Helpful Tips For Clinicians About Telehealth Services

Dr. Wajde Dabah, and Interventional Pain Specialist based out of Chicago, Illinois, is providing some helpful insights into telemedicine, and how to effectively and immediately implement telehealth services into your practice, should you need to.

Due to the COVID-19 Crisis, most patients are under a “shelter in place” or “stay at home” order, and therefore cannot do in-person visits.  That’s why telehealth services can be so valuable at this time since they allow clinicians to provide care to these patients remotely.

What is Telehealth?

Many people have a slightly different interpretation of what could be considered “telehealth” but a very general definition would be:

Using any technology to provide care to patients – via video conferencing or live streaming services, or phone calls without video capabilities, or even web or email communications.

Currently in Illinois, all insurance providers are required to cover telehealth services, so clinicians won’t need to obtain any special permissions or prior authorization from the insurance carriers in order to begin providing telehealth services right away.  However, in-network and out-of-network rules will still apply.

Where can telehealth services be provided?

There aren’t currently any regulations about what type of platform you can or cannot use, or where the telehealth communications can be performed.  However, general practice guidelines would be to make sure the patient is in a private and secure place where they feel safe sharing personal health information, and the clinician is in an equally private and secure location without noise or distractions.

Important to Note:

  • “Telehealth” does not imply a lesser standard of care.  Clinicians are still required to provide the same high-level care that they normally would in an in-person visit.
  • When documenting the service provided, it’s important to include the start and end time of the service as well as the type of technology used.
  • When prescribing controlled substances like narcotics via telehealth, the technology used for communication needs to be utilizing 2-way audio and video capabilities.  Clinicians cannot provide electronic prescriptions for controlled substances using just telephone services.
  • You may still need to contact some insurance providers to verify specific billing codes since they can vary between carriers
  • During this time, patients are not responsible for out-of-pocket costs that are not deductible such as co-pays for virtual visits
  • Clinicians need to obtain verbal consent from a patient in order to provide telehealth services (before providing such services)

Since information about telehealth services can change rapidly, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any new rules and regulations that may be implemented.  You can also contact your malpractice carrier to find out what other steps you can take to provide safe and effective care to your patients while staying within the new guidelines.

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