminders. This can help reduce misdiagnoses and eliminate most medication problems. The data collected on each patient through daily monitoring and regular monthly contact aids in the ability to address concerns and anticipate illnesses sooner. In this way, providers increase access to care and decrease the cost of delivery.

A Success Story

RPM provides increased value for both patients and their families. It is estimated that more than 14 million people over the age of 65 in the US live alone. Many times, these patients depend on their grown children to help them manage their healthcare needs. Gyalia Ruthledge knows the challenges firsthand. Both of Ruthledge’s parents suffer from serious chronic conditions. Her father is on dialysis, has hypertension, is post-open-heart surgery, and walks very little. Her mother has heart failure, kidney failure, and a pacemaker (100% replaced).

“Keeping up with them on a daily basis, yet trying to keep them as independent as possible, has proved to be a difficult task,” Ruthledge said. “I was having to trust my parents to communicate with me when something was wrong or when they didn’t feel good, which was not working very well.” Ruthledge found herself worrying and having to physically check in on them. Even then, there were things that slipped past her and one of them would end up in the hospital. “One time, mom ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure simply because she forgot to weigh herself and didn’t tell me when she was short of breath.” Other times, Ruthledge’s mother would have issues with low oxygen saturation but was asymptomatic, so Ruthledge had to continually check her oxygen levels just to be safe.

Ruthledge was excited when she learned that her parents’ physician had partnered with NavCare, a leading provider of RPM and CCM services. Remote monitoring devices were soon incorporated into her parent’s care program, which included an app for Ruthledge so she could monitor her parents remotely right along with the doctor. “The knowledge that there is a consistent monitoring system in place for blood pressure, weight, pulse oximetry, and knowing someone else was checking on them took a huge burden off me,” Ruthledge said. “I can now simply log onto the app, look at mom’s weight and pulse ox, adjust her diet and diuretics accordingly, or contact her Cardiologist if necessary.” In the four months since being on RPM, Ruthledge’s mother has not been in the hospital or ED.

A long-term approach

We’ve all heard the quote, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Nowhere is that more true than in healthcare, especially now and especially for providers on the front-lines of fighting the pandemic Outsourcing remote patient monitoring (RPM) and telehealth as part of their ongoing chronic care management (CCM) program can help providers achieve even greater benefits throughout this healthcare crisis and beyond. NavCare can help.

NavCare is a comprehensive chronic care management company founded on more than 30 years of leadership experience serving health systems, private practices, and other healthcare providers. Partnering with NavCare helps hospitals, practices, and ACOs, better care for their most vulnerable population. NavCare provides high-quality telehealth services that demonstrate a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of patients.

Utilizing its clinically staffed care center, NavCare provides CCM and RPM, as well as transitional care management and other care management services. To see NavCare Connect in action, register for a demo.

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