Team Members Archive - Mend Skip to Main Content

Our Blog

Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit...

How You Can Improve The Patient Financial Experience

In order to improve the patient financial experience, you first have to understand it. Learn here the steps you can take to improve the process for both patient and provider.

There are a number of ways to improve the patient financial experience. One important thing to consider is how you communicate with your patients. You’ll also need a frictionless payment processing platform in place. This article will explore both of these elements, and how you can leverage them to improve patient satisfaction, retention, and more.

Woman looking at her phone notifications of email and bill due.

Jump ahead:

The Current Patient Financial Experience 

We live in a world where we can tap, swipe or use our voice to pay. It’s no surprise then that patients want more modern payment options for their healthcare. The annual US Bank Healthcare Payments Insight Report found that patients prefer digital options such as credit/debit card (48%), an online money transfer service (31%) and mobile wallet (26%). Yet many providers are still not providing these experiences to their patients. So, where’s the disconnect?

While many industries have gone digital, healthcare still has catching up to do. This is in part due to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and its impacts on patient-provider communication. To understand how this affects the healthcare landscape today, it’s helpful to first explore more about this law.  

What is the TCPA?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 is a law designed to protect consumers from receiving marketing-related phone calls and text messages. More specifically, restrictions were placed on auto-dialers and artificial intelligence, as well as pre-recorded voice messages. 

A major problem with the initial writing of the TCPA was that it had a broad definition of what constitutes an automatic telephone dialing system. This ambiguity in the law often prevented or deterred many healthcare providers from utilizing automated phone reminders for patient communication for fear of violation.

Healthcare Messages Exception

Fortunately for healthcare providers, a “healthcare messages exception” exists under the TCPA. This allows providers to place artificial/pre-recorded voice calls to cellphones and landlines. With this exception, providers are able to convey important healthcare information without prior written consent. This may include appointment confirmations, prescription notifications, and exam reminders.

This exception, however, was still limiting in many ways. Only certain types of messages were allowed, which still created confusion and uncertainty for providers. 

For example, any message regarding billing was still not allowed. This is a significant element when we consider what patients want and what the modern patient financial experience should look like. This means practices still couldn’t use text messages to communicate about or collect payment.

Significant Changes to the TCPA

In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Facebook in a case that greatly diminished the scope of the TCPA. This was a massive win for digital healthcare providers. 

As long as a provider does not use a random or sequential number generator, they do not need to obtain written consent before texting patients. In short, text message interactions with healthcare professionals are now legal. With this new allowance, providers can now communicate with patients in a more integrated approach — before, during, and after the visit.

How to Improve the Patient Financial Experience Through Text

Practices can now use text messages as part of an automated payment processing experience for both in-person and virtual visits. Here’s how we do it at Mend:

Patient Has Outstanding Balance

Mend integrates with your medical billing software. Once Mend detects an outstanding balance, the system sends an automated sequence of texts and emails to prompt payment. This process can occur before or after the visit.

Patient Gets Text Notification 

The patient then receives a secure link where they can verify their identity with their DOB.

Patient Makes Payment

The patient will navigate a simple, easy-to-use interface that guides them to make a payment. Patients can also store credit cards and auto-charge a card on file to save time.

Payment Posts in Billing System

Once the patient pays their portion, Mend will automatically notify the medical billing system that payment is complete. Patients will then receive a receipt or confirmation of payment, depending on their preferences.

A Note on HIPAA Compliance

It’s important to keep in mind that all text messages must meet HIPAA privacy and security requirements. 

If your organization sends text messages that contain unencrypted PHI, it should:

  1. warn patients of the risks of communicating for healthcare purposes using unencrypted text messaging or emails
  2. obtain patients’ preference and consent with respect to messages containing unencrypted data.
  3. document the patient’s preference and consent, as well as the organization’s compliance efforts in this regard.

With Mend, we can help collect any necessary consents for text and email to help comply with HIPAA, TCPA, and other regulations.

Benefits of An Improved Patient Financial Experience

Get Paid Faster

90% of text messages are read within just three minutes. When you consider this, it makes sense to use a digital solution that can help drive faster revenue cycles. This is easily obtainable with a sophisticated financial platform that can request payment via text.

According to one report, 45% of patients would pay faster if notified by text, email, or phone call. When providers delay in taking on digital solutions, they’re leaving money on the table.

Reduce Manual Labor

When a practice integrates and automates its patient payments, this saves a lot of manual work for the staff — but it also reduces the burden on patients. 43% of patients would automate payments to avoid repetitive manual data entry in the office and online.

Payment automation also reduces errors that may otherwise result in uncollected payments or significant delays in accounts receivable. 

Increase Patient Satisfaction 

An overwhelming majority of patients want to pay electronically. One way to improve patient satisfaction is to offer a quick, secure, and convenient method for paying their medical bills.

Increase Patient Retention

With the increasing consumerization of healthcare, patients have more options when it comes to selecting providers. Even if you provide excellent care, patients may still switch providers as a result of negative billing experiences. One study shows that 74% of millennials would switch providers for a better healthcare payment experience.

Conclusion

Patients want modern forms of communication and payment requests that are quick and user-friendly. All you need to do to create this frictionless payment process is contact a support specialist at Mend. Mend is your complete payment and patient engagement solution. We’re ready to help improve patient satisfaction and retention while driving faster revenue cycles.

The Great Resignation in Healthcare & What To Do About It

Healthcare workers were affected by the Great Resignation in a unique way due to the unprecedented stress and challenges related to COVID-19. Read here about what you can do about it.

The Great Resignation in healthcare has already taken a significant toll on the industry, with more workers eyeing the door due to burnout and short-staffing. This article will explore the current landscape relating to the loss of healthcare workers, plus the steps your organization can take to reduce burnout and increase retention.

Jump ahead:

Defining Healthcare's Great Resignation

While the Great Resignation has gripped many industries, the healthcare sector has been particularly hard hit. 

Defining Healthcare's Great Resignation

The American Hospital Association (AHA) reported that healthcare lost an estimated 20% of its workforce in the last year alone. This includes 30% of its nurses. This translates to roughly 5 million U.S. workers quitting their jobs. In many cases, the workers have left their career fields entirely.

Many factors contribute to healthcare workers leaving in droves. These include increasing paperwork, loss of personal accomplishment, and lack of work-life balance. In short, workers are facing burnout.

Burnout According to the AMA

It’s no secret that burnout is having significant implications on the workforce. A new study by the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that one in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses intend to leave their current practice within two years. The same study shows that approximately 1 in 3 physicians, APPs, and nurses intend to reduce their work hours.

Burnout According to the AMA

This burnout comes at a steep cost. According to the AMA, the cumulative cost of turnover and reduced clinical hours due to physician burnout in the U.S. is estimated at $4.6 billion annually.

Researchers found that specific factors are contributing to whether healthcare workers quit or reduce their hours. These factors include higher levels of burnout, workload, fear of infection, and anxiety and depression due to COVID-19. The number of years in practice is also a significant factor.

Feelings of Healthcare Workers

A recent survey by KFF/Washington Post shows that 76% of frontline healthcare workers say they feel “hopeful” when going to work these days. Majorities also say they feel “optimistic” (67%) and motivated (63%). 

Yet, about half also say they feel “ burned out” or “anxious.” About one in five say they feel “angry” when they go to work these days. 

Age is also an important factor to consider. The survey shows that younger healthcare workers are more likely to report negative feelings than their older counterparts. Three in ten frontline healthcare workers ages 18-29 report feeling “angry” about going in to work these days. 

These results may be directly linked to their COVID-19 work experiences. 

For instance, four in ten 18-29-year-old adults (41%) report working in a hospital setting. These workers saw the most severe COVID-19 cases. This age group also reports having to work harder or more hours than their older counterparts.

Hopeful vs Negative Feelings of Healthcare Workers

Employer is Falling Short on Hazard Pay

In addition to burnout, many employees don’t feel support from their employers.

Organizations should provide additional pay for employees working in the most high-risk situations. Yet more than half of healthcare workers say their employer is “falling short” when providing additional pay.

This response was consistent whether an employee was working in a hospital, nursing home, clinic, or in-home care. This is a key opportunity that every healthcare leader can seize to improve employee retention.

Employer is falling short on hazard pay.

A Provider’s Perspective

A recent report on healthcare workplace shortages by the Minnesota Department of Public Health offers a physician’s perspective. The report reveals that one out of every three rural physicians plans on leaving their profession within the next five years.

The most common reasons cited for leaving their professions early include the following:

This loss of physicians will have a tremendous impact on patients in rural areas. It will make it harder for patients to get appointments and receive care in a timely manner. Patients will also have to commute longer distances.

It will also come at a significant financial cost to organizations. For instance, the cost of replacing just one physician could reach $250,000 and may even exceed $1 million. 

How to Make Employees Feel Valued

It’s no surprise that frontline workers who feel valued are less likely to leave their place of employment. In order to address employee retention and satisfaction in the healthcare setting, here are some methods to consider:

Reasons employees desire remote/hybrid work.

While improving employee retention will take a multi-faceted approach, one solution may relieve many staff burdens and complaints: automation.

How Automating Your Patient Engagement Can Help

How can Automated Patient Engagement help?

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a massive shift to remote work and the adoption of telehealth and virtual visits. Nearly three years later, the desire for remote work persists. Many employees cite a better work-life balance, fewer distractions, and increased flexibility as a result of remote work.

We can continue to use telehealth to automate processes, provide flexibility to workers, and ultimately increase worker satisfaction and retention. Here’s how we do it at Mend:

Automate Patient Payment

Mend integrates with your organization’s medical billing software in order to automate patient payments. This can occur before or after an in-person or virtual encounter. It’s an easy way to give time back to your employees and allows them to focus on providing care.

Telehealth Helps Solve Burnout & Staffing Issues

With telehealth visits, providers will need less support staff to conduct the visits. Telehealth visits can be more productive, which in turn gives time back to providers. Virtual visits can be faster, and multi-screen workflows allow providers to document during the visit.

Telehealth also helps to reduce burnout by allowing providers to be remote or hybrid. Practices can also utilize telehealth to recruit providers from anywhere. This can help fill staffing shortages and relieve demands on current staff.

Allow Patients to Self-Schedule

The traditional way of scheduling an appointment takes up time that could be better spent elsewhere. A staff member shouldn’t have to manually input patient appointments when there are faster ways.


A sophisticated telehealth platform can simplify this process. With Mend, patients can self-schedule and modify their appointments online. This takes the work of your front desk staff while also reducing no-shows.

Automate Patient Forms

Paperwork can be a labor-intensive and repetitive process in the healthcare setting. Automating these tasks can immediately help to reduce staff burden and increase employee satisfaction rates. 

With Mend, patients receive a digital intake form prior to their in-person or virtual visit. The patient clicks the link and completes forms at their own convenience in advance of the visit. The integration automatically moves forms and data into the chart.

Automate Reminders and Appointment Changes

The success of any practice depends on patients showing up for their appointments. This is why communicating early and often with patients is important. 

Manual phone calls, however, waste time and take your staff away from other tasks. Automated appointment reminders via text, email, and voice work to reduce staff manual labor.

Conclusion

It’s uncertain if we’ve yet seen the full effects of the Great Resignation among healthcare workers. The good news is, there are key solutions that your organization can put in place right now to support frontline workers. This will result in a healthier work environment that reduces burnout. All you need to do is contact a specialist at Mend who can help automate your workflows today.

What is the Hybrid Healthcare System & How Does It Work?

The Hybrid Healthcare System has become more popular since the adoption of telehealth, but how does it sync with your in-person treatment? Learn more here.

A hybrid healthcare system combines the best aspects of in-person and virtual visits. This approach can boost staff productivity, drive faster revenue cycles, and create a more rewarding patient experience. In this article, we’ll explore the hybrid healthcare system and how you can strike the optimal balance in your practice.

Photo of patient and provider looking at ipad.

Jump ahead:

What is Hybrid Healthcare?

A hybrid healthcare system brings together the best of telehealth and in-person visits. Depending on the type of care a patient needs, providers can deliver care in person, virtually, or both.

Regardless of the method for delivering care, hybrid healthcare should be a seamless solution that treats telehealth as an integral part of the system rather than something additional or separate.

In hybrid care, providers and supporting staff rely heavily on technology for secure video conferencing, automatic appointment reminders, billing, and more. These elements apply to both in-person and virtual visits. Organizations can manage this through a sophisticated telehealth platform that integrates with their EMR and billing software.

The Rise in the Hybrid Healthcare System

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was necessary for many providers to use telehealth to see their patients. As a result, the adoption of telehealth skyrocketed. The relaxation of state and federal regulations during the public health emergency also played a role in allowing providers to adopt these virtual practices more easily. 

According to the AMA, researchers now estimate current telehealth adoption to be between 60% to 90%.

Many patients and professionals enjoy fully-remote access, but this trend won’t last forever. Some elements of healthcare require in-person visits, while some patients may simply prefer to meet their doctor face-to-face post-pandemic. This is where a hybrid healthcare system comes into play.

What Remote Work Looks Like in Healthcare

Like most sectors, healthcare saw a boom in remote work during the pandemic. Fifty-nine percent of medical group practices said they shifted workers to permanent and/or hybrid work in 2021.

For those working indirectly with patients (call centers, billing and coding, IT, accounting and HR), remote work became the norm. Yet those working in direct patient care (primary care offices) were still able to leverage technology to deliver care.

Nearly three years in, workers are adapting to having more healthy flexibility at work. Many workers report better overall well-being and improved productivity when working at home.

But some employers fear that remote work comes at a steep cost. These employers worry about company culture and losing top talent. Without office engagement, they fear employees may become dissatisfied and quit. 

Employee Perception of Remote Work

According to a recent Gallup poll, employees want remote work to stay. Ninety-one percent of workers in the U.S. working at least some of their hours remotely are hoping their ability to work at home persists after the pandemic. Just 6% said their ideal work environment was to be fully on-site.

The poll offers additional key insights. Those who prefer to work remotely value fewer distractions, improved wellness and flexibility offered by working remotely. The study shows that employees who prefer to work strictly from the office prioritize personal productivity, access to technology, and better opportunities for collaboration. 

Furthermore, if an employee works from home, they are more likely to want a hybrid arrangement than either working from home full-time or on-site. Similarly, if the work can be done remotely, that is still preferable to being on-site full-time.

Reasons Employees Desire Remote/Hybrid Work

It’s clear that most of the current workforce wants some element of remote or hybrid care. Time preservation is key for remote workers, but there are many reasons for wanting to stay virtual. Some of the most common reasons for wanting to work partly or fully remote include:

As an organization, these priorities and expectations are important to consider when looking at the future of healthcare. In some cases, a return-to-office approach could drive employees to quit. 

Sixty-four percent of the global workforce said that they have already, or would consider, looking for a new job if their employer wanted them back in the office full-time. And as an industry that was hard hit by the Great Resignation, many practices can’t afford to lose more employees.

How Digital Patient Engagement Supports Remote Work

The adoption of a patient engagement system can help create a desirable hybrid work environment. Here are just some of the ways a digital solution like Mend can help support remote work in your organization:

Automating Patient Payment Processes Reduces Staff Burden

It’s no secret that manual paperwork and processes bog down medical staff. Organizations can reduce this burden and also support a remote work environment with a simple solution: automation.

Mend starts by integrating with your organization’s medical billing software. Once Mend detects an outstanding balance, the patient will receive an automated text or email with a secure link requesting payment. Mend alerts the billing software once payment is complete, removing all steps from your staff.

This process can be set up to occur seamlessly for both in-person and virtual visits.

In addition to reducing the burden on your staff, you can expect to see benefits in other areas as well. In one report, 64% of early adopters of patient engagement software saw increased collections. Twenty-seven percent saw reduced AR days.

Telehealth Creates Remote Opportunities for Providers & Staff

With a fully remote or hybrid system, organizations can recruit staff from anywhere, helping to reduce stress and workload on current staff.

Providers and medical staff who prefer to work some days at home can benefit from a greater work-life balance. Due to convenient automation, fewer staff are needed to conduct virtual visits, and the visits are often faster than in-person appointments. With single-screen/multi-screen workflows, documentation can occur during the visit, saving more time.

Burnout and stress are among the top contributing factors for healthcare workers quitting their jobs. Organizations can leverage telehealth in this way to create a more favorable work environment for providers and staff to help reduce the risk of burnout.

Patient Self-Scheduling In the Cloud Supports Remote Work

With hybrid care, patient self-scheduling can be the new norm. Instead of staff members manually booking appointments over the phone, patients can simply navigate online and choose an appointment day and time that works best for them.

As a result, staff no longer have to be physically in an office space or call center to support patient scheduling. This also decreases the workload at the front desk, while also allowing for the redirection of labor. In 2021, 34% of patients self-scheduled with Mend.

If your organization is struggling with no-shows, self-scheduling is one important element that can help improve rates. Giving patients autonomy of their scheduling increases the likelihood of showing up for the visit. The organizations using Mend saw a 40-50% reduction in no-show rates for patient self-scheduled appointments. 

(Learn more about key performance indicators, including no-show rates, for running a successful hybrid practice here.)

Digitizing Forms Compliments Remote Work

With hybrid care, digital forms are the future. It’s no longer necessary to rely on paper forms that can be easily misplaced. Digital forms can reduce errors and duplicates. There's also no need to wait for patients to complete their forms on the day of their visit.

With a telehealth platform like Mend, patients can get a head start on their paperwork as soon as they schedule an appointment. Sixty-eight percent of Mend Digital Forms are completed within an hour, and Mend averages an 86% completion rate overall. Once the patient completes the forms, Mend can move the forms to the EHR automatically.

Automatic Appointment Reminders Free Up Staff Time & More

Automated appointment reminders save staff members from having to do manual labor over the phone. These reminders can be via text, email, and voice and adjust accordingly leading up to the appointment time.

For instance, if a patient has yet to confirm their appointment, the sequence will prompt the patient to confirm or reschedule their appointment. If a patient needs to reschedule or cancel, they have the option of following steps to do so. Bidirectional integration ensures full automation to eliminate manual labor and redirect efforts elsewhere.

This dynamic approach will help free up your staff’s time and support remote work. It can also reduce the loss of revenue secondary to no-shows.

RELATED: How to Optimize Patient Attendance and Reduce No-Shows in 2022

Podcast: Get’n Down w/ Digital Health

Despite the many benefits of hybrid care, it’s still a relatively new approach to patient care, and implementing it in your practice can feel daunting. Dr. Matthew Sakumoto, an Internal Medicine-trained physician offering a virtual-first primary care program, has some suggestions.

In a recent podcast episode, Dr. Sakumoto shares his current approach to hybrid care and how he does it. With his current setup, he works four days virtually and then sees patients in-office on Fridays. He also offers valuable insights into virtual-first primary care, virtual care empathy, differences in examination techniques, the future of telemedicine, and more.

As federal and state lawmakers are still discussing regulations and reimbursement for telehealth, now is the time for providers to lay the groundwork for the future of what hybrid care should look like rather than waiting. 

