By Shelley Cooper, Ed.D, MAT, BSBA
Diversity Telehealth, LLC
Telehealth has been around for a few years but has not received as much attention until now, when Covid-19 disrupted healthcare access. You might be asking, “What is the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?” Telemedicine is characterized as medical services delivered from a distance. Telehealth is the umbrella of services that includes telemedicine, distance healthcare education and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM).
Remote Patient Monitoring involves monitoring vital signs from a distance. Information is relayed to the healthcare provider hourly, daily or weekly, depending on the treatment plan. A small, portable device gathers these vital signs: blood pressure, weight/BMI, temperature, glucose levels, and blood oxygen level (oxygen saturation). The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently allowed increased flexibility in reimbursement for RPM.
Telehealth closes the healthcare disparity gap by allowing patients to gain access to medical services from the comfort and convenience of their homes, as well as enables doctors to provide care without leaving their offices. It offers an opportunity to meet healthcare needs without the inconvenience, cost and time of travel to the medical clinic.
How does it work?
Patients are “seen” from a distance. Typically, the transmission of medical information takes place over HIPAA-compliant, secure networks to ensure confidentiality of patient records. However, during the nationwide public health emergency, The Center for Medicare Services has relaxed the regulations to allow for more immediate and widespread healthcare availability. Patients can connect with their cell phone, tablets, desk top and laptop computer using Facetime app, Zoom or Google Meet.
Is it covered by insurance?
CMS and insurance companies will reimburse for select telehealth visits. Be aware that there are many factors that can affect the amount of reimbursement:
- Type of services provided
- Method of transmission
- Level of licensure
- Location of the patient and provider
What are the benefits?
There are two principle benefits to telemedicine. First, it allows greater access to healthcare services and education in rural, prison, military settings, tribal communities and underserved communities. Second, it improves employee productivity, morale and attendance. A few examples of medical services that can be conducted from a distance are, dermatology, radiology, dentistry, mental and behavioral health. Many more are available.
CMS provides a list of the types and descriptions of telehealth services at ww.cms.gov. Contact your provider to see if they offer telehealth.
Protect your privacy
Each medical provider has an NPI number (National Provider Identifier). This number can be used to verify the individual healthcare provider’s status. You can confirm with your insurance provider that the person or company providing this telehealth consult has been approved by them.
Dr. Shelley Cooper, owner of Diversity Health, consults with medical providers and organizations to develop telehealth solutions for clients served. Visit www.diversitytelehealth.com to learn more