LISTEN HERE: 109: Dr. Matthew Sakumoto Talks Virtual-First Primary Care & Value-Based Care Telemedicine Models

Conclusion

Many patients, providers, and staff were able to easily adapt to virtual care during the pandemic. While face-to-face visits are returning, all signs point to hybrid care being here to stay.

Hybrid healthcare strikes a difficult but achievable balance. Providers and medical staff can benefit from greater flexibility, a better work-life balance, and relief from burnout. Patients gain more autonomy over when and how they seek care, which in turn increases their satisfaction and engagement.

And there’s no need to wait — a fully hybrid healthcare system is available right now with Mend. Appointment reminders, digital intake forms, automatic payment, and more are only the start. Schedule a demo today with one of our specialists to see all Mend has to offer.

The Best Patient Financial Solutions & How To Use Them

Looking to optimize your patient collections and reduce AR Days? Learn what the best patient financial solutions are and how to use them.

Illustration of provider looking at bills.

Technology gave us virtual visits, but the patient financial solutions that accompany them are still catching up. This is a significant issue considering many practices are facing long AR days and bad debt in healthcare. Patient expectations are changing too. This article will dive into the best financial solutions to drive faster revenue cycles and how these changes can benefit your practice today.

Jump ahead:

Manual Payment Processing vs. Advanced Solutions

While many industries have already gone digital, healthcare is still catching up when it comes to billing. Paper mail still leads for medical bills. Fifty-one percent of patients receiving a billing statement via the mail in 2021. 

Mail still leads for medical bills. 51% of billing statements are delivered by postal mail.

How a patient receives a payment request can greatly affect the rate of speed to collection. Consider the difference between paper and digital billing:

Process for paper billing and patient portals:

  1. Patient gets a bill in the mail, typically 15-30 days after the initial appointment.
  2. Patient needs to find a website or scan QR code.
  3. Patient pulls up the website.
  4. Patient must create or input their login or invoice IDs.
  5. Patient enters credit card details.
  6. Patient submits payment. 

This process can be cumbersome for patients and takes longer for providers to receive payment. One study shows that 70% percent of providers said it takes more than 30 days to collect payment via mail. In the same study, 74% of providers report that it takes more than one statement to collect payment.

70% providers said it takes more than 30 days to collect payment. 74% said it takes more than one statement.

Alternatively, patients could pay their medical bills via advanced payment solutions, such as Mend. Thanks to changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 2021, text messages between healthcare teams and patients are legal — and a faster route to payment collection.

Process for text and email engagement:

  1. With Mend, patients receive a text and email with a secure link.
  2. Patient clicks the secure link, verifying their identity with their DOB.
  3. Patient can upload a credit card to keep on file.
  4. Patient submits payment.
Illustration of payment process through Mend from outstanding balance to notification, to payment and payment posting in billing system.

This process happens automatically through Mend’s integration with your Medical Billing Software. Once set up, the system triggers a sequence as soon as it detects an outstanding patient balance. After the patient clicks the link and pays their portion, the platform automatically marks it as complete.

With Mend, 72% of patients complete their payment forms. Forty-four percent complete the payment forms within just 24 hours. Click here to learn the secrets to our high completion rates.

When a practice implements a simple and frictionless payment processing system, providers can expect to see improvements in many areas of their practice.

How Advanced Patient Financial Solutions Can Benefit Your Practice

Get Paid Faster

When patients can pay conveniently, they will pay much faster. This is why text and email notifications are key. Not only is this easy for patients, but studies have shown that text and email are stronger methods for engagement. According to one report, 45% of patients would pay faster if notified by email, text, or phone call.

At Mend, we find that 96% of patients have a mobile number, meaning they have access to a mobile device. All ages, ethnicities, and income levels are mobile and expect to use their mobile devices for healthcare and payments.

Increase Overall Collections

As providers seek innovative ways to improve their collections, digital payment solutions are already showing promising results. A recent study by KLAS shows early insights into how patient financial solutions are providing revenue for organizations while also increasing patient satisfaction. 

While the sample size was small, the data offers an early pulse check for pushing faster revenue cycles and improving the patient experience.

Increase Patient Satisfaction

Patients want the process of paying their medical bills to be as simple as ordering an item from Amazon. In fact, 60% of consumers expect their digital healthcare experience to mirror that of retail. 

It’s no surprise then that how easily a patient can make payments affects their satisfaction. The KLAS study reported an 18% increase in patient satisfaction after an organization adopted a patient financial engagement solution.

Increase Patient Retention

Even if you provide excellent patient care, patient retention is never a guarantee. Factors like problems in payment processing can affect patient retention. 

In the Healthcare Payment Experience Report, 22% of “very” or “extremely” loyal patients said they would drop a preferred physician or practice because tools such as digital form completion, payment reminders, and appointment reminders aren’t offered.

By creating a frictionless payment solution that allows patients to pay quickly and easily, you can expect an increase in patient loyalty and satisfaction. 

Reduce Manual Labor

With an advanced patient payment solution, practices can reduce overhead or redirect their labor force. Once manual processes — such as digital intake forms, payment processing, and more — will happen automatically.

Automate patient payments because consumers expect it, other industries have adapted, and patients will pay faster.

Conclusion

It’s time for healthcare to join other industries in making payment processing quick, mobile, and convenient. With the help of advanced patient financial software, your practice can drive faster revenue cycles, reduce AR days, improve your bottom line, and much more. 

All you need to do is contact a support specialist at Mend. Let us help automate your patient payments so you can start seeing results today.

How To Optimize Patient Attendance & Reduce No-Shows in 2022

Learning how to optimize patient attendance can help you with revenue, retention, and staff workflow. Learn here how to start immediately reducing no-shows.

Illustration of providers optimizing schedule

You’ve scheduled the patients — now it’s time to make sure they actually show up! From providing convenient appointment times to sending reminders, there are many ways to increase the chances that your patients will show up for their appointment. In this article, we'll explore some of the best ways to optimize patient attendance.

Jump Ahead:

What Factors Affect Patient Attendance?

Many factors can affect attendance, such as distance to the healthcare facility, transportation, financial concerns, and childcare. Patients may also feel too sick to make the trip, or they may simply forget. One of the most important factors of patient attendance — and the easiest to control — is communication. 

Healthcare providers need to make sure that patients are aware of their appointments and know how to get to the healthcare facility. If parking will add additional time, staff should relay this information to patients. They also need to provide clear instructions on what to do if they need to cancel or reschedule their appointment. By doing this, healthcare providers can help reduce the number of no-shows and optimize patient attendance.

The Importance of Optimizing Patient Attendance

High patient attendance positively impacts providers and patients alike. It ensures patients get the care they need while allowing providers to run their practices smoothly and efficiently. Here are some of the benefits of optimizing patient attendance:

Improved Patient Outcomes

When patients attend their appointments regularly, they're more likely to receive the care they need in a timely manner. This can lead to better overall health outcomes and a decrease in the need for emergency care.

On the other hand, it’s damaging to their health when patients miss their appointments. They can miss an initial screening that could detect disease. Acute problems may turn into chronic problems without the proper attention. Ongoing care can become disrupted, and providers may be unable to assess or change medications.

One study shows how even one missed appointment could impact a patient’s health journey. Patients who missed an appointment had an attrition rate close to 70%. The same study found that patients who did not show up for one or more appointments were less likely to return over the next 18 months.

Optimizing patient attendance and reducing no-shows gives your patients a greater chance of getting and staying healthy. 

Improved Staff Efficiency 

An increase in patient attendance can help improve the flow of traffic through your practice. Staff members can focus on caring for patients instead of scrambling to fill empty appointment times. It also frees them up from the task of rescheduling patients who have already missed their appointments. 

In short, when patients routinely show up for their appointments, this allows staff members to focus on doing what they do best — provide care.

Improved Financial Stability

It's no secret that one of the keys to a successful medical practice is maintaining a high rate of patient attendance. By increasing patient attendance, you can help to ensure that your practice is financially stable and able to meet its financial obligations. Conversely, patients who don't show up for their appointments can cost a practice dearly in terms of lost revenue and decreased productivity.

Missed appointments equate to over $850 thousand in lost revenue annually for a 10-provider practice. Across the entire healthcare industry, that’s a $150 billion loss per year. 

In some settings, that loss may be even higher. Imaging machines such as MRI or CT are costly to operate and maintain. These time slots are often difficult to fill with short notice, especially if the exam requires patient prep before the appointment. When these time slots are unable to be filled or have last-minute cancellations, this can cause high financial constraints to practices.

These losses together can greatly reduce a practice’s ability to operate successfully. If you’re unsure of the impact no-shows currently have on your practice, you can use our convenient ROI calculator to calculate the loss in revenue.

Ways to Optimize Patient Attendance 

There are a number of things that a practice can do to encourage patients to show up for their appointments. The most effective way to optimize patient attendance is to use a comprehensive patient engagement platform. With this technology, it’s easy to put systems and touchpoints in place to help increase patient attendance while reducing the administrative burden on your staff.

Understand Why Patients No Show

One of the first steps to optimizing patient attendance is keeping track of why patients miss their appointments in the first place. This information can help you identify patterns and take steps to address the root causes.

Consider these parameters when tracking no-shows:

Once you have this available data, you can make necessary adjustments to improve patient attendance. You may even find that some no-shows are easily fixable. For example, if a patient has transportation issues, staff can help the patient make arrangements or suggest public transit routes. The option of a virtual visit is also a great alternative for patients who have difficulty getting to appointments.

Make it Easy to Schedule

One of the easiest ways that your practice can increase patient attendance is by giving patients more control over their appointment schedules. Patients should be able to schedule a visit 24/7/365 with the same ease as purchasing an item online. If scheduling is a hassle, patients are less likely to bother and more likely to miss appointments. 

Practices can make it easy for patients to make appointments by allowing online scheduling. Additionally, if a patient needs to modify an outstanding appointment, it’s helpful to have an easy way for them to do this on their own. Doing so can help reduce the number of no-shows, as patients will be more likely to reschedule if they know they can do so without hassle and find a time that works best for them.

At Mend, we make it easy for patients to self-schedule as well as modify appointments. We offer a custom question tree to route the patient to the right appointment type, location, time slot, and provider. In addition to boosting patient attendance and retention, self-scheduling moves away a large percentage of manual tasks from phone calls, allowing you to reduce or refocus your workforce.

Be Flexible with Scheduling

Some patients may have difficulty making it to their appointments during traditional business or school hours. To increase patient attendance, practices should be willing to be flexible with appointment times to accommodate these patients. 

For example, a practice may choose to offer later hours one evening a week to accommodate after-work appointments. Offering Saturday morning slots may also help fill an empty schedule. In either instance, telehealth is an excellent way to extend office hours and eliminate the hassle of commuting during rush hours.

Send Appointment Reminders

One of the simplest and most effective ways to increase patient attendance is to communicate early and often with your patients. This includes sending reminders for upcoming appointments. This can be done in myriad ways, such as by email, text message, or phone call.

With Mend, appointment reminders are dynamic. Reminders are sent via text and email and adjusted accordingly to the platform’s artificial intelligence predictions. 

For example, a patient who is unlikely to attend their appointment will receive different messages than those who are more likely to attend. These messages will prompt the patient to confirm or reschedule. When you consider that 90% of text messages are read within just three minutes, this helps boost patient engagement and prepare your staff ahead of time in case adjustments need to be made.

In order to communicate effectively with patients, Mend also supports eight languages. These include Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Nepali, Portuguese, and Spanish. Notifications can be sent in the patient’s preferred language to help remove communication barriers when it comes to scheduling and other elements of care.

Keep in mind that a complete patient engagement solution should provide reminders for all types of appointments. This includes virtual visits, office visits, video consultations, phone calls, home visits, and more.

Move All Forms to Digital Forms

Engaged patients are far less likely to miss their appointments. To increase attendance, it’s important to get patients involved in their care ahead of their appointment. An easy way to do this is to use a digital intake form sent prior to the visit.

As opposed to paper and pen, patients can use a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to fill out the forms they need to complete. They can even send their medical histories by taking photos or attaching files. Practices with a telehealth solution that incorporate digital intake forms have an average patient engagement rate of 86% or more. In this way, digital intake forms are the new appointment confirmation.

There are many benefits to using digital forms. Not only does this increase patient satisfaction and retention, but it also relieves your staff of manual processes and busy work. It also gives your staff an idea of who is more likely to attend or cancel their appointment. Telemedicine solutions like Mend automatically send these forms ahead of the appointment. This way, staff can focus on the work that matters most to patients.

Minimize Wait Times

Nobody likes to wait, so it's no surprise that long wait times are one of the biggest deterrents to patient attendance. No practice is immune to occasional wait times, but do your best to keep wait times to a minimum by running an efficient practice.

Nonetheless, there are still ways to make waiting for an appointment to start a positive patient experience. With Mend, we offer a custom-brand virtual waiting room for telehealth visits. In this Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room (EVWR) experience, patients are met with a Netflix-style waiting room that allows them to browse high-value, educational healthcare content before a provider joins their visit.

This enhanced experience shows patients that you care about their health. Patients are more likely to actively participate in their own care as a result. Mend's EVWR has also proven to increase patient satisfaction by 23% — another important KPI to keep in mind for increasing patient engagement and attendance. 

Offer Virtual Walk-Ins

Empty time slots in a provider’s schedule cost money and zap staff productivity. The average no-show rate is 23% across the country. This leaves large, unproductive gaps in provider schedules, getting in the way of maximizing daily visits. Thankfully, hybrid care is changing this. 

Historically when no shows occurred, it was difficult or nearly impossible to fill these slots in a timely manner. Now, practices can optimize patient attendance by using a telehealth platform.

With telehealth, your practice can offer virtual walk-ins to fill empty slots or missed appointments. Once a patient misses their appointment, a staff member can contact additional patients on the waiting list. Those patients can join with just a few clicks from the comfort of their homes.

Like patient reminders, Mend also supports translations for virtual visits. All providers need to do is click a button, and a remote translator will be able to join the visit in the patient’s preferred language of choice. That means no more appointment delays or cancellations due to translator scheduling issues.

Follow Up with Patients

Despite diligent efforts, no-shows and last-minute cancellations can still happen. If a patient does miss their appointment, it’s important to know why. Staff should follow up with patients who miss their appointments to understand their reason(s). They should also attempt to reschedule the appointment or offer other suitable options, such as a virtual visit. 

This shows that you care about their health and well-being and want to ensure they get the attention they need. It also gives valuable insight into any areas in your practice that may be open for improvement.

Conclusion

There are a number of ways to optimize patient attendance, but the most important thing is to ensure clear communication with your patients throughout their care experience. This includes appointment reminders, digital intake forms, and more. Allowing self-scheduling options, as well as offering flexible appointment times, can also help patients feel engaged in their care and more likely to show up for their visit. 

Putting an end to costly missed appointments and creating a streamlined workflow is simple with Mend. If your practice is struggling with patient attendance, all you need to do to increase attendance is request a free demo with our team. From there, we’ll walk you through integrating it into your existing system so you can put an end to the no-show nightmare.

Advanced Patient Pay Solutions That Drive Results in 2022

Patient pay solutions continue to evolve as hybrid care models gain popularity with patients. Read here what options drive results now.

As healthcare evolves, patient pay solutions must follow suit. Patients are quickly becoming consumers who want frictionless digital payment options for their medical bills. This article explores the benefits of advanced patient pay solutions and how you can leverage this technology to drive results in your practice right now.

Illustration of patient submitting payment for visit on her device.

How Advanced Patient Pay Solutions Can Benefit Your Practice

Advanced payment solutions offer benefits to patients and providers alike. Here are just four areas where you can expect to see improvement in 2022.

  1. Increased Speed to Collection

Practices need to be able to collect payments quickly to maintain a healthy cash flow and avoid bad debt. Yet many practices still rely on paper bills. This greatly affects the rate of speed to collection. In a recent study, 70% percent of providers said it takes more than 30 days to collect payment via mail. 

With advanced patient pay solutions like Mend, you can expect a faster revenue cycle. As soon as a patient has an outstanding balance, they receive a sequence of texts and emails prompting payment.

  1. Increased Patient Satisfaction

Patients appreciate the option to make payments quickly and easily. One study shows that 60% of consumers expect their digital healthcare experience to mirror that of retail. 

Yet paper bills, apps, and portals often create friction points in healthcare. With an advanced pay solution, patients can pay their medical bills in just a few clicks. This creates a more positive patient pay experience.

  1. Increased Patient Retention

Even if you provide excellent medical care, you know that patient retention is not a guarantee. 

As patients become more like consumers, they want to be in the know when it comes to their financial costs. One study shows that 49% of patients said having clear information on out-of-pocket costs before receiving treatment would impact their decision to use a healthcare provider.

By adopting a payment solution that helps patients clearly understand their responsibilities before and after a visit, you can expect to see an increase in patient loyalty and retention. 

  1. Reduced Manual Labor

Manual payment processing creates a burden on front desk staff. It can also create bottlenecks that disrupt the flow of care. Manual processes also leave room for error. This can result in uncollected payments and lengthy delays.

With an advanced pay solution, you can automate all billing and collection processes. This will free up staff time while reducing overhead costs.

How to Automate Patient Payments Now

A simple and effective payment workflow is key if your practice wants to drive faster revenue cycles while reducing staff burden. Here’s how we do it at Mend.

Frictionless Payment Processing System

Hybrid care is here to stay. That means your practice needs a method for capturing patient payment for both in-person and virtual visits. It all starts with a frictionless payment process.

Mend integrates with your practice’s medical billing system. It connects to the source data for outstanding balances using flat files, API endpoints, or HL7 feeds. Whether the appointment is in-person or virtual, the system can automate payments before or after the visit occurs. Once set up, the system triggers a sequence as soon as it detects an outstanding balance. 

Patient Has Outstanding Balance

Once Mend detects an outstanding balance, the system sends an automated sequence of texts and emails to prompt payment.

Our team can customize this sequence to match the needs of your practice. For example, the system can collect co-pays before a visit as part of the digital check-in process. If a patient still has a balance after insurance claims, the system will send secure links for the remainder.

Patient Gets Alerts via SMS & Email

Text messages between healthcare teams and patients are legal — and the preferred method of contact by many patients. With Mend, as soon as a patient receives a payment notification, they can confirm their identity with their DOB. This allows patients to securely access their outstanding balances without taking time away from your care teams.

Not only is this easy for patients, but studies have shown that text and email are stronger methods for engagement. According to one report, 45% of patients would pay faster if notified by email, text, or phone call.

Mend Collect Consents from Patient

Whenever your practice needs to collect consent from a patient, Mend can help. Our platform collects consent for text and email to help comply with Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and other regulations. 

Mend can also collect consent to authorize payment procedures. This includes storing and auto-charging a card on file for quicker revenue cycles.

Post Payment Collection to Medical Billing System

Once the patient pays their expense, Mend can notify the medical billing system that payment is complete. 

This frees up staff time from chasing payment and record-keeping: it all happens automatically and at a high success rate. Seventy-two percent of patients complete payment forms on Mend. Forty-four percent complete the payment forms within just 24 hours.

Conclusion

Many businesses have gone digital for payment processing, and healthcare should be no exception. Advanced patient pay solutions are already possible with companies like Mend. Explore today how Mend can help you get paid much faster, reduce overhead, and increase patient satisfaction scores.

How Telehealth is Improving Rural Access to Healthcare

A recent study from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine used data from a rural Appalachian population and found that telemedicine is an effective alternative to in-person care, resulting in higher attendance rates.

Older gentleman meeting with doctor over telemedicine.

In this study, researchers looked at data from the West Virginia University Department of Family Medicine, excluding data from patients who live more than 60 miles outside the state line. They found that 13,013 of their 110,999 patient visits were telemedicine appointments.

Researchers used a retrospective study to determine the correlation between visits that are completed and the setting in which they occur.

They found that telehealth can drive appointment completion rates up by about 20 percent.

Researchers found that many patients were unlikely to take advantage of telehealth services due to resistance to change or lack of access to proper technology.

The research team also discovered that although at-risk individuals are less likely to complete their appointments, telemedicine made it more conducive to participation. 

The use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in higher rates of appointment completion for rural residents. It had the most significant effect on difficult-to-reach patients who live further from the clinical location, as well as on patients with more severe health issues.

One of the limitations of this study is that it uses data from only one organization, and therefore neglects subjective barriers to care access, as well as lacking information about patient demographics and complete data beyond the check-in phase.

It should be noted that the study has not yet been validated by other clinics, as more information is needed to understand the extent of telemedicine’s effectiveness.

Several efforts have been made by federal officials and lawmakers to increase access to telehealth for rural populations over the past year.

States in rural areas like Alaska, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia will have a new way to access health care provided by telehealth. A three-year pilot program to enhance virtual services is being created by the National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center and the Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center at the University of Arkansas, which is receiving an $8 million grant from federal officials. 

In October 2021, two US congressmen established a task force to provide congressional guidance on how to make rural telehealth more efficient. The Rural Telehealth Access Task Force Act would start a study and develop strategies to improve its efficiency.

Mend has been dedicated to making healthcare more accessible since 2014. If you’d like to learn more about how Mend can help your organization see more patients, contact us today.

How To Improve Telehealth Connectivity Issues in 2022

Make buffering and latency a thing of the past. Learn how to solve telehealth connectivity issues with the latest innovations in technology.

If you’ve ever experienced telehealth connectivity issues, you already know how frustrating it can be for your practice. After all, if you can’t easily connect with your patients, delivering virtual care can be challenging or impossible. In this article, we’ll first explore the common issues that affect telehealth connectivity. Then we’ll discuss the exact solutions you can implement to create a more productive, profitable, and thriving practice.

3 Problems Surrounding Telehealth Connectivity

There are three significant issues that can impact the connectivity of telehealth services.

  1. Slow internet connection. One telehealth connectivity issue is that telehealth services often rely on high-speed internet connections for delivering care. However, many patients — especially those in rural areas — may not have access to high-speed internet. This can make it difficult for people in those areas to use telehealth services.
  1. Difficult login process. A website with a lengthy registration process or login can frustrate patients. This may cause them to not show up for their appointment. Given that the number one reason providers implement telehealth in their practice is to increase productivity, this is a big issue.
  1. No guidance for technical issues. If a patient experiences technical issues before an appointment, this could lead to a decrease in both staff and provider productivity, as well as further patient no-shows.
Friction to connect includes issues such as portals, registrations & logins; app downloads; and lack of patient technical support.

Solutions for Telehealth Connectivity Issues

Telehealth connectivity issues can be frustrating. The good news is that these common issues are easily solvable with the right platform. Let’s explore how innovations in telehealth technology can address these problems.

Internet Connection

Problem: Slow internet connection

Solution: Ability to support low bandwidth connections, audio fallback capabilities, and other backup options

Connectivity is always going to be a high priority with telehealth. When connection fails, it’s often due to low bandwidth. In other words, information can’t be sent effectively (which is why lag time occurs) or the connection can’t be made at all.

The ability to connect even on low bandwidth is vital for the success of virtual visits. This means that you need a telehealth partner that can work on low bandwidth connections. In addition, there need to be audio fallback capabilities if video fails.

With Mend, you have options when it comes to video use. You can use our 100% web-based video for single or group appointments. Using this reduces the bandwidth use by 74% over platforms like Doxy, Doximity, and Google Meets. Mend also integrates with Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams to facilitate visits if necessary or preferred. 

If at any time the bandwidth is too low to connect with a video visit, Mend has the capability to support audio at very low speeds. Backup options like our phone dialer are also in place to ensure the success of every visit.

Solutions to keep patients connected include accurate contact information, instant technical support, and setting expectations before the visit.

Login Process

Problem: Difficult login process

Solution: Frictionless connection with a secure link

Some telehealth services require the use of specific apps or software. These can be difficult to install and use, especially if patients have limited data or space on their devices. Additionally, some apps may not be compatible with software that people already have. This can make the adoption of telehealth services difficult.

One solution is to use a telehealth service that offers a frictionless process for connecting. Mend has a patented process that makes connecting easier than ever. 

It starts with the sending of an automatic text message or email with a secure link. After the patient confirms their date of birth, they can connect from any device. With this process in place, over 94% of visits are successful with Mend. When patients are able to connect easily, this can keep patients happy and engaged in their care. 

The benefit of a secure link can also extend beyond the virtual visit alone. Patients can also connect easily to complete digital intake forms and pay for their visits.

While the login process may seem like something small, keep in mind that patient satisfaction is a vital element to consider as healthcare trends evolve. Patients are now expecting digital health processes to be seamless. In fact, sixty percent of consumers expect their digital healthcare experience to mirror that of retail. Another recent study shows that 91% of consumers prefer an electronic payment method for their medical bills. A well-designed telehealth service can provide all of these solutions.

Optimized provider experience includes strong internet, backup devices, using a headset and telehealth ready security software.

Technical Support

Problem: No guidance for technical issues

Solution: Quick and responsive technical support team

Sometimes a connectivity fix is as simple as refreshing the device or performing a restart. However, if this guidance is unavailable at the time of service, staff productivity rates and patient retention could suffer.

As a result, it’s essential to use a telehealth & patient engagement platform that includes a dedicated support team who offers a quick response time to any issues. At Mend, the average response time is 15 seconds for technical support. 

While only 0.5% of visits require technical support, A.I. capabilities can assist with instant automated responses and resolutions to questions about wait time or filling prescriptions, for example. It’s also possible to create instant automated responses and resolutions unique to your practice using A.I. capabilities.

While having technical support staff available 24/7 is essential, you can also take connectivity a step further by identifying problems before they even have a chance to happen.

With some platforms, it’s actually possible to assess which patients may have a poor internet connection prior to their virtual visit. Mend, for example, will help develop processes to connect these patients when connectivity issues are identified ahead of the scheduled appointment. In other instances, telehealth kiosks can be made available for patients to use.

Best practices for a successful visit include restarting devices once a week or if on for a long time period, minimal open tabs, and using a wired connection.

Conclusion

In order to create a successful telehealth program, reliable connectivity is of utmost importance. Solving a connectivity issue starts by defining the problem. Most connectivity issues stem from poor workflows, friction to connect, or slow internet speeds — all of which you can solve with a dedicated telehealth solution. And even if connection issues happen occasionally, a well-designed telehealth program should still maintain single-digit no-show rates and high patient satisfaction scores.

At Mend, we work closely with providers and staff to create seamless digital workflows and solve any connectivity issues — long before they happen. To explore everything Mend has to offer, schedule a demo today with our experts to learn more. 

The 12 Tips To Establishing A Strong Telepresence

In most healthcare settings, it's agreed that telehealth can be helpful, but professionals may not be clear about the video-related factors that can help or hurt the success of a visit by using telehealth. The steps below show how to ensure patient satisfaction in those situations.

Doctor engaging in a telehealth visit.

Tips for Building a Successful Relationship via Video

A recent study shows that many healthcare workers using telehealth services no longer utilize many of their diagnostic skills due to the nature of virtual visits. 

Telepresence & Its Effect on Empathy

Many people believe that using screens, cameras, and microphones prevents them from having an empathetic connection. A recent survey reported that 51% of clinicians would be unable to demonstrate empathy towards a patient when telehealth is implemented.

Learn the Basic Technology of Telepresence

Managing technology is a difficult task when it doesn’t work as expected. Studies find that 61.3% of clinicians describe a lack of digital literacy as the top barrier they face when using telehealth. Complaints about the lack of digital literacy are an issue that can negatively impact provider and patient satisfaction.

Learn How to Manage the Obstacles Involved in Telepresence and Digital Literacy

The best way to get comfortable with telepresence interactions is to train behind the scenes. Preparing for visits brings familiarity and confidence to the telepresence, and can help healthcare workers better connect in an empathetic way with their patients.

How to Establish a Strong Telepresence in Video Relationships

The single most damaging factor that can interfere with your video relationships is pretending to be in command when you are not. Your patients and clients are more likely to offer honest feedback if you take your blunders in stride, accepting them as part of the learning curve rather than trying (and failing) to pretend you know what you're doing. By cultivating a more humble attitude about telepresence itself, you will be more confident in building and maintaining successful virtual relationships. 

Learning to laugh at your mistakes combined with persistence is a successful way to strengthen the therapeutic relationship, rather than abandoning the problem or visit entirely. For example, a clinician recently reported in a training course that she had discontent with his primary care provider, who refused to tilt his screen so she could see more than the doctor’s eyes and forehead. She explained that the physician appeared in the lower two inches of her video screen, with the doctor’s rotating ceiling fan occupying the rest of the screen. The physician refused to tilt the screen and insisted that his screen was immovable. These obvious falsehoods damage the fabric known as the therapeutic relationship. Allowing oneself to be “teachable” and therefore human can be one of the biggest secrets to successful video relationships.

What can be done to strengthen telepresence?

How well are you utilizing telepresence and digital literacy to enhance your video relationships with your clients? Resources exist to help you be successful in implementing telepresence.

See more here:

Mend Blogs

Mend White Papers

Mend eBooks

Mend Webinars

Telehealth Provided Billions In Savings While Serving Minority Communities During The Pandemic

Increasing government funding of telemedicine during the pandemic led more minority populations and patients in metropolitan areas to use telemedicine.

Johns Hopkins University studied 30 million Medicare claims that were submitted between 2019 - 2021. Prior to the CMS waiver in 2020, telemedicine was only accessible in designated rural areas or specific medical facilities. Before the CMS waiver expanded telehealth access, only .42% of patients had experienced at least one outpatient telehealth visit. The study found that there were no significant differences in use between people with different levels of disadvantage, but there were notable differences based on location. People in rural areas used telemedicine more often than those in metropolitan areas, while elderly and African American patients were less likely to use it. When adjusted for demographic factors, females and those in rural areas increased the likelihood of using telemedicine while elderly and African American patients decreased it.

After the accommodation, telemedicine was covered nationwide with nearly 10% of patients using telemedicine in the outpatient setting. It was noted that women, Asians, and Hispanics were more likely to use telemedicine than men.

Researchers found that there was a surprising inverse relationship between telemedicine coverage and socioeconomic status. This means that an increase in telemedicine coverage did not contribute to health disparities.

Mend advocates for legislation to offer reimbursement for telemedicine services that are available beyond the national public health emergency and for improved accessibility for those who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage.

To learn more about how telemedicine can help your organization reach more underserved communities, contact us here at Mend.

How To Reduce No-Shows In Healthcare Immediately

If you’re wondering how to reduce no-shows, you’re not alone. No-shows are one of the most frustrating parts of running a hospital or healthcare practice, with missed appointments resulting in wasted time and resources. But how can you reduce your no-show rate for good? What is it that makes patients no-show in the first place? And what exactly are the costs to your practice or organization?

Let’s start by exploring 10 helpful methods for how to reduce no-show appointments in your practice.

Illustration of woman connecting to a virtual visit via Mend on a tablet.

Table of Contents for How to Reduce No-Shows

  1. Use Telemedicine to Reduce No-Shows to Single Digits
  2. Allow Patients to Self-Schedule
  3. Set Up Appointment Reminders
  4. Use an Attendance Predictor 
  5. Make it Easy for Patients to Cancel and Reschedule
  6. Digital Forms = the New Appointment Confirmation
  7. Get Patients Invested in Their Care
  8. Request Patient Payment Before the Visit
  9. Explore Digital Check-in Options
  10. Understand the Typical No-Show Patients and Why They Miss Appointments  

1. Use Telemedicine to Reduce No-Shows to Single Digits

Telemedicine has proven to be an effective tool in reducing no-shows in healthcare. This digital solution allows patients to be seen by a doctor from the comfort of their own home. This convenience factor is a major reason why patients are more likely to show up for appointments when they are able to see a doctor via telemedicine.

One whitepaper showed that patients who used telemedicine were more likely to rate their overall experience as good or excellent. This is likely due to the increased convenience and accessibility of care that telemedicine provides. When it comes to the question of how to stop no show appointments, these two factors go a long way while also promoting patient retention.

At Mend, our technology has helped hundreds of organizations reduce their no-show rates to less than 4%. This is significant considering that the average no-show rate across the globe is 23%. For a 25 provider practice, that means $1,715,616 per year in lost revenue if no-shows continue.

2. Allow Patients to Self-Schedule

Another way to reduce the number of no-shows is to allow patients to self-schedule their appointments. Eighty percent of patients surveyed want online patient appointment self-scheduling. This way, patients can choose a time that works best for them, and they're more likely to keep their appointment.

Self-scheduling also allows patients to schedule appointments outside of normal business hours. This can be especially helpful for working parents or people with busy schedules.

If you're looking for an easy way to reduce no-shows, patient self-scheduling is a great option.

3. Set Up Appointment Reminders

One of the best ways to reduce appointment no-shows in healthcare is to remind patients of their upcoming appointments. This can be done through phone calls, text messages, or email. Many appointment reminder services are available that can automate this process. 

At Mend, we have a robust appointment reminder system. This includes multiple touchpoints to eliminate the possibility of patients forgetting their appointments. These include smart text, email, and phone call reminders. This process is integrated with your EHR/PMS. The reminders are sent in the patient’s preferred language of care.

4. Use an Attendance Predictor to Reduce No-Shows

An attendance predictor can stop no-shows before they happen. This machine learning algorithm predicts which patients are most likely to miss their appointments. Once the machine predicts at-risk patients, it tailors its appointment reminders. These reminders either encourage the patient to confirm their appointment or reschedule.

Mend’s Attendance Predictor is the healthcare industry’s first-ever artificial intelligence machine learning algorithm that predicts no-shows and cancellations before they happen with up to 99% accuracy.

If you're interested in trying our Attendance Predictor, you can sign up for a demo.

5. Make it Easy for Patients to Cancel and Reschedule

If you've been struggling with how to reduce no-shows, one thing you can do is make it easy for patients to cancel and reschedule appointments. This means having a flexible cancellation policy and providing multiple ways for patients to reschedule. A recent survey showed that 80% of patients now put a premium on convenience factors like texting, self-scheduling, and rescheduling and would have no difficulty switching to another provider if it’s more convenient.

Some things you can do to make it easier to cancel and reschedule appointments include:

Making it easy to cancel and reschedule appointments won't eliminate no-shows entirely, but it can help reduce them. At Mend, ​​our telehealth scheduling system makes it quicker and more convenient for patients to modify their appointments 24/7/365. 

6. Digital Forms = The New Appointment Confirmation

Digital forms may also help to reduce no-show rates in healthcare. By switching to digital forms, you can make it easier for patients to fill out their information and submit it prior to their appointment. 

Mend customers report that when patients complete their forms they are far more likely to attend. We’ve found an 86% completion rate for our digital forms. Sixty-eight percent of patients complete the forms within an hour of receiving the text and/or email. Seventy-five percent of patients complete the forms within the same day.

By using online forms, patients can confirm their appointments with a click of a button. Patients can also fill in their medical history, as well as know what to expect for their upcoming appointment. This reduces the number of no-shows and also ensures that patients have the information they need for their appointments.

7. Get Patients Invested in Their Care 

One way to reduce the number of no-shows is to get patients invested in their care ahead of time. This means providing them with information about their condition, treatment options, and what to expect from their appointment. Patients who feel like they are part of their care are more likely to show up for their appointments.

At Mend, we don’t just connect with patients before their appointments. During virtual appointments, we connect patients with the first-ever Netflix-style waiting room. Here, patients can view educational videos in just a few clicks. Not only will they be able to get healthier while they wait, but this technology has also shown a 23% increase in patient satisfaction.

8. Request Patient Payment Before the Appointment

Another way to reduce no-shows is to require patients to pay for copays before they come in. This shows a patient’s commitment to coming and will help ensure that there's less of a chance they'll back out. Let patients know the consequences of not showing up to their appointment. If a patient knows that they'll incur a fee or that their insurance won't cover the cost, they are more likely to attend.

Practices can easily manage digital payment with telemedicine solutions. For example, Mend's digital check-in process handles patient co-pays as well as consents, digital forms, and more. This occurs automatically for both in-person and virtual visits.

9. Explore Digital Check-In Options

Research suggests that digital check-in processes can help to reduce no-show rates in healthcare settings. One study found that implementing a digital check-in process reduced no-show rates by 30 percent among pediatric patients. 

Other research has shown that digital check-in processes can also lead to reduced wait times and improved patient satisfaction. These two factors alone may help reduce patient no-shows.

Offer Incentives

Another way to reduce no-shows is to offer incentives for patients who do attend their appointments. This could be something as simple as a discount on future services or a gift card. Incentives help patients see the value in attending their appointment and make it more likely that they'll show up.

It's also very important to follow up with patients who do miss their appointments. This gives you an opportunity to find out why they didn't show up. Plus, you can see if there's anything you can do to prevent it from happening again in the future.

10. Understand the Typical No-Show Patients and Why They Miss Appointments 

There are a few different types of patients who are more likely to miss appointments. Some patients may have transportation issues or be unable to take time off work. Others may simply forget their appointment or be too busy to make it. Lastly, some patients may not be able to afford the care they need. 

Whatever the reason, it's essential to try and identify which patients are more likely to no-show so you can take steps to prevent it. Some ways a practice can achieve this is by following up with patients via a phone call or sending a survey.

For example, a practice may find through feedback that many of their patients no-show due to transportation issues. If you know that transportation is an issue for some of your patients, see if there's anything you can do to help. Maybe your organization can suggest a ride service or help them arrange for public transportation.

How Much Money Do No-Shows Cost an Organization?

When a patient misses their appointment, it doesn’t just affect their overall well-being or continuity of care. No-shows have a serious financial effect on the practices and organizations. 

In a recent study, it was estimated that no-shows cost healthcare organizations approximately $150 million per year. That number is expected to rise as the population ages and demand for healthcare services increases. 

There are a number of ways to reduce no-shows, but it's important to find the right solution for your organization. To understand the impact no-shows are having on your practice’s bottom line, use our convenient tool.

How Much Money Do No-Shows Cost the Healthcare System?

It's estimated that no-show appointments cost the healthcare system billions of dollars every year. That's why it's so important to find ways to reduce the number of patients who don't show up for their appointments. 

How to Reduce No-Shows Today

No-shows are a significant problem in healthcare, but there are ways to reduce them. By using appointment reminders, attendance predictors, and offering incentives, you can decrease the number of no-shows at your practice. You can also reduce no-shows by being flexible with appointment times. You may also offer patients the option to reschedule if they cannot make their original appointment. Implementing these tips will help you see fewer no-shows and have a more successful healthcare practice.

If your practice is struggling significantly with missed appointments, taking on the task of decreasing no-shows can feel daunting. The good news is that many of these simple but significant changes are achievable through digital solutions. 

Eliminating costly missed appointments and creating a streamlined workflow is simple with Mend. All you need to do to reduce no-shows is request a free demonstration. After that, we’ll walk you through integrating these various elements into your existing system. If you’re ready to say goodbye to the no-show nightmare, schedule your demo below.

2022 Patient Payment Statistics and Bad Debt in Healthcare

Healthcare providers rely on getting paid in order to continue operating, and bad debt can have a significant impact on any business. Here are some of the most recent patient payment statistics as they relate to healthcare and what you can do as an organization to ensure timely payment.

What is Bad Debt in Healthcare?

Photo of a female medical office worker reviewing bills and entering in the data into their system.

Bad debt in healthcare is money that is owed to a healthcare provider but is not able to be collected. This happens for a variety of reasons, such as the patient not having insurance or not being able to pay their deductible. Bad debt can be a major financial burden for healthcare providers, as it can often be difficult or impossible to collect.

One of the most significant causes of bad debt is the rising cost of patient payment responsibility. A recent report estimates the consumer out-of-pocket healthcare costs to reach $491.6 billion or about $1,650 per person by 2025.

What are Current Patient Payment Trends?

There are a few different trends for patient payments currently. As briefly mentioned above, one trend is that patients are increasingly responsible for a larger portion of their healthcare costs. As a result, patients are more likely to be looking for ways to save money on their healthcare costs.

Another trend is that more patients are using online payment options. This is because it is often more convenient and can help save time. Some online payment options also offer discounts. Or, they may offer lower prices than traditional methods like paying by cash or check.

Finally, there is a trend towards using alternative methods of payment, such as medical credit cards. This is because these cards can offer patients a way to finance their healthcare costs and pay over time. They can also often get patients discounts on their care.

Latest Statistics on Patient Payments

The latest patient payment statistics show that the average American household now owes more than $5,000 in medical debt. This is a significant increase from previous years, likely due to the rising cost of healthcare.

According to the same statistics, approximately one in five American households has "bad medical debt." This means that the debt is over 90 days past due.

These numbers are concerning, as they indicate that many Americans are struggling to keep up with their medical bills.

Illustration of a family under an umbrella of insurance, medical and expenses.

How Many Healthcare Organizations Still Rely on Paper Bills

Even though most businesses have gone digital, many healthcare organizations rely on paper bills. In fact, 75% of providers primarily use paper and manual processes for payment collection.

As a result, this method can play a role in leading to bad debt for healthcare organizations. On average, it takes more than 30 days to collect after a patient encounter. To counter this, we can look at ways to improve the collection of patient payments in the future.

What Does the Future of Patient Payments Look Like?

The future of patient payments looks like it will be more electronic and automated. More and more, patients are using online tools to pay their bills and track their payments. This trend is likely to continue as the healthcare industry moves towards a more digitized system.

Consumers Want Digital Payment Options.

The InstaMed Annual Report shows an increasing interest from patients in digital payment options. The report found that 85% of consumers prefer an electronic payment method for their medical bills.

Another study shows patients aged 18 to 24 are three times as likely to consider switching providers over a poor digital experience.

Automatic digital payment processing

To stay competitive, patients want a modern, convenient patient engagement experience. Make patient payments easy and effortless, and organizations can get paid faster every time.

With the rise of telehealth comes more options for managing digital processes, including payment. For example, Mend's digital check-in process handles patient co-pays, consents, digital forms, and more, automatically for both in-person and virtual visits.

After a virtual visit is complete, the integration detects a positive patient balance. Mend can then automatically bill patient credit cards on file. Or, we can send a digital form invoice via text and email. Our management system quickly collects the amount due and then documents the payment.

After an in-person or virtual appointment, Mend can check patient responsibility, charge cards on file, send a payment request, and mark the status in PMS.

Automation of this process can also cut down on the cost of staffing. Paying staff to collect co-pays or chase patient balances after a visit is time-consuming and expensive.

How Has the Pandemic Affected Patient Payments?

The pandemic has had a significant impact on patient payments in healthcare. Many patients have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. Twenty-nine percent of Americans lost their health insurance in 2020. Fifty percent of them remain uninsured in 2021. As a result, bad debt in healthcare has increased significantly.

According to a Credit Karma survey, the finance company has seen its customers faced with an additional $3.6 billion in medical debt collections.

Tips for Prevention of Bad Debt

There are several ways that healthcare providers can prevent bad debt from occurring. 

First, it is essential to have a clear and concise billing policy in place. Patients have a right to transparent pricing and all costs related to their care before any treatment starts. This will help avoid misunderstandings about what the patient is responsible for paying.

Secondly, automating billing processes and offering digital patient payment options can provide a better overall patient experience. It can also increase the speed of collection for providers. Mend already solves this by creating a digital check-in experience for in-person or virtual encounters. Patients can also store credit cards on file to charge automatically after the visit. Mend can also send an easy-to-use digital invoice that patients can pay electronically.

Illustration of patient paying for their bill on a mobile device through the Mend platform.

Lastly, it is also important to follow up with patients who have outstanding balances. Organizations need to contact patients soon after they receive their bill to remind them of the balance due. Providers can also offer payment plans to patients who are having trouble paying their bill in full.

Overall, there are several steps that healthcare providers can take to prevent bad debt from occurring. By having electronic payment options, a clear billing policy, and following up with patients, providers can help to ensure that patients are able to pay their bill in full.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that patient payment statistics and bad debt are major issues in healthcare. With the rising cost of healthcare, more and more patients are unable to pay their medical bills. This results in bad debt for healthcare providers, which can significantly impact their bottom line. However, there are steps that providers can take to reduce bad debt and improve patient payment statistics. By implementing effective billing and collection practices, providers can minimize the financial impact of these trends.

10 Healthcare Payment Trends in 2022

It can be difficult to keep up with the latest healthcare payment trends in a rapidly changing landscape. Here are 10 predictions for what we'll see in 2022. From new technology like artificial intelligence to an increase in value-based care, these healthcare payment trends will have a major impact on the industry.

Trend #1: The Rise of Digital Health

Image of person having a virtual visit with a doctor on an iPad.

More and more healthcare providers are moving towards digital health. This trend benefits both patients and providers.

With digital health, patients can save time and money. Virtual visits help patients avoid having to take time off work or school. They can also access their health information online, schedule appointments, and manage bills. When it comes to digital payment options, a recent Instamed study showed that 91% of consumers prefer an electronic payment method for their medical bills.

With telemedicine solutions like Mend, providers can benefit from a seamless digital solution. Digital intake forms and automated payment processing reduce costs associated with office space, paper resources, and administrative staff.

Trend #2: AI for Healthcare Payment Processing

The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is changing how organizations process payments. For example, many utilize AI to create more efficient and accurate claims processing. It can also detect fraud in healthcare payments. 

Mend can also create automated payment processing flows to decrease the workload on administrative staff. Patient responsibilities such as co-pays are collected automatically before or after an encounter. Then, they are recorded in the payment management system. The patient payment process is a factor that can be utilized by Mend’s AI patient attendance predictor. Learn more in our eBook: How to Automate Patient Payments Before & After the Visit.

Trend #3: Increased Need for Digital Healthcare Payment Solutions

Illustration of people performing mobile payments.

The rise of telehealth has been one of the biggest impacts on healthcare payment trends in recent years, resulting in a need for more digital payment solutions. With the patient being remote, swiping a card for payment is no longer possible.

Research shows that even after the pandemic subsides, patients still want digital payment solutions. In that same InstaMed Annual report, sixty-five percent of consumers want to keep using virtual and self-service options. This makes a robust payment processing system not only convenient but necessary.

Trend #4: The Increasing Importance of Patient Engagement

As healthcare costs rise, patients are looking for ways to reduce expenses. One way to do this is by becoming more engaged in their own care. Engaged patients are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices, adhere to treatment plans, and avoid unnecessary hospital visits.

Healthcare organizations are starting to recognize the importance of patient engagement while taking steps to encourage it. Patient portals are an example of this. 

How an organization collects payment is also a critical element of patient engagement. At Mend, we’ve found that when patients have the option to pay for their appointment ahead of their visit, they are far more likely to attend and actively engage in their care.

Illustration of a happy customer paying a medical bill on the Mend platform on a mobile device.

Trend #5: Consumerization of Healthcare

In recent years, patients have been paying more out of pocket for their own care. Because of this, they want to be viewed as customers. In fact, sixty percent of consumers expect their digital healthcare experience to mirror that of retail.

Retail experiences like Amazon and Walmart are mobile, fast, and ultra-convenient. Uber and Instacart make for effortless delivery or transportation services. Consumers are aware of these advancements in payment technology. Healthcare organizations that match the experiences of other industries will win in the future.

Trend #6: Storing Digital Payment Methods

With services like Apple Pay, consumers are more comfortable using digital cards for retail payment. This same ease of payment proves a beneficial trend to the healthcare industry as well.  For example, if a patient consents to store their payment information digitally, they can pay medical bills in just a few clicks. 

This frictionless payment option is also a win for providers. Seventy-three percent of physicians say it typically takes at least one month to collect payments from patients, with 12% of patients waiting more than three months to pay. The storage of digital payments can result in higher percentages of payment and a faster collection speed.

Trend #7: Preventative Care for Decreasing Costs

Preventative care is also an emerging trend, and there are a few reasons for this. Patients understand that it is cheaper to prevent a disease than treat it. People are becoming more aware of the importance of their health. They know that if they take care of themselves they will be less likely to get sick.

Illustration of an office visit with a patient getting blood pressure taken.

This trend toward preventative care is likely to continue in the future. As people become more health-conscious, they will be more likely to take steps to avoid getting sick. This will lead to lower healthcare costs and a healthier population.

Trend #8: Younger Generations are Demanding More 

While a good portion of the population utilized telehealth during the pandemic, younger generations drive the demand for ongoing digital solutions. How an organization processes its payments is a large part of this.

In a recent report, patients aged 18 to 24 are three times as likely (61%) to consider switching providers over a poor digital experience.

Trend #9: Increase in Price Transparency

Another emerging healthcare payment trend surrounds price transparency. In the same InstaMed Annual report mentioned above, 9 in 10 consumers want to know their payment responsibility upfront. 

Yet despite this desire, many patients still feel left in the dark. Negotiated rates, eligibility, and deductible amounts are just a few of the elements that cause uncertainty and confusion over final costs. Only 20% of patients always know what they will owe after an appointment. 61% of consumers said their providers did not ask about the affordability of healthcare and/or discuss resources to assist with costs. 

Healthcare organizations that provide this information in a transparent manner will gain patient loyalty as well as improve overall satisfaction.

Trend #10: The Move Toward Value-Based Payments

The final trend is toward value-based payments in healthcare. This means that healthcare providers are paid based on the quality of care they provide rather than the number of services. This incentivizes providers to focus on quality over quantity.

Value-based payments are becoming more common as insurance companies move away from fee-for-service payments. In these arrangements, healthcare providers are paid for each service they provide, regardless of if the patient actually benefits from the service. This can lead to unnecessary tests or procedures, which drives up costs without improving outcomes.

Value-based payments help to address this issue by tying payment to outcomes. This approach will help control costs and result in better patient care.

Conclusion

The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, which means how we pay for healthcare services is also changing. We’ve looked at 10 of the most likely healthcare payment trends that we’ll see in 2022. From an increased focus on value-based care to the rise of mobile payments, it is clear that the healthcare industry is heading in a new and exciting direction.

The Future Role of A.I. in Healthcare & Patient Engagement

Artificial intelligence is changing the landscape of every business, including your healthcare practice. As one of the world's fastest-growing industries, the global AI market is projected to grow 38.1% annually through the year 2030. 

So how are the current and future roles of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare impacting your industry? And how can you ensure your practice isn't left behind?

The answer is simple. Integrating forward-thinking AI into your medical practice now will not only improve patient engagement, but it'll also increase your revenue. These two factors alone are enough to set your practice ahead of the competition and provide future growth and success.

Image of physician during virtual visit with dashboard and patient vital screens in the background.

The Importance of AI in Patient Engagement

As a medical professional, you understand the value of high patient engagement. You also know it's not a guarantee. Ultimately, it's the patient's responsibility to decide on their level of engagement. The best thing you can do is provide them with the tools and information they need to engage.

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare comes in.

When you equip your patients with innovative solutions to improve their medical experience, their level of engagement will improve. With more engagement comes:

It's impossible to predict how a patient will engage with your practice. But implementing AI in healthcare is almost guaranteed to improve patient engagement. You'll see your practice grow and thrive with a comprehensive patient engagement system like Mend that offers one-of-a-kind AI using unparalleled machine learning.

AI in Healthcare Today

Artificial intelligence in healthcare is rapidly evolving. In the future, AI may be able to assist you with more of the tasks humans can do with equal, if not improved, precision. We are years away from artificial intelligence replacing humans in healthcare. But you may be surprised to learn of the current AI capabilities available right now. 

Not all current AI healthcare solutions are created equal. Because of the rapid-paced evolution of technology, you want to make sure you choose what you implement into your practice wisely. 

The most advanced AI technology solutions improve patient engagement and increase revenue by streamlining the way you do business. 

Here are some of the ways artificial intelligence in healthcare is benefiting medical practices right now.

Advanced Machine Learning Technology

One of the most prominent AI solutions in healthcare is machine learning. Using advanced algorithms that learn and adapt to a patient's activity can bring the efficiency and revenue of your practice to the next level. 

Machine learning can predict how likely a patient is to cancel or show up to an appointment. But not all AI in healthcare solutions can do this. 

Our Attendance Predictor is the first AI machine learning algorithm with the ability to predict no-shows and cancellations with up to 99% accuracy. It uses basic demographic and appointment data accessed from your master scheduling system. After running millions of times and making constant adjustments, you'll optimize your appointment schedule confidently. 

Not all patients receive the same level of engagement opportunities with Mend, either. Our unique AI uses machine learning to provide more engagement opportunities for high-risk patients. Gently reminding and nudging the patients more likely to cancel or not show up gives your practice a leg-up on reducing the number of empty appointment times.

Appointment reminders will use AI to drive productivity - available for in-person and virtual Mend visits.

Streamlined Data Collection

Paperwork can be overwhelming and daunting for your patients and office staff. In fact, according to one study, doctors spend 49.2% of their time on paperwork. 

You'll bypass the overwhelm by implementing a comprehensive AI program into your system. Our digital intake forms eliminate physical waste and the time it takes to remind and collect information. 

No more PDFs. No more lost paperwork. With Mend, your patients fill out interactive intake forms on any device. Based on their appointment type, our advanced artificial intelligence in the healthcare system knows the correct documents to send via email or text.

Available on Mend - Digital forms can be completed well before the visit. 86% overall completion rate through Mend, and 68% are completed within an hour.

That means you:

Optimized Scheduling

In days past, patients would have to wait to schedule or reschedule an appointment during regular office hours. Or they'd leave a message, and your office staff would waste time tracking them down to reschedule or confirm. 

Advanced AI in healthcare technology allows for more efficient scheduling. With Mend, your patients can schedule and reschedule their appointments digitally 24/7/365. Whatever the appointment type, Mend can handle it. We've got you covered if they need in-person, telemedicine, kiosk, messaging, phone, or home appointments.

When you allow your patients to schedule and reschedule their own appointments, you're reducing your practice's no-show rates by 2-8%. That saves a 30-provider practice around $74 per visit. And that increases revenue by around $560,000.

Coming soon to every Mend appointment - Patients will check themselves in digitally for visits.

Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room Experience

If you offer telemedicine in your practice, providing a high-quality virtual waiting room is a must. As one of the most unique artificial intelligence options in healthcare, our Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room Experience (EVWR) improved patient satisfaction. In fact, we've seen a 23% increase in how satisfied our clients' patients are with their telemedicine experience.

Patients will learn and get healthier while they wait through the Mend platform with Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room. 94% satisfaction rates for virtual encounters.

Your patients won't spend their time waiting for you staring at a blank screen. Instead, using our advanced AI in healthcare EVWR, they'll receive a custom-branded informational experience. As they wait, they engage in a Netflix-style library of Mend Media, like TED talks and health and wellness videos.

Not only that, but our advanced AI will check for connection issues while your patients wait. If there is an issue, our connectivity chatbots will offer solutions to connection issues before the appointment begins. 

Efficient Capturing of Vitals

One of the most recent technologies to make an appearance in artificial intelligence in healthcare is capturing vitals. Believe it or not, you can now collect vital signs in a telemedicine appointment and before in-person visits. 

Coming soon on Mend - vitals for every visit type will be captured via webcam.

Because we continually advance with technology, here at Mend, we've implemented our patient engagement system to do just that. Using the web camera on any device, with the help of machine learning, FDA-approved vital signs are obtained.

Using this innovative AI in healthcare feature, vitals can be collected:

Our impressively innovative AI can collect vital signs like:

Increased Payment Collection

Collecting copays and payments post-visit has never been easier with advanced AI in healthcare. Unfortunately, 75% of today's providers still use paper and manual processes to collect payments. 

Payments can be collected automatically after any visit on Mend.

That's not only time-consuming but can also result in lost revenue. 

As soon as a claim is adjudicated showing a positive patient balance, Mend can charge a credit card on file or send a digital form to collect payment. And because Mend seamlessly integrates with your PMS, our advanced program:

This results in a faster revenue cycle, less manual labor, and improved patient experience and satisfaction.

At Mend, we are always looking forward. We focus on improving patient engagement and increasing the speed and efficiency of practices like yours through digital solutions. You don't want any old AI in healthcare solutions. You want one constantly evolving and adapting to today's technological needs.

The Future of AI in Healthcare

The high-speed development of artificial intelligence in healthcare is challenging to keep up with. But there are advancements today that, while not quite ready yet, give the nod to what we'll see in the future. 

We are a long way away from AI replacing humans in healthcare. But continuing progress within AI in healthcare will undoubtedly help patients and providers in the near future. 

There are three key AI advancements to keep an eye on that should make their way into the medical field within the next decade. 

  1. A Single Healthcare Infrastructure

Access to the care patients need today is largely dependent on location. Whether someone needs emergency care for a complex procedure, acute illness, or routine outpatient treatment, their options for care depend on where they are.

There is artificial intelligence on the horizon of healthcare that'll change all of that. Rather than medical centers like hospitals offering a wide range of care options, they'll focus more on emergencies, acute illnesses, and complex procedures. Less urgent needs are addressed at clinics, specialist centers, and outpatient surgery care locations.

How is AI in healthcare going to do this?

They do this by connecting these locations through one digital infrastructure. AI will soon be able to analyze local health data and monitor the supply and demand in real-time. These advancements aim to direct patients to and provide the correct treatment. In turn, this reduces bottlenecks in the healthcare system, allowing less wait time and more accurate treatment.

And what about sharing data across the globe? 

Currently, about 90% of medical data isn't shared due to privacy concerns. As AI advancements continue, we'll soon be able to balance the risks and benefits of data sharing. When providers have access to medical images and patient data from around the world, lives will be saved. Patients will receive the appropriate care when and where they need it. 

  1. Predictive Care

Predictive care is one of the most exciting advancements of artificial intelligence in healthcare. Rather than waiting for symptoms to appear, AI will soon be able to assist providers in disease prediction. 

Current factors used to predict risk factors of developing certain diseases include genetics and lifestyle habits. With the help of AI and predictive analytics, we'll soon be able to understand other factors that affect our health. 

Some of these factors include where we work, air pollution, where we live, our income level, and what we eat. The World Health Organization calls these factors “social determinants of health” (SDOH). 

In the future, AI in healthcare will also assist radiologists in making diagnoses. Technological advances are going to help them predict if a patient will develop lung or breast cancer sooner. Beyond that, AI aims to help providers determine how well a patient will respond to specific treatments. 

  1. Increased Patient Engagement and Provider Experience

When patients have access to the appropriate care when and where they need it, they're more likely to engage in their health actively. AI in healthcare today and in the future means less frustration, easily accessible scheduling, and simple payment solutions. Using predictive healthcare networks and efficient workflows, like those provided by Mend, results in a better user experience.

Providers will experience less burnout with the help of artificial intelligence in healthcare. Not long ago, providers faced the daily stress of trying to help too many patients. The administrative staff wasted valuable time with no-shows and chasing down patients for rescheduling and payment collection. Today, thanks to AI, these challenges are being reduced. And it's only getting better.

Implementing Innovative AI Solutions Into Your Practice Can Start NOW

What are the challenges your practice faces today? Are you wasting time with stacks of patient paperwork, working with an inefficient scheduling system, and losing revenue? If you're like many providers, you are likely facing many of these issues daily. 

Improving patient engagement and increasing your revenue isn't as challenging as you may think. When you integrate Mend into your practice, you'll resolve many of your business struggles quickly. As one of the most advanced options for AI in healthcare on the market today, Mend boasts an impressive number of features to improve patient engagement and increase revenue. 

When your patients have an easy, efficient, and rewarding experience with your practice, they're much more likely to stay engaged. And when patient engagement increases, so does your revenue. 

Integrating Mend into your practice can take your practice to the next level in service, staff efficiency, and patient satisfaction. It doesn't require any special logins or software. Your patients can use Mend on any smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

That means upgrading your digital workflows has never been easier for you or your patients.

Not only is Mend the most advanced AI in healthcare technology on the market, but we're constantly evolving with changing technology. That means when you partner with Mend, you improve your current practice and ensure you stay on top of future AI developments for years to come. 

Patient Engagement & Telehealth Trends To Look For In The Future

The widespread adoption of telemedicine has been the biggest story in the healthcare industry over the last few years. The question is no longer whether a practice will adopt the telehealth trends, but which platform they will choose. Managers of health systems should become familiar with the many features telemedicine platforms offer to make the right choice. And, more than ever, they must be aware of new trends in telehealth that will soon come to market.

Image of physicians learning from another physician through a computer.

What are the telehealth trends to look for this year? This article will review the most exciting developments in telemedicine today. Several innovations will come to market soon. To be included in this list, telehealth trends had to fulfill the following criteria:

  • The trend must improve the quality of patient care
  • It must improve patient engagement and access to care
  • It should boost patient, provider, and staff satisfaction
  • The trend must streamline workflows
  • It should reduce waste and increase the revenue stream

Some of the telehealth trends presented in this article will become standards of care for virtual encounters as well as in-office visits. Managers of large health systems and smaller practices must stay abreast of these exciting changes to avoid being left behind. Here are the hottest telehealth trends, listed according to their place in a patient's journey through a medical encounter.

The Patient's Journey

It is helpful to consider all the steps that make up a medical encounter as a journey that starts as soon as a patient decides to schedule a medical appointment. This journey goes through three phases: 

Telehealth trends impact all three phases of the patient's journey. New telehealth trends aim to ensure the voyage is safe, easy to access, productive and satisfying for all.

Before the Encounter

Staff and patients must complete several tasks before a medical encounter. In the past, patients had to complete some of these steps by telephone or in a doctor's waiting room. The standard tools were archaic: a clipboard, a pen, and dozens of often repetitive paper forms. The process was tedious and tiresome – not the best way to generate a good first impression. Vital information frequently went missing, and delays were commonplace. The best telehealth trends are platforms offer a refreshing solution.

Patient Self-Scheduling

Patients will soon schedule all their health visits online or with their smartphones. There are many advantages to this approach beyond convenience. Patients self-scheduling:

Identify At-Risk Patients

Some patients are more prone to miss appointments than others. Eliminating missed appointments is one way to improve access to care and health outcomes. Imagine if you could identify patients at higher risk of not keeping their appointments. How would you do that? By using artificial intelligence. AI-powered algorithms can predict the likelihood an individual will keep their appointment with up to 90% accuracy.

Mend's patented AI-powered Attendance Predictor is one of the most exciting telehealth trends because it uses information obtained from a patient engagement platform to rank patients into risk categories. Identifying at-risk patients enables practices to engage patients and remove obstacles in accessing care.

Custom Appointment Reminders Based On AI

Before the visit - Appointment reminders will use AI to drive productivity.

Another one of the exciting telehealth trends we now see is using customized text messages to remind patients of their appointments. Studies show that 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt. Fully automated text messages can be customized based on an individual's risk.

Mend's telehealth platform uses its Attendance Predictor to automatically generate customized text messages. More frequent text messages, worded in clear language, encourage at-risk patients to confirm and keep their appointments.

Complete Forms Digitally

Forms will be completed digitally well before the visit. 68% Mend forms are completed within an hour.

Clipboards and pens and endless paper forms in a provider's waiting room will soon be relics of the past. Patients will be able to fill out intake information using a smartphone, tablet, or personal computer in the comfort of their homes. They will be able to send their medical histories, and photographs, and attach files if needed.

A popular telehealth trend we see is practices that use digital forms have an 86% completion rate. High form-completion rates translate to low no-show rates. A completed form serves as an appointment confirmation. It signals a high likelihood the patient will attend the visit. And with Mend, 68% of forms are filled out in less than one hour.

 Using digital forms keeps patient information accurate and up to date with less work. This improves workflows and patient experience.

Self-Check-In

Patients will check themselves in digitally before the visit. 60% consumers expect their digital healthcare experience to mirror retail.

It is now commonplace to check in for a flight or a hotel online. Many businesses use the check-in step as an opportunity to carry out tasks such as verifying information and collecting payment. Self-check-in is another telehealth trend that will become routine for medical practices.

Self-check-in will allow patients to:

Virtual Waiting Room

Patients will learn and get healthier while they wait. 94% average patient satisfaction through Mend's EVWR>

Important telehealth trends nudge patients to take a more active role in their health and wellbeing. Wait times are opportunities to engage patients and provide education on health and lifestyle issues. 

Mend has created a virtual waiting room experience that uses a Netflix style portal to access a wide choice of videos. Health systems can upload custom videos to highlight their providers and the services they offer. Data shows that Mend's virtual waiting room boosts patient satisfaction by a whopping 23 percent.

During the Encounter

The tasks completed before the visit ensure everything is in place for a more productive medical encounter. The telehealth trends for aiding medical encounters are among the most exciting in the industry. Here are a few tools that will soon be available.

Real-Time Translation With Captioning

Health systems are responsible for providing care in the preferred language of their patients. Often, this requires the use of interpreters and translators. Translation services are often costly and can cause delays in care due when they are not readily available.

Two new telehealth trends solve these problems. One is real-time captioning. Providers and patients can communicate freely during telehealth encounters, despite language differences, with captioning on the bottom of their screens. The other option is having an interpreter join the encounter remotely.

AI Translation For Sign Language

During the visit - sign language will be translated via AI. About 10M people in US are hard of hearing.

One unique challenge is that of providing telehealth services to patients who are hearing impaired in a way that is sensitive to their needs. Mend's platform offers AI-assisted American Sign Language translations with real-time captioning for both in-person and virtual visits.  

Automatic Charting And Note Transcribing

Notes will be transcribed and charted automatically during the visit.

Surveys on health care provider burnout show that providers want to spend more time with patients and less time on administrative tasks. One telehealth innovation aims to help providers do just that. In the near future, AI plug-ins on telemedicine platforms will transcribe encounter notes and chart them automatically, freeing providers to focus on patient care.

Secure and fully encrypted HIPAA compliant systems will capture and record patient encounters. AI will identify each participant, map out the conversation, and extract key data. The software will chart encounter notes and suggest billing codes at the appropriate complexity level in real time. AI-assisted charting and note-taking will allow physicians to just be doctors again.

After the Encounter

When the face-to-face part of a health encounter ends, several more tasks are at hand. This is true regardless of whether the visit was virtual or in-office. Staff must process bills and collect payments from third parties and patients. Practices need to keep patients engaged to monitor response to treatment and ensure follow-up. This is also the time to request reviews and evaluations. Several telehealth trends will help health systems provide care after the formal part of a visit ends.

Payments will be collected automatically

Payments will be automatically collected after the visit. 75% of providers currently use paper and manual processes for collections.

Collecting payment for services rendered is a tedious process. 75% of practices still rely on paper billing and manual processes for collection. Delays in payment and unsettled bills have a negative effect on a practice's cash flow. One telehealth trend provides a solution to this problem.

Mend creates an interface between billing and Practice Management Systems. Once a third-party adjudicates a claim and determines the patient's balance of the bill, Mend can automatically charge a credit card kept on file. Alternatively, the software will dispatch digital forms to collect payment automatically.

Patients prefer the convenience of automatic payments and not having to receive bulky paper statements. Practices enjoy faster revenue cycles with less manual labor.

Reviews

Like it or not, the use of online reviews is a growing trend that reflects the rise of consumerism in the healthcare industry. More than ever, medical practices must ensure they maintain a healthy online presence. According to a recent survey, 90% of patients reported using online reviews to evaluate providers. Almost three in four said they used reviews as the first step in choosing a new provider. The power of reviews is such that nearly half of patients would book an appointment with an out-of-network provider who has favorable reviews.

The good news is that only 1% of patients leave “very negative” reviews, and just 10% leave “somewhat negative” reviews. So, a good strategy to polish a practice's online profile is to encourage the vast majority of satisfied patients to leave great reviews.

Users of a service are most likely to leave a review immediately after an encounter. Therefore, the most effective way to generate more reviews is to nudge patients into doing so right away. Post-visit surveys, reviews, and other feedback can be requested with user-friendly tools as soon as a health visit ends. And patients will be more likely to write excellent reviews when they are dazzled by the ease and convenience of a well-run telemedicine visit.

Follow-Up Appointment

Follow-up appointments are essential to the continuity of care. They are also crucial to the continued growth of a practice. As with any business model, it is easier and less costly to retain current clients than to attract new ones. Ensuring that patients return for follow-up is a telehealth trend that leads to better health outcomes and well-booked provider schedules.

Just as with booking the original appointment, letting patients self-schedule follow-up visits lowers the likelihood of missed follow-up appointments. And patients enjoy the freedom and ease of altering visit times should their schedule change. 

When after-encounter tasks are completed, the patient's journey comes to an end. But a new journey begins. Using the latest telemedicine tools, practices can keep their patient engaged. Patients and providers prepare for the next encounter. A new cycle begins, ensuring continuity of care. Should an unexpected arise, patients have the option to schedule a telehealth visit quickly and with ease. With telehealth, patients are allowed to take an active role in their care. 

Conclusion

The hottest telehealth trends are not gimmicks. They are solutions to real problems healthcare systems and patients face every day. The best telehealth trends address the issue of access to care. They remove barriers to care by making appointments timely and easy to access. They improve communication with translation tools and AI-powered captioning for American Sign Language.

Some telehealth trends also remove many of the administrative hassles that providers and staff encounter. Scheduling and billing are done automatically. Patients fill out forms prior to visits. Webcams obtain and record vital signs prior to linking up with a provider. AI-powered software will generate visit notes and transcribe them automatically. The platform will suggest precise billing codes.

Perhaps, the most significant telehealth trend is to keep patients engaged not only during an encounter, but also before and after the visit. Self-scheduling of appointments, virtual waiting rooms with educational videos, and giving patients the opportunity to leave feedback keeps patients connected to a practice. And keeping patients engaged leads to better health outcomes and more satisfied customers.

Mend has a proven track record of offering cutting-edge telehealth solutions. We help organizations of all sizes run more efficiently. To see how Mend can help keep your patients engaged and improve your company's bottom line, click here.

How to Automate Patient Healthcare Payments Before and After a Visit

These days, patients are spending more on healthcare than ever before. Their out-of-pocket spending hit $491.6 billion in 2021.  That's up almost 10% from the previous year and is on track to reach $800 billion by 2026. Today, patients prefer convenient payment options to stay on top of medical bills. So if you don't automate healthcare payments, you may want to look into it.

Manually collecting payments is time-consuming and increases the risk of uncollected payments. Patient payments that aren't integrated or automated can create a lot of manual work for your staff. Fortunately, there are ways to automate healthcare payments to make life easier for your patients and practice.

Mend Can Help

Person paying hospital bill after visit.

Here's Why Your Practice Should Automate Medical Billing

There are several reasons why switching from paper to automated patient billing is important. Everyone is attempting to do their part to help the environment. And when you automate healthcare billing, your practice is doing your part.

But the benefits of automated patient billing go beyond reducing your carbon footprint. When you automate healthcare payments, you increase patient satisfaction. And your practice benefits in multiple ways.

75% providers use paper and manual processes. With automated billing, experience a faster revenue cycle and time savings.

1. Save Space

No more endless rows of file cabinets and piles upon piles of patient paperwork. Of course, you still need to store patient billing information somewhere. But with today's space-saving cloud technology, that storage space is invisible.

2. Reduce Costs

You may think choosing to automate healthcare payments increases your practice's costs. In reality, the opposite is true.

You don't have to designate an employee to keep tabs on all the paperwork. There's nobody manually taking and tracking payments, following up after an appointment, and taking note of overdue payments. You should have someone available to talk to a patient, you don't need to hire people to do that job.

Not to mention, it's time-consuming to have a staff member chase down unpaid copays and medical bills. When you have to sell uncollected payments to debt collectors for pennies on the dollar, that's a lot of wasted money and increased patient aggravation.

3. Increase Patient Privacy

A 2018 study revealed that 65% of medical data breaches occurred using paper or film-based patient records. Yet, 75% of providers continue to use paper and manual billing processes. 

Data breaches are far less likely when you use a client portal, text, or email. Patients often cite privacy as one of their biggest concerns. So switching to automated patient billing provides more security and better overall service to your patients.

4. Motivate On-Time Payments

Getting a medical bill in the mail isn't the most efficient way of ensuring your patients pay on time. They could throw the bill in a pile of mail and accidentally forget about it.

When you automate healthcare payments, you can tailor payment reminders to each patient's individual needs. And when there is an easy-to-use medical payment option at their fingertips, they're less likely to forget about paying.

5. Improve Transparency

When you don't automate patient billing, your patients may get multiple bills in the mail. And many times, all of the relevant payment information isn't included in the same envelope. This can lead to patients resenting your practice, assuming you're not providing all of the information they need.

Automated healthcare billing does away with all of that. When your patients receive a payment reminder, they'll be able to see all relevant information in one place.

How to Automate Healthcare Payments

Your practice can utilize automated patient payments before and after each in-person or virtual visit. But to do this, you need a comprehensive, reliable, and easy-to-use software platform like Mend. 

Our innovative healthcare management system lets you automate patient billing when integrated into your PMS or EHR. Your patients get a digital check-in experience whether they are visiting in-person or virtually. They can conveniently store their credit card information for automatic charges or upon receipt of an invoice.

But the benefits don't end there.

When you automate healthcare payments with Mend, you'll see your practice's efficiency and bottom line increase.

After an in-person or virtual appointment, automated payments can charge cards on file.

Mend's automated payment feature delivers further benefits, including: 

Once your patients digitally check-in with Mend, they'll be able to pay their copay right away. They can use the card on file or use a different card.

They will also be able to fill out any necessary digital forms before their visit. This saves you and your patient time, money, and aggravation. 

When you integrate Mend into your practice's computer system, it can automatically bill patients' credit cards via adjudication. Or, if there is no credit card on file, it will send an invoice via text and email.

When patients have this reminder to pay at their fingertips, payments are collected quickly. And, they are automatically documented in your practice's management system.

After your patient's visit, there are two options to receive healthcare payments. Mend can automatically bill their credit card on file, so they don't need to worry about paying it.

Or Mend can send them a digital form invoice. They receive a secure link via text and email and authenticate using only their date of birth. From there, they proceed to pay their bill using a card stored on file or by entering a new payment method that will be stored securely for future payments.

Through Mend, send secure SMS & email links. Authenticate with a DOB. Provide a frictionless patient experience.

Your patients want a modern and convenient patient engagement experience in today's technology-driven world. To stay competitive, you need to provide them with an effortless automated healthcare payment option.

With Mend, you'll get that. And more.

Mend is Your Turnkey Automated Healthcare Payment Solution

Our innovative healthcare management system is the best way to automate healthcare payments. Mend seamlessly integrates into your practice's already existing EHR and PMS software. That means you can improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase patient satisfaction simply by using Mend. 

But that's not all. 

Mend can give you the competitive edge you need in today's technologically-advanced healthcare market. Our unique system includes other valuable features to streamline the way your practice does business.

These features include:

There's no other healthcare management system on the market like Mend. Our advanced technology is the best way to automate healthcare payments and keep you ahead of the curve. Contact us to schedule your free demonstration to learn more about how Mend can help your practice.

A Vision for The Future of Telemedicine and Patient Engagement

Virtual health is the future of healthcare. Learn more about the future of telemedicine & patient engagement from the experts that are revolutionizing it.

If you're wondering what's in store for the future of telemedicine, you won't have to look too far. Telemedicine has already brought change and innovation to the healthcare landscape, with more advancements and capabilities coming on board in the near future. Before we dive into the details, here's a brief overview of how patient engagement tools will alter care before, during, and after a visit:

Before the visit:

  • Patients will self-schedule
  • Appointment reminders will drive productivity
  • Patients will complete digital forms
  • Patients will check themselves in
  • Co-pays will be collected automatically
  • A.I. will identify any connection risks
  • A web camera will capture vitals
  • Patients will learn while they wait

During the visit:

  • A.I. will provide real-time translations
  • Automatic transcription and charting of notes

After the visit:

  • Automatic collection of payments

Let's explore each element further now.

The Future of Telemedicine: Before the Visit

When we think of telemedicine, the ability to conduct virtual visits is often the first thought that comes to mind. But the truth is, telemedicine will create future changes within your practice before a patient even steps into your (virtual) waiting room. Here's how.

Patients Will Self-Schedule

A future where self-scheduling is the norm will benefit patients and care teams alike. When platforms like Mend give patients the ability to self-schedule, it increases patient satisfaction and the likelihood that they will keep the appointment. In fact, a recent Accenture survey found that 68% of patients want the option to book, change, or cancel appointments online.

Future of Telemedicine: Patients will self-schedule before the visit.

This, of course, will also have a direct effect on the clinical side. No-shows and last-minute cancellations result in lost revenue. When patients self-schedule with Mend, the no-show rate reduces to as low as 5%. Self-scheduling will also decrease the workload at the front desk. This will allow for the reduction of staffing or redirection of labor.

Appointment Reminders Will Help Drive Productivity

Imagine a future where you can predict the likelihood of a patient showing up for their appointment. With software like Mend, you can. 

Future of Telemedicine: Appointment reminders will use AI to drive productivity.

Mend's Attendance Predictor is the industry's first-ever artificially intelligent machine learning algorithm. Once its algorithm learns a patient's pattern, it will modify appointment reminders. Those who are at high risk of no show will receive more urgent messages that prompt them to take action to confirm or reschedule.

This dynamic approach will help keep your patient schedule full, so you can increase productivity — while also reducing the loss of revenue secondary to no-shows.

Patients Will Complete Digital Intake Forms

In the future of telemedicine, it will no longer be necessary to wait for patients to complete forms. That's because they can get a head start as soon as their appointment is scheduled. Sixty-eight percent of Mend Digital Forms are completed within an hour, and Mend averages an 86% completion rate overall

Future of Telemedicine: Forms will be completed digitally before the visit.

When patients have access to digital forms, your care team can obtain the necessary information before the visit. This will allow you to maximize your time with patient care.

Patients Will Check Themselves In

Patients signing in on a clipboard will soon be a thing of the past. With the evolution of telemedicine, patients will have a more personal, elevated, and streamlined check-in experience. 

Future of Telemedicine: Patients will check themselves in digitally.

With Mend, patients will be sent a link where they can join a visit with just a single click. Here, they will also be able to make any necessary co-pays and upload their vitals.  

Co-Pays Will Be Collected Automatically

Today, most bills are sent and paid electronically — and healthcare should be no different. In fact, 85% of consumers say they prefer an electronic payment method for their medical bills. 

Future of Telemedicine: Co-pays will be collected automatically before the visit.

Patients will click a link to join their virtual visit with Mend. There, they will be greeted with a beautiful, easy-to-use interface where their billing will be all in one place. This includes co-pays and any outstanding balances. They'll also be able to keep a card on file for easy payment processing.

A.I. Will Identify Any Connection Risks

When envisioning the future of patient engagement, every person should have access to telemedicine regardless of physical location. That's why every telemedicine app should be able to identify any connection risks. (It's also an important KPI to measure the success of your telemedicine program — more on that here.)

Future of Telemedicine: AI will identify who could struggle to connect via Telehelath before the visit happens.

Telemedicine apps can use artificial intelligence to identify any poor connections and automatically engage proactively to fix the issue. Mend is one telemedicine and patient engagement platform that does this already. 

A Web Camera Will Capture Vitals

One of the biggest problems in the early days of telemedicine was how to assess a patient's vitals from afar. In the future, it'll be easier than ever for patients to upload their vitals from the comfort of their homes.

Future of Telemedicine: A web camera will capture all the vitals before the visit.

At Mend, we have what we've nicknamed the Star Trek Tricorder. Accessed via a mobile device, our webcam will first visualize the patient and then analyze their vitals. This will include their heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

Patients Will Learn While They Wait

Streaming services revolutionized how we access TV and film — so why not apply the same concept to help patients? At Mend, we connect patients with the first-ever Netflix-style waiting room where they can view educational videos in just a few clicks. Not only will they be able to get healthier while they wait, but this technology has also shown a 23% increase in patient satisfaction.

Future of Telemedicine: Patients will learn and get healthier while they wait for their visit.

The Future of Telemedicine: During the Visit

Once you connect with your patient in the virtual space, more benefits await. Here's what you can expect soon in telemedicine.

A.I. Will Provide Real-Time Translations

Approximately 1 in 5 Americans do not speak English as their primary language, and about 10,000,000 people in the U.S. are deaf or hard of hearing. To remove this barrier in the delivery of care, we can look once more at artificial intelligence.

Future of Telemedicine: Sign language will be translated with AI.

In the near future, Mend will offer real-time translations and real-time captioning for various languages. A.I.assisted ASL translations (as well as real-time captioning) will also be available.

Automatic Transcription and Charting of Notes

Physician shortages and burnout are on the rise — and technology can play a role in solving these issues. Soon, physicians will be able to take advantage of AI-assisted note-taking and automatic charting and coding. It's a simple yet effective way to give time back to physicians so they can do what they do best — take care of their patients. 

Future of Telemedicine: Visit notes will be transcribed and charted automatically.

The Future of Telemedicine: After the Visit

The future of telemedicine continues to improve the clinical experience even after the virtual visit. Here's how.

Automatic Collection of Payments Post-Visit

Despite fintech advancements across various sectors, 75% of physicians still primarily use paper and manual processes for collections. But with the future of telemedicine, a faster revenue cycle is possible.

Future of Telemedicine: Payments will be collected automatically post visit.

Telemedicine apps like Mend can collect payment automatically post-visit. First, the system will check the patient's responsibility in a Payment Management System. Once it's determined, it will immediately send a payment request or charge a card on file. This process will save time for your care team and allow for the directing of their skills elsewhere.

Find the Best Telehealth Solution for Your Practice Today

With Mend, you don't have to travel too far into the future to enjoy many of the core benefits of telemedicine — they're already here. To explore everything Mend has to offer and see what more is on the horizon, schedule a demo today with our experts. We're ready to help.

5 Ways to Improve Patient Attendance with Digital Patient Intake Forms

Are your patients tired of arriving early for medical appointments? Do they spend half an hour filling out forms about their history? These factors can lead to missed appointments and lower revenue. Digital patient intake forms offer an ideal solution because they improve patients' visits.

Here are five ways digital forms can help confirm appointments and improve attendance.

Digital form benefits. Provider looks at KPIs to reduce no-shows, focus on patient care, accurate data, and intake patients faster.

1. Encourages Patient Commitment

When patients book visits online, they can choose the best date and time. This results in:

When patients complete their forms online, they become more involved in their care and will keep the appointment.

2. Makes Scheduling More Convenient

Using digital patient intake forms makes booking visits easier for the patient because:

Using online forms gets patients to take charge of their visits. Doing so lowers the number of last-minute drop-outs.

Over the last 1M digital forms completed on Mend, 68% back within an hour, 75% within a day.

3. Reduces Waiting Room Time

A busy waiting room is stressful for providers and patients. It can lead to patients skipping their appointments. Digital patient intake forms reduce the time patients spend waiting by:

4. Provides a Better Patient Experience

For many patients, attending an in-person doctor's visit is worrying. Using digital forms provides a better patient experience because:

5. Facilitates Virtual Visits

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth and other types of virtual visits became common. Digital patient intake forms boost the use of telehealth by:

These factors all help to increase income and profits for the provider. Meanwhile, the patients have a better experience.

The Take-Away

When you provide digital forms for patients, you enable them to be better organized. You're also helping them get used to using computers. You have to do less work, and your record-keeping gets better. Your office benefits from getting the info faster and easier.

Digital Form KPIs include completion rate, speed to completion, partial completion rate, and automation.

Trends & Metrics to Monitor Patient Self-Scheduling

What is a medical practice's worst nightmare? A full appointment book with an empty waiting room. The best way to avoid this scenario is to allow patients to book and cancel their own appointments online.

Here's a scary fact; one in four scheduled medical visits end up as no-shows. Missed visits don't just damage patient health. They lead to lost revenue.

Most common appointment change reasons graphic. 64% are conflicts, 9.5% personal reason, and several others listed.

The solution to this is to do what other industries do. Allow patients to schedule their appointments. Whether it's booking flights or making dinner plans, customers prefer turning to their personal smartphones to take charge.

Customers enjoy the ease and speed of self-scheduling. Better yet, they do not have to navigate telephone menus or become frustrated by dropped calls.

Health systems would do well to follow the lead of every business that provides customer service. Make self-scheduling of appointments an industry standard. The task is not as challenging as it may sound.

What is Patient self-Scheduling?

Women on device scheduling a virtual appointment.

Years ago, if you asked office managers how they reduced no-shows, the answer was the same. Overbook and send telephone reminders. This creates chaotic provider schedules. And telephone patient reminders are time-consuming. These strategies are ineffective and leave patients unhappy.

The best way for health teams to increase the number of visits is simple. Put patients in charge of scheduling their own appointments. Patient self-scheduling can lead to:

Patient self-scheduling adoption points. 34% of all appointments on Mend were self-scheduled in 2021. 5% no-show rate for self-scheduled appointments.

Before the internet, you had to phone several airlines to get the best price to book a flight. Or hire a travel agent. The process was tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating. It often left you wondering if you had made the best choice. Now, travelers routinely book their flights with ease. No one would want to go back to the old way of doing things.

Until recently, most health care teams relied on an archaic approach to scheduling appointments.  Phone calls to book an appointment were often the first contact patients had with a practice. Long hold times and dropped calls hurt first impressions. Patients were frustrated and left with a feeling of helplessness. Is it any wonder they resisted calling back to reschedule or cancel?

Patient self-scheduling eliminates the qualms of booking. It is faster and more convenient. It empowers patients to take a more active part in their health choices. By offering more options in a visual format, online scheduling helps patients make better choices. But patient self-scheduling software can do a whole lot more for your team.

The Importance of Timeliness of Care

Long wait times harm patient satisfaction. Even worse, delays in health services lead to poor outcomes. That is why the Institute of Medicine listed timeliness as one of the six aims of healthcare quality. Waiting does not just take an emotional toll on the patient as well as the provider; it can result in medical harm.

Prompt communication between patients and providers is crucial in managing chronic diseases. It is important for the diagnosis and treatment of acute illnesses. Patient self-scheduling is an effective way to ensure quick access to care. Timely treatment reduces risks of adverse events caused by delays and barriers to care.

What Are the Benefits of Patient Online Scheduling?

Patient self-scheduling benefits graphic listing 5 different benefits for patients.

Health teams rely on technology to improve efficiency and maximize revenue. Patient self-scheduling is an essential part of any software package. 

It boosts patient volume by:

It improves the quality of care by:

It improves office workflow by

It improves patient satisfaction by:

It improves a company's bottom line by:

What are the Self-Scheduling Capabilities with Mend?

Mend provides all the essential features of a self-scheduling system.

Mend is a telehealth and patient engagement platform that helps practices care for more patients. Mend provides a full-service portal that helps practices plan an entire patient journey. Patient self-scheduling tracks this process from booking to post-visit contact. Self-scheduling with Mend reduces no-shows. 70% of Mend Enterprise teams average single-digit no-shows. Some achieve rates as low as 2%.

Mend includes a unique feature: an Attendance Predictor. It is an AI machine learning tool that allows you to predict no-shows and cancellations with an accuracy of up to 99%.

The Mend self-scheduling journey looks like this:

  1. Mend lets patients schedule visits from their home computer or their smartphone 24/7/365. This turns any practice into an e-commerce site.
  2. Mend matches patients with the right provider for the right visit type. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering that someone mistakenly booked an appointment with the wrong specialist or with an out-of-network provider.
  3. The custom patient scheduling feature offers the choice of Telehealth encounters. This further reduces wait times and improves access to care. A visit can be booked sooner and completed within a matter of minutes without the hassles of driving to an office.
  4. With Mend's unique, user-friendly web page, rescheduling a visit is simple. Ease of use on the patient's side keeps a provider's schedule constantly updated.

Post-visit care includes:

Using a single platform ties self-scheduling to Telehealth, and provider access to EHR. And third-party payments are processed in a 100% secure and HIPAA compliant environment.

Mend provides key metrics to allow organizations to monitor their progress and see their practices grow.

The best patient self-scheduling systems integrate seamlessly with Patient Management Systems. Booking a visit should tie in seamlessly with telehealth, billing, boosting a practice's online presence, and other administrative tasks.

Barriers to Adoption

Many industries have been much quicker than the health care sector at adopting user-friendly customer portals. The self-service approach is proven to engage customers. It also provides timely service for companies with limited resources. Outside of healthcare, self-scheduling is an industry standard.

The delay in adopting patient self-scheduling in health care is an overall trend of the sector's reluctance to embrace health IT. There are several barriers to adoption:

Barriers to adopting patient self-scheduling can be addressed by:

The transition to a patient self-scheduling system is best accomplished by keeping staff well-informed and allowing them to provide feedback and input throughout the process. Reasons for reluctance to change must be understood and addressed in a sensitive manner. Once the benefits of self-scheduling are understood, staff become invariably receptive to changing their old workflows.

Patient self-scheduling KPIs include appointment change reasons, self-scheduling adoption and change rate.

Put Patient Self-Scheduling to Work for You

More than ever, health systems face many pressures. The challenge is to provide compassionate care and enhance satisfaction while maximizing the bottom line. Accessibility and equity are keys to quality care. Health care companies must learn to function with the speed of e-commerce sites.

Patient self-scheduling is a crucial piece of a complete patient engagement portal. An integrated software solution such as Mend provides an edge. Allowing patients to book their appointments can lead to better timeliness of care and improved health outcomes. And it improves the efficiency of other administrative hassles.  With the metrics Mend offers, you can see your business grow in real-time.

Schedule a demo to see how Mend can boost your team's performance.

How to Improve Patient Satisfaction in Virtual Care

Practices like yours have always focused on providing quality medical care. But in today's telehealth market, it’s crucial to also focus on how to improve patient satisfaction in telemedicine.

Virtual medical and mental health professionals are prioritizing patient satisfaction with Telemedicine more than ever before. A high satisfaction rating can drive more patients to your practice. And that means a more attractive bottom line. 

But how do you improve patient satisfaction in Telemedicine? It may seem like an impossible task, especially since every patient's ideal medical experience varies. 

When it comes to patient satisfaction in telehealth, you need to focus on making the entire experience enjoyable. Your patients should feel comfortable, welcome, safe, and valued. From first contact to ending each successful Telemedicine visit, the process must be smooth and easy.

Lucky for you, Mend does all that and more.

Happy woman looking at her phone during a telehealth appointment

What Exactly is Patient Satisfaction? 

The idea of patient satisfaction is relative to each individual. But here at Mend, we have our own definition. And we hold ourselves to high standards.

We define patient satisfaction as the measure of how well a patient perceives the level of care they receive from you.

There is a debate about the connection between the patient experience and health outcomes

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine article suggests that patient satisfaction indicates the quality of care received. Regulatory agencies have also confirmed the connection. This is due to their reporting requirements for reimbursement.

The Importance of Improving Patient Satisfaction with Telemedicine

Although Telehealth has been around for a while, patients may be reluctant to use it. The rise of Telemedicine forced many patients' hands on the matter thanks to the pandemic. But that doesn't mean there aren't parts of Telemedicine that intimidate patients.

  1. Privacy concerns

When patients visit you in your in-person office, it's a private, intimate meeting. But some patients may not feel as secure talking about personal health concerns over the worldwide web. 

Many patients don't understand the added security added to HIPAA-compliant Telehealth programs. Educating your patients and calming their fears on the matter will make them more open to the idea. 

When considering how to improve patient satisfaction in Telemedicine, ensuring your patients feel safe goes a long way. They're more likely to be satisfied with their Telehealth visits if they do. 

  1. Fear of technology

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. But we all know sometimes that isn't the case. Especially when you have to learn how to work with something new.

Connection and login issues, confusing downloads, and too many buttons to push are common patient complaints in Telemedicine. This is a significant source of reluctance regarding patients' willingness to use Telehealth. 

It's also a chance for your practice to shine. Using an innovative, easy-to-use Telehealth platform like Mend, you'll gain many points with your patients. 

  1. Quality of care anxieties

Many patients worry the quality level of care they'll receive through Telemedicine isn't as good as in-person visits. A fear of missed physical symptoms when not in your physical office is a common concern. 

The pandemic brought about the necessity of ensuring quality telehealth programs. Because of this, Telemedicine has come a long way. Especially here at Mend. 

A 2021 survey revealed that eight out of ten adults using Telemedicine had their initial medical concerns resolved. Therefore, it's easy to conclude that Telehealth is effective. When you can deliver effective treatment using our state-of-the-art platform, you're sure to improve patient satisfaction with Telemedicine.

How to Achieve a 5-Star Patient Satisfaction Rating with Telehealth

Improving Telehealth satisfaction with your patients starts with creating a comfortable environment and positive experience. Of course, providing excellent medical care leads to satisfied patients. 

But don't underestimate the importance of customer service. Even if your patients get excellent care, they still may report low satisfaction. If they have a negative experience with the Telehealth program or staff members, that impacts satisfaction.

Mend is the only 5-star telemedicine experience on the planet.

Here are five valuable ways to achieve a 5-star patient satisfaction rating. All of which Mend accomplishes.

  1. Communicate well

One critical aspect of ensuring high satisfaction among patient levels is to maintain stellar communication. You may think this requires you and your staff to waste valuable time on the phone or computer. 

That may have been true in the past. But when you integrate our innovative, one-of-a-kind patient engagement platform into your practice, you'll actually save time.

Our Attendance Predictor is the industry's first-ever artificial intelligence machine learning algorithm. It integrates into your EHR or PMS to predict patient no-shows with up to a 99% accuracy! 

Mend's innovative system sends the right number of appointment reminders via the proper preferred channels. So you'll spend less time communicating about appointments and more time meeting with them about their medical needs.

Solid communication leads to improved patient satisfaction. 

  1. Use advanced technological tools

When putting strategies into practice to improve patient satisfaction with Telemedicine, it's crucial to replace outdated systems. Patient engagement platforms like Mend help you streamline your practice's business operations and improve patient outcomes. 

Implementing Telemedicine means you can't run your practice the way you always have. Simply adding a video visit option isn't enough.

Your patients deserve more. 

They deserve advanced Telemedicine that provides positive patient outcomes and streamlines your practice. Show your patients how to get high-quality care using a state-of-the-art patient engagement platform like Mend. 

  1. Offer an Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room Experience (EVWR)

You may have heard of virtual waiting rooms used in Telemedicine. But you've never seen a virtual waiting room like ours. 

Mend's Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room Experience has resulted in a 23% lift in patient satisfaction.

Why? Because it makes the whole Telehealth experience more comfortable, enjoyable, and efficient. Your patients won't spend their time in a dull virtual waiting room. They won't have to wonder if they're even in the right place. 

The Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room feature allows you to create custom-branded virtual waiting room experiences for your patients. Rather than staring at a blank screen, they'll engage with a Netflix-like library of curated, specialty-specific Mend Media, including:

Another valuable feature of our EVWR is the live support. In times past, you might've had to play the technical support role and be your patient's doctor.  But in our EVWR, that's not the case. With Mend, you get: 

In our EVWR, they'll make use of their valuable time, learning about your practice and procedures. This allows for a more engaging patient experience. Virtual wait times can last up to 20 minutes. So passing the time efficiently and enjoyably will improve the patient experience. 

  1. Allow for simple appointment scheduling and rescheduling

Your patients don't want to jump through hoops to schedule or reschedule appointments. They don't want to log in to several locations or click through pages. Integrate with a sophisticated patient engagement platform like Mend, and your patients won't have to worry.

Our program grants your patients scheduling access 24/7/365. And it's all done at the click of a button. 

  1. Make it easy

One of the biggest deterrents for patients' desire to use Telemedicine is that it's difficult and frustrating to use. 

We understand that. 

That's why we created Mend to streamline the process not only for you but also for your clients. You don't have to install a million different things, and neither do your patients. 

On a tablet or smartphone, it's an app. On a computer, it's a website portal. That's it. 

Our platform also provides digital intake forms to your patients. That means no more printing out forms and keeping track of them. Once they're filled out in Mend, they integrate into your practice's computer system.

Mend is Your Key to Improving Patient Satisfaction in Virtual Care

You have options when it comes to offering Telemedicine to your patients. But if you want to improve patient satisfaction, you have to set yourself apart from the rest. 

And that's just what we did at Mend. 

We set out to create the best high-tech, high-touch digital patient engagement solutions. Our goal is to streamline your operations and improve patient outcomes. 

And we did it. 

Your patients deserve a Telehealth experience that is

Illustration of woman looking at iPad during telehealth appointment.

Don't wait to implement the best patient engagement program into your practice. Contact us for a free demonstration to learn more about our incredible EVWR and innovative platform. You have nothing to lose.  

How a Patient Attendance Predictor with Engagement Can Reduce No-Shows

It's no secret that patient no-shows are a drain to medical practices like yours. In fact, you lose an estimated $200 in revenue for every missed appointment. Unfortunately, that's part of owning a medical or mental health care practice. But what if there was a simple, streamlined way to reduce patient no-shows and make your practice more profitable?

Believe it or not, there is. 

The best way to keep your schedule full is to keep your schedule full. But how do you do that when patients continue to miss appointments? So, when thinking about how to reduce patient no shows the key is to predict them.

While this may seem impossible, we've figured it out at Mend. The patented technology in our Attendance Predictor has cracked the code. 

Illustration of a provider trying to connect with patient.

The Closer Look at the Negative Impact of No-Shows

Missed appointments affect productivity and profitability. But the negative effects extend beyond your practice. Considering the $200 per appointment revenue loss, reducing no-shows must be a priority. 

The Monetary Impact

Missed appointments equate to over $850 thousand in lost revenue annually for a 10-provider practice. If you consider the entire healthcare industry, that's a $150 billion loss per year. 

Loss in revenue stems from:

When patients don't show up, you can't run an efficient practice. Without the necessary tools to predict and reduce patient no-shows, you’re just spinning your wheels.

And losing money.

The Patient Health Impact

An impact of patient no-shows is that patients are not getting medical attention. A 2019 study of one million patients revealed shocking data about missed appointments. 

The study's results showed:

Missing appointments is damaging to patients' health. The study above shows they're likely to miss more when they miss one appointment. 

That means:

Reducing no-shows gives your patients a greater chance of getting and staying healthy. Patient attendance benefits both your bottom line and their health. 

View the Guide to Eliminating No-Shows

Patient No-Shows: Who and Why

Who

Using data from EHR, the University of Missouri completed a study to identify which patients are missing appointments. Their research found that the following groups were more likely to miss medical appointments.

This is just a small sample of who will miss their appointments. And it's not an accurate predictor. To predict and reduce patient no-shows, you need Mend’s advanced AI.

Why

There are many reasons why patients may miss an appointment. The five most common reasons for no-shows are:

Whatever the reason, you can't avoid patients not showing up. But thanks to Mend's automated workflow solutions and Attendance Predictor, you can reduce no-shows.

Mend's Attendance Predictor: Your Answer to Reducing No-Shows

Image titled "Mend Platform Supercharged with Attendance Predictor to Attack No-Shows".

Optimizing schedules and increasing productivity has never been easier. After 10,000,000+ AI training simulations, our Attendance Predictor can reduce no-shows with up to 99% accuracy. 

Before we came on the scene, that was unheard of. 

We've helped medical and mental health practices expand access to care using digital tools since 2014. But 2020 led to an increase in our innovation. We scaled our telehealth offerings and introduced the industry's first AI-powered no-show predicting solution. 

Our innovative Attendance Predictor can help you reduce no-shows resulting in a more profitable, streamlined practice. 

  1. Accurate Algorithm

When one of your patients books an appointment, our Attendance Predictor gets to work. The initial algorithm predicts with 90+% accuracy. Then the algorithm runs millions of times, adjusting to your practice. 

The algorithm within our Attendance Predictor takes several factors into account. Then it defines the possibility of patient no-shows:

The refined algorithm adapts to your patients' actions and non-actions to predict and reduce no-shows. But the great thing about it is you don't have to spend time inputting data. The basic demographic and appointment data can be accessed from your master scheduling system. 

Our patient Attendance Predictor's advanced algorithm provides a score for each patient. This score is displayed on your dashboard. It gives you actionable insight for next steps.

The scores range from “Highly Likely” to “Highly Unlikely.” 

  1. Smarter Patient Engagement

Your patients are busy. Confirming their appointment may not be at the top of their to-do list. And if they have to cancel and reschedule, that takes even more effort. 

Unless you make it easier. 

Our Attendance Predictor is unique because it allows for smarter patient engagement. Our system knows when and how to nudge your patient. A little nudging goes a long way to reduce no-shows. 

Depending on your patient's initial score, our system will give them more chances to engage.

For example, if your patient has a “Highly Likely” score, they'll receive a specific notification. This message may be as simple as a reminder of their appointment date and time. 

If they have a high-risk score, their patient engagement will look different. They may receive a reminder to confirm or cancel. Their score will change when they take action, depending on what they do or don't do.

This tailored patient messaging can help you drastically reduce no-shows.

  1. Optimized Scheduling

Our Attendance Predictor scores every one of your patients. It updates those scores with each interaction. That means your practice can look at your schedule days or weeks in advance. As a result, you know which patients are most likely to attend. Data like this has never been available in the past. With Mend's scheduling solutions, you'll have the most optimized schedule. That helps you reduce no-shows. It also puts more patients in your office (or telehealth office), and more profits in your pocket. 

  1. Automated Reminders
Phone shows automated patient reminders and low vs high risk prediction based on Mend AI Attendance Predictor algorithm.

Making sure your staff reminds patients takes valuable time and effort. With the help of our automated reminders, you won't have to worry. 

The Mend Attendance Predictor continuously analyzes patient actions. Patients most at risk for missing appointments will get the proper number of reminders. That means less busy work for your staff and a reduction in no-shows.

  1. Integrated Digital Medical Forms

One important aspect of determining no-shows is whether patients complete their intake forms. Patients don't want to fill out PDFs on clipboards. It can be time-consuming and confusing. 

That's another valuable feature of our advanced care platform. It gives your patients another chance to engage through digital intake forms. Research shows that patients who complete forms are 98-99% more likely to attend their appointment. You'll be better equipped to predict and reduce no-shows by offering digital intake forms.

  1. Alternative Telemedicine Options

If your patient is likely to be a no-show, our Attendance Predictor offers HIPAA-compliant telehealth options. And our telehealth appointments have low no-show and cancellation rates. 

Here at Mend, we have the most robust telehealth workflows. Our connection rate is 99+%. We provide instant support for both patients and providers. 

You may have patients on the fence about attending their in-person appointment. In that case, our Attendance Predictor gives them a convenient HIPAA compliant option. And quite often, this helps reduce no-shows. 

  1. Easy Access to Scheduling

Our research shows that patients who schedule their own appointments are less likely to miss them. That's why we made sure our digital management system allows for easy scheduling and rescheduling.

Your patients can schedule and reschedule appointments 24/7/365, and there's less of a chance to no-show. When patients have a conflict, they can easily let you know.

Mend's Attendance Predictor can integrate with almost any EHR or PMS. 

  1. Efficiently Overbooked Timeslots

You might think overbooking your schedule is a bad idea. Without our Attendance Predictor, that might be the case. But with the data provided by our software, you can double-book with accuracy. 

When “Highly Unlikely ” patient “A” books an appointment, you can book “Highly Likely” patient “B” at the same time. This keeps your schedule full and reduces no-shows. 

  1. Smart Appointment Reminders

Not all of your patients want to receive appointment reminders the same way. Some prefer text, some prefer an email or call. With our intelligent predictor, you won't have to figure out preferences. And when patients receive proper reminders, you'll reduce no-shows.

Patient appointment reminder preferences can be pulled from your EHR. Your patients will receive the proper reminders via the desired channels. 

Image showing reminder sequence sent to patients at different intervals. Up to 99% accuracy in predicting patient attendance.
  1. Fully Branded Extra Features

Everything your patients receive will feature your branding. Your patients will know exactly who the communication is from. 

And that extends beyond reminders. With our comprehensive healthcare management system, your patients will also receive:

  1. Seamless EHR/PMS Integration

Mend integrates with all major EHRs, so you don't have to worry about inputting any other details. To help you reduce no-shows, Mend gathers appointment details and sends out reminders. 

Mend can also update the master schedule in your EHR or PMS with schedule changes. This eliminates missed appointments. It also gives you the chance to fill “high-risk for cancellation” timeslots. 

Get the Closest Thing to 100% No-Show Prediction

You may not be able to reduce no-shows to zero. Predicting them with as much as 99% accuracy is the closest you'll get. Our state-of-the-art AI is like nothing you've seen before. 

With Mend, you can:

And you can do all this without hassle. Integrating Mend into your EHR and PMS is easy. There's no additional information to input. No lengthy training sessions. No wasted time learning how to use a new system. 

Eliminating costly missed appointments and creating a streamlined workflow is simple with Mend. All you need to do to reduce no-shows is request a free demonstration. After that, we'll walk you through integrating it into your existing system. 

From there, you'll only have to focus on what you do best –– providing high-quality medical care to your patients. Schedule a Free Demo Today!

6 Telehealth KPIs Every CIO Should Know & Track In 2022

Do you need to maximize the effectiveness of your telehealth program? Here are the top 6 telehealth KPIs every CIO should know & track for success this year. 

Are you wondering which telehealth KPIs you should be using to measure the success of your telehealth program? Does your telehealth program check all of the boxes, or was it a temporary fix during the COVID-19 pandemic? These are great questions every CIO or provider should be asking. 

Because encounters happen virtually, telehealth programs can offer a wealth of data. Whether you're considering implementing telehealth or switching from one service to another, it's essential to know and understand telehealth KPIs. This way, you can leverage the data to benefit your patients and practice.

There are six important indicators to consider with any telehealth program. These include:

  1. No-show/Drop rates
  2. Virtual patient wait times
  3. Patient satisfaction
  4. Successful encounters
  5. Connection quality
  6. Provider Adoption

Let's further explore each of the telehealth KPIs now.

1. No-Show/Drop Rates

The number one reason providers implement telehealth in their practice is to increase productivity. This occurs by decreasing the rate of no-shows or last-minute cancellations. The average no-show rate across the globe is 23%. For the average 10-provider practice, that's an annual loss of $857,808.

No-Show Rates illustration of US virtual visits. 23% average no-show rate in US, Mend no-show rates are in single digits.

The ability to track this key performance indicators for telehealth over time can increase patient attendance rates and help unprofitable organizations become profitable.

Mend can also help predict which patients are at high risk for a no-show or cancellation. The artificially intelligent (AI) algorithm first predicts when a patient may not show. Then, the system automatically sends an appointment reminder sequence that encourages them to confirm or reschedule. When you enable Mend telehealth in your practice, the no-show rate is in the single digits.

2. Virtual Patient Wait Times

Another important telehealth KPI to assess is the virtual patient wait time. By connecting virtually, patients already save time on commutes, which is a plus for telehealth. Yet long wait times can hurt patient satisfaction, whether in-person or virtual.

Patient wait times illustration showing happy patient. US avg telehealth wait time 17 minutes, Mend avg wait time 13 min.

That's why it's important to keep the wait time as low as possible. Automated patient intake forms via telehealth platform integration can help this process. With Mend, you can use templated intake forms. Or, you can custom design your own to replicate any workflow. Forms can then be sent manually or automatically to patients triggered by appointment types. This technology will allow the patient to complete the form ahead of the appointment or contact their providers' office with questions. Completing the forms ahead of the appointment in a secure HIPAA compliant format significantly decreases the wait time prior to connecting with a physician.

3. Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is one of the most important telehealth KPIs for measuring the success of any program. Yet some lists of telehealth KPIs often overlook this element. If a patient doesn't have a satisfactory experience, they are less likely to return to that provider.

With increasing demands on providers, periods of waiting are unavoidable entirely. This leaves the question of how telehealth programs can help make the most of this time. Some telehealth platforms, like Mend, offer content while the patient is waiting. However, Mend is the only telehealth platform to offer a robust, enhanced waiting room experience. Designed with a Netflix-like interface, patients can choose video content to engage with while they wait. This may include informational videos or custom content about a provider or organization.

Some vital benchmarks for patient satisfaction include ease of use, low waiting times and instant technical support. The provider's ability to provide information clearly over the virtual platform is also an important consideration. When implementing any telehealth program, closely monitoring this KPI will indicate the success of the overall clinical delivery. Patient demos can also help get patients on board for virtual care and improve success rates.

Image shows satisfaction rates with 5 star rated Mend - 23% increase in patient satisfaction with Mend.

4. Successful Encounters

Of the six telehealth KPIs, successful encounters are the most challenging metric to measure success of telemedicine program. That's because it can be difficult for some telehealth platforms to analyze if a visit was accurately coded and then submitted for billing.

Female provider talking to male patient. 89-94% of visits are successful on Mend across two methods of analyzing success.

To solve this, Mend uses an integration to help aggregate data within a provider office or across an organization. Mend integrates with 81 EHRs to pull pertinent data. This may include if a provider has been connected for at least 2 minutes for a virtual appointment or if the appointment was marked as checked out. If one or both of these elements occur, there is a high probability of a successful encounter.

5. Connection Quality

The number one concern for any telehealth program is connectivity. If providers can't connect with their patients, delivering virtual care can be challenging or impossible. Closely examining this telehealth KPI on both the patient and provider sides can help improve overall outcomes.

With some platforms, it's possible to assess which patients may have a poor internet connection. Mend, for example, will help develop processes to connect these patients when connectivity issues are identified ahead of the scheduled appointment. In other instances, telehealth kiosks can be made available.

"Connection Quality" shows the importance of good internet connection. Bitrate reports are available.

On the provider side, poor upload speed can affect the telehealth quality metrics of all the virtual visits. Mend can work together with an organization's IT department to identify any staff member averaging under 100 Kbps. User and appointment average bitrate reports are also available for monitoring and assessing ongoing connection quality. 

6. Provider Adoption

As with any software investment, you want to ensure that the application is utilized. Provider adoption is the final of the six telehealth KPIs to consider when implementing a telehealth program.

Many platforms can easily track this telehealth performance metric. Yet the rate of adoption will vary from organization to organization and provider to provider. For example, behavioral health physicians may implement telehealth services in their day-to-day practice. Physical therapists, on the other hand, may occasionally utilize the service.

Organizations may also choose to purchase an Enterprise software license with a platform like Mend. In this case, any provider can access it whenever they need it. When this happens, Mend telemedicine performance metrics will also measure the success of provider adoption when the software goes live.

"Provider Adoption" graphic shows 98% provider retention after 20 telehealth visits across Mend.

Find the best telehealth solution for your practice today.

While digital options were already increasing, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for the implementation of telehealth. In fact, 97% of primary care providers turned to virtual practices over the course of 2020. This was a crucial step in the continuity of patient care.

If you implemented telehealth software in your organization during the pandemic, you might now be wondering if it does everything you need it to do. Measuring telehealth KPIs is one way to gauge the success of a program. 

At Mend, we've helped over 4,600,000 patients and growing, so we know how to help you connect with your patients from virtually anywhere. We work closely with our clients to monitor telehealth KPIs to ensure the success and effectiveness of our program. To explore everything Mend has to offer, schedule a demo today with our experts to learn more. 

How to Plan for & Profitably Operate a Telehealth Program

A great telehealth program is true to the core values of the healing arts. Since ancient times, therapies have sought to combine empathy, knowledge, and tools at hand to ease the suffering of others. The rise of computing has brought video meetings from the boardroom to the living room. With telehealth programs, health systems have a unique opportunity to make quality remote medical care accessible to all. 

What are the benefits of telehealth? 

A well-run telehealth program touches every sphere of a health system. Patients enjoy easier access to care, better clinical outcomes, and more satisfaction. Staff benefits from streamlined workflows and the ability to work from outside their offices. On the business end, telehealth programs reduce costs, eliminate free care, and create new revenue streams.

How do you set up a profitable telehealth program? 

Managers need not tread new ground. By following a step-wise approach, health systems can design a telehealth program that meets their team's needs. A crucial step is to partner with an experienced software provider that can help your team reach its goals.

It's easier than ever to help more patients for providers by filling openings with virtual walk-ins & easy communication.

The Case for Telehealth

A 2017 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine identified five key drivers for the growth of telehealth:

Drivers of telehealth program growth:

1. The rise of consumer goods such as wearable sensors and wireless monitors.

2. Advances in EHR and clinical decision support systems that can “talk to” telehealth service platforms. This integration boosts efficiency, eases documentation, and reduces the risk of error.

3. Projected shortages in the health-profession workforce. Health systems may face growing staffing shortfalls already seen in rural and under-served urban areas.

4. Payment changes with a shift toward value-based reimbursement. This trend favors providers using lower-cost settings outside of hospitals and clinics.

5. Growth of patient-driven health care. Patients expect better access to their providers, more convenience, and high-quality care.

Patients Desire Telehealth

In 2016, the Journal of General Internal Medicine published an eye-opening satisfaction survey. More than 1,700 patients who had at least one telehealth encounter responded. The results were clear.

These eye-opening levels of patient satisfaction cannot be pinned on the brief thrill of using a fancy new gadget. Later studies have confirmed high levels of satisfaction across multiple specialties. A 2021 survey found specific predictors of patient satisfaction with telehealth programs goes beyond trust in the medical provider.

Predictors of satisfaction with telehealth sessions were:

A Roadmap to Getting Started

So, you want to offer a telehealth program as part of your health system's aims. Perhaps, you have an urgent need. But your experience with rolling out electronic health records or with an initial, rushed attempt at providing telehealth reminds you that proper planning is crucial.

Set Clear Goals

What should a telehealth program do for your team? Here are some of the most often cited goals:

Plan for Success

For a smooth roll-out of a telehealth program, health systems can follow a roadmap. One toolkit, created by the California Telehealth Resource Center, uses a sequence of seven steps spanning three phases:

  1. Assess
  2. Develop
  3. Implement

Managers can plan each step by answering a few key questions.

Assess

STEP 1: Assess the needs of your organization.

Key questions:

STEP 2: Define the program's model.

Key questions:

STEP 3: Document the business case.

Key questions:

Develop

STEP 4: Design the program and develop a technology plan.

Key questions:

STEP 5: Plan how you will monitor performance.

Key questions:

Implement

STEP 6: Implement the telehealth program.

Key questions:

STEP 7: Monitor and execute quality improvement.

Key questions:

Telehealth providers are not created equally. Partner with a company that will help your organization meet its stated goals.

What to Look for in a Telehealth Program

A great telehealth platform improves the services your team already offers. It can also add extra features that streamline workflows and enhance patients' experience.

Illustration of a female provider. Keep a clean contact list of patient information.
Telehealth platforms must have dial-out services. Illustration shows recommended features for a telehealth appointment.
Keep your patients engaged while they wait. Illustration of a happy woman waiting on her tablet with Mend's waiting room.

Here's a comprehensive list of features integrated into a full-service telehealth platform:

Workflows:

Features:

Mend is the only 5-star telemedicine experience on the planet.

The planning and rolling out of a successful telehealth program may seem like a daunting task. The most important step may be to partner with an experienced provider such as Mend. We have a proven track record of designing customized platforms for even the largest health systems. Let us show you how partnering with Mend can increase the profitability of your telehealth program.

Contact a customer support specialist at Mend today. Let us show you how we can help your team enhance access to care, see more patients, increase patient satisfaction, improve staff morale, and boost your company's bottom line.

7 Trends 2021 Taught Us About The Future of Telehealth

When considering the future of telehealth, it helps to look backward. 2021 had a lot to teach us about where telehealth is going. Most importantly, we learned that telemedicine wasn't just a pandemic trend, as more and more people continued to see their healthcare providers virtually even as in-person offices opened up.

So what does the future of telehealth look like? Virtual doctor appointments will continue to be a major player in the healthcare industry, as 79% of patients were very satisfied with the care they received during their last visit. We're also likely to see new advancements in technology and software that help digitize the patient experience from start to finish.

Here are the top seven ways we think 2021 will predict how the future of telehealth will look going forward.

What the Future of Telehealth Looks Like

Covid 19 impact study shows positive telehealth responses from physicians and patients - sourced from Healthcare Coalition

1. Telehealth Will Continue Growing in Popularity

Telehealth saw a huge surge in popularity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it looks like that popularity isn't going anywhere. Patients, providers, and hospitals all seem to be on the same page about the future of telehealth.

• 73% of patients will keep using telehealth services in the future.

• 68% of physicians were personally motivated to increase their use of telehealth.

• 90% of hospitals believe that the rise of telehealth will continue, even as the pandemic ebbs.

• Even 71% of seniors, who typically have a harder time adopting new technologies, noted that they were likely to use telehealth again in the future.

2. Patients Will Expect More Secure Technology

Now that they've gotten a taste of what telehealth has to offer, patients will be expecting improved security. They'll want to know that their personally identifiable information isn't available for anyone to access. That includes making sure their intake forms, appointment scheduling, and video visits are secure.

• 73% of patients value having a private and secure connection over a connection that's convenient and easy to access.

• Mend, a comprehensive patient-engagement platform, offers a HIPAA-compliant telehealth solution to give your patients peace of mind.

• If patients, staff, or providers are having trouble, it takes just 15-20 seconds to connect to a Mend support specialist.

3. Telehealth Will Become Part of the Entire Patient Journey

From start to finish, telehealth offers the opportunity to completely virtualize a patient's journey. With a hybrid software suite, such as Mend, providers can connect with patients for scheduling, appointment reminders, online forms and even the visit itself — all through one platform. The future of telehealth will be greatly dependent on applications that can do it all in one neat package so that patients can get the help they need at any stage of their care.

• Telehealth visits can be used for medication management, follow-ups, lab results, chronic care management, therapy, pre- and post-op care, and much more.

• In 2022, the U.S. Centers for Mediate & Medicaid Service (CMS) has 272 separate billable telehealth services. Having telehealth software that accurately categorizes and bills for these services is crucial for revenue.

• 63% of patients are willing to use messages to communicate with their healthcare provider, which can be a good way to move the patient along from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up.

4. Telehealth May Become More Regulated Throughout the Country

Because so much of the healthcare landscape is transforming into a digital experience, lawmakers will likely need to create more regulations to protect patient privacy. During the pandemic, most states along with the CMS relaxed laws that previously required clinicians to hold a valid license in the state where their patient lives.

• As of January 2022, most of these waivers have expired, with only 23 states still offering out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth.

• 27 states and Washington, D.C., never had a waiver or have ended their temporary pause on regulations.

• However, 19 states have long-term or permanent policies that allow out-of-state telehealth practice.

• To stay legal, providers will need to make sure the tools they're using — such as Mend — are HIPAA and HITECH compliant.

5. Telehealth Will be Cheaper than In-person Visits

Despite the initial costs of adopting a telehealth setup, in the long run, these systems will likely continue to be cheaper for both patients and providers. Once the costs of integrating new software and training employees are covered, the cost to maintain a virtual setup is infinitely cheaper than renting an office space and hiring office staff.

• Patients say their optimal price point for a virtual visit is between $56 to $92, which is much lower than the average cost of $157 to $165 for an in-person visit.

• More than one-third of telehealth patients saw an online-only provider, which means online providers are stealing revenue from traditional primary care models.

• Telehealth appointments with virtual waiting rooms can increase customer satisfaction by 23%, increasing how often these patients engage with the practice and thereby increasing revenue.

6. Telehealth Will Help to Monitor Chronic Conditions

About 40% of Americans suffer from a chronic health condition. While many of these conditions could be treated with lifestyle modifications, many patients don't follow through with their treatment or keep up with their scheduled doctor appointments. Telehealth could be a good way to improve treatment adherence and improve patient quality of life.

• 52% of patients said they have seen their doctor more frequently with telehealth, meaning patients with chronic conditions could be more engaged.

• 88% of Americans want to continue using telehealth for non-urgent consultations, which can hopefully lead to more check-ins about treatment adherence.

7. Telehealth Will Continue to Integrate Health Records

One amazing benefit of telehealth is the ability to integrate electronic health records (EHRs) no matter the platform. This can lead to more streamlined and focused care, as providers can access the patient's entire medical history with just a few clicks instead of flipping through paper files.

• Mend, in particular, offers full API coverage that allows engineers to build their own applications on top of its platform, allowing integration for hundreds of EHR vendors.

• One study found that EHRs could reduce adverse drug events by 52%, meaning telehealth could further help to prevent these reactions.

Be a Part of Future Telehealth Trends

Are you ready to be a part of the future of telehealth? If so, you're going to need a telemedicine platform to help your practice or facility stand out in a sea of virtual offerings. When you choose Mend, you'll get help with everything patient engagement in one simple solution. Mend follows the patient throughout their entire journey by providing easy scheduling, appointment reminders, virtual waiting rooms, and more. And, with Mend's AI backed Attendance Predictor, you can significantly reduce your no-show rates to help you see more patients. 

Telehealth is here. Make sure you don't get left behind.

8 Creative Ways to Increase Patient Volume Using Telehealth

You provide excellent medical care and deliver a high-quality patient experience. Your practice adapted and changed how you operate amid a worldwide pandemic. But you lost revenue, and patients fell behind on their regular care routines. So what are some creative ways to increase patient volume using telehealth programs?

You have to do more than simply promise quality virtual medical care. Today, patients need to feel your telehealth program is:

• Secure

• Reliable

• Easy to use

• Effective

• Enjoyable

With the rise of telehealth programs, there are several options to choose from. Whether you are treating physical or mental health concerns, selecting the right one can be an overwhelming task. 

But not all are created equal. 

Graphic of people using telemedicine - it's easier than ever to help more patients.

When it comes to how to increase patient volume in a medical office you have to offer more than an online office. You need to provide a five-star telehealth experience. A predicted 73% of users will continue to use telemedicine in the future. So that five-star experience extends the success of your practice for years to come.

Here are eight creative ways to increase patient volume and satisfaction using telehealth programs.

1. Reduce No-Show Rates

When patients don't show up to their appointments, your bottom line suffers. You also miss out on the opportunity to treat another patient. You're not alone. The average no-show rate around the world is an astounding 23%. That's over $857K in lost revenue for a 10-provider practice! 

That's a big financial hit and a lot of empty appointment space. 

With the right technologically advanced telehealth program, you can significantly reduce no-show rates. When choosing a telemedicine program, you want to make sure it includes invaluable features to minimize no-show patients. 

Some of these features include:

• Automated email, text, and voice appointment reminders

• Easy patient self-scheduling 24/7/365

• Convenient patient-led appointment changes and cancellations

• Automatically-sent digital paperwork

• Valuable EHR and PMS integration

• Timely calendar invites

If getting all of the above telehealth program features sounds too good to be true, think again. Mend provides all of these and more.

Look for Creative Ways to Increase Patient Volume with Bonus No-Show Reduction Features

You want to offer a user experience that transcends all others. So you need a telehealth program that provides the most advanced no-show reduction features.

Mend is the only telemedicine program on the market that uses groundbreaking AI to predict no-shows. Our machine learning algorithm and patient engagement tools can predict no-shows and cancellations and they can do so with up to 99% accuracy!

Another amazing feature of our telehealth program is our AI. You don't have to customize the algorithm to your practice or patients. Our program's AI does the work for you. Once it detects a high no-show rating, it sends alternate reminders to patients, encouraging an appointment confirmation.  All that's left for you to do is use the presented information to ensure you fill your schedule.

With data like that, there's no doubt your no-show and cancellation rate will decrease. It's almost a given that you'll increase patient volume with our unparalleled AI.

2. Make the User Experience Easy

Not all of your patients are technologically savvy. That means not all of them will be excited about the idea of telemedicine. 

But if you told your existing and prospective patients that they don't have to jump through hoops to:

• Schedule an appointment

• Pay a bill

• Fill out paperwork

You'll likely get them intrigued. 

Mend's easy-to-use program seamlessly integrates into your website. Your patients can click the scheduling link and choose a date and time that works best for them. And if they need to reschedule? No problem. They can do that in a matter of minutes too. 

Fact is, people are busy. Many patients think about scheduling an appointment after hours, only to forget in the morning. With Mend, your patients can schedule, reschedule, or cancel their appointments 24/7/365. 

And convenient scheduling equals increased patient volume. 

3. Extend Your Reach

If there's one benefit that comes to mind when thinking about telemedicine, it's convenience. Never before has meeting with your doctor or therapist been easier. The past couple of years has brought with it plenty of negatives. But one positive Plato would agree with is:

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” 

Of course, telehealth programs weren't just invented. But thanks to the world's circumstances, practices like yours were forced to think of creative ways to increase patient volume.

Telemedicine can reach a more significant number of patients from practically anywhere. But we all know internet connections can be fickle. So there may be several existing and prospective patients reluctant to use it. 

But Mend is different—our telehealth works when others don't. 

Mend picks up the slack. When there isn't enough bandwidth connectivity available to meet with a doctor using video and audio, providers can quickly call the patient's mobile or landline using a dialer feature.

That means you can reach more patients in more places. (48% less bandwidth needed than Zoom!)

But that's not the only way Mend extends your reach.

Our telehealth program ensures your digital forms will collect both phone numbers and email addresses from all patients. Extend your reach and reduce no-shows by sending reminders and notifications by email, text, and voice message. 

Making fewer patients “unreachable” equals increased patient volume.

4. Create a Positive Digital Intake Experience

Making a good first impression is essential in any business. When it comes to how to increase patient volume in a medical practice there is no exception. Filling out intake forms can be a tedious, time-consuming, and annoying process for your patients. And keeping tabs on that paperwork can be an inefficient and irritating waste of time for your staff. 

Your patients don't want to have to print out PDFs and hand-write their information. They don't want to have to remember to bring it to their appointment. It's a hassle. The proof is in the numbers:

• 5% of patients return intake forms via mail

• 5-14% of patients engage with patient portals

• 9% of patients answer their phones

When it comes to how to increase patient volume you need to streamline your intake process. (Not to mention, decrease patient and staff burden.)

That's where Mend comes in. 

Our comprehensive telehealth program doesn't include a bunch of PDFs. Instead, Mend uses your exact interactive intake forms patients can fill out on any device. And based on the type of appointment, our platform knows the proper forms to send via text or email. 

In days past, the chances of getting intake paperwork returned quickly, or even at all, was a grim prospect. But over Mend's last 1,000,000 digital forms:

• 86% were completed

• 68% came back within one hour

• 75% came back within one day

Providing a seamless intake experience allows you to:

• Schedule more patients with the time you save

• Improve workflow

• Ease the burden on the administrative team

• Increase patient satisfaction

5. Offer Valuable Virtual Walk-Ins

It's likely that you'll always have holes in your appointment calendar. If you could accept virtual walk-ins, wouldn't that mean you could increase patient volume? Of course, it does. 

Patients' illnesses and health concerns don't always happen on a convenient schedule. Years ago, they might have tried to walk into your office to see if there were any openings. But with Mend, your patients can see if there is any same-day availability at the touch of a button via Mend's Waiting Room Links feature.

That makes filling in unused appointment time convenient for your patients and profitable for your practice.

6. Supply a Welcoming Virtual Waiting Room Experience

Waiting rooms have a history of being sterile, unwelcoming, and uncomfortable. The fluorescent lighting, outdated magazines, and various sick individuals make it that way.

Virtual waiting rooms aren't much better. You sit there in your chair waiting for your doctor, wondering when and if they'll ever show. 

But what if you could create a more inviting virtual waiting room experience for your patients? A place where they could browse through videos and articles Netflix-style, enjoying the experience rather than simply waiting.

That's what your patients experience with Mend.

In 2021, Mend helped facilitate over 400,000 virtual visits per month. Our providers' patients collectively spent 18 years in our enhanced virtual waiting rooms. But their time with Mend wasn't wasted.

Mend patients spend an average of 14 minutes in the enhanced virtual waiting room. Rather than providing a blank screen, we inform, educate, and entertain them with custom curated videos and content. This has led to a 23% increase in patient satisfaction. And satisfied patients increase patient volume by telling others.

7. Provide Security, Safety, and Privacy

Your patients deserve more than non-HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platforms like Skype and FaceTime. These work just fine for chatting with friends and family. But when talking about mental and physical health issues, that's another story.

Your telehealth program must be HIPAA compliant to be safe, secure, and private. Other video conferencing platforms may provide high encryption levels. But they don't provide the necessary security that comes with a Business Associates Agreement (BAA). 

Mend not only provides convenient, highly-accessible virtual medical care, it's also 100% confidential, secure, and HIPAA compliant

And that's something that'll speak to all of your current and potential patients.

8. Deliver Efficient Doctors' Visits

Staff workflow is crucial to delivering seamless, efficient care to your patients. And efficient care can help you increase patient volume. Other telehealth programs force you to click around to several different windows during a telemedicine visit. Between the EHR, PMS, EMR, and video screen, there can be a lot of confusion and wasted time.

But with Mend, your staff can provide efficient, single-screen visits. They can stay in the EHR and master schedule while meeting with patients. Our desktop notifications alert providers of important activities whether they are logged in or not.

Mend notifies you when a patient:

• Logs on for a scheduled visit

• Logs on for an on-demand visit

• Completes a new form

• Requests an appointment

Our innovative telehealth program allows you to stay in your patient's chart. So you can review notes and labs during patient appointments. You'll stay picture-in-picture (PiP), so you'll never have to click around to find your patient.

Efficient telemedicine visits streamline your schedule, giving you more time to schedule additional patient visits. Mend integrates with hundreds of PMS, EMR, and EHR systems with full API coverage. So there is a good chance it can blend with your established system seamlessly.

And if you ever encounter an issue, help is available. Our instant technical support AI chatbot can help you on the spot.

Five-Star Telehealth Experience Provides Strategies to Help You Increase Patient Volume

Image showing 5 star rating; Mend is the only 5-star telemedicine experience on the planet.

The future of patient care lies in telemedicine. The necessity to change and adapt in a pandemic-stricken world has proven that. Patients have experienced the convenience and quality of medical care they can receive. They're more open to scheduling virtual physical and mental health visits. 

Now is the time to make a five-star impression with Mend's fully-integrated solution to increasing patient volume.

A foolproof way to help more patients is to provide a telehealth experience that is:

• Positive

• Welcoming

• Convenient

• Easy to Use

With Mend, your patients' five-star telemedicine experience allows them to:

• Schedule and reschedule 24/7/365

• Maintain video and audio on low bandwidth connections

• Enjoy an enhanced waiting room experience

• Pay copays digitally

• Fill out and submit intake forms conveniently

• See walk-in appointment availability

• Maintain a safe, HIPAA-compliant doctor visit from just about anywhere

Providing an exceptional telemedicine experience for your patients is a powerful tool for business growth. News will spread. Don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. People are always looking for positive reviews about doctors' visits. 

When thinking about creative ways to increase patient volume, investing in the future of telemedicine is your best bet. 

And the future of telemedicine is with Mend.

Revolutionize How You Deliver Healthcare

Innovation is the key to better health outcomes. Mend allows you to provide forward-thinking digital patient engagement solutions to do just that. Our mission is to revolutionize healthcare delivery so every patient can receive extraordinary care. 

With Mend, you'll:

• Increase patient volume

• Streamline your practice

• Reduce no-show rates

• Lower overhead and inefficiencies

• Improve patient satisfaction

• Relieve front-desk bottlenecks

The benefits don't end there. Schedule a free demo to learn more about how our fully-integrated, turnkey telehealth program can benefit your practice. Our team of telehealth program specialists will walk you through how Mend works. 

Your answer to increased patient volume is only a click away.

Why You Need to Switch to HIPAA Compliant Telehealth, NOW

Privacy is one of the most important parts of a patient's healthcare experience. Disclosing protected health information (PHI) can cause serious harm to a patient's safety, personal life, and state of mind. Data breaches or mishandling can also put a practice at serious risk of legal and financial trouble. That is why it is essential to adopt a HIPAA compliant telehealth program when offering virtual care services.

Providers have an immense legal and ethical duty to safeguard PHI. Keeping PHI secure is the main goal of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA protects patients by limiting who can access PHI, when they can access it, and how they use it. Under HIPAA, there can be steep penalties for breaches involving PHI. All entities in the healthcare industry must practice caution and discretion in how they handle patient data.

The Impact of Healthcare Data Breaches

The healthcare industry faces more data breaches than any other sector. Studies show that health data breaches have affected over 250 million Americans since 2010. Healthcare is more digital than ever. That includes the storage of health records and care delivery. Likewise, there are more chances for breaches than ever, whether they are intentional or due to human error.

Data Breaches by Industry

These risks are concerning, but what is the direct impact to healthcare providers when a breach occurs? HIPAA includes financial and criminal penalties for breaking the law's rules on privacy and security. For healthcare organizations (HCO), each violation could cost as much as $50,000 in fines. Individuals could face fines up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison. These penalties have the potential to reach millions of dollars in cases involving many people's PHI. Even if a breach is unintentional, the consequences can be severe. A provider must also consider downstream effects like damage to their reputation and loss of patient trust.

Other Important Healthcare Privacy Laws

HIPAA is not the only federal law that informs the proper handling of PHI. Many rules are crucial for providers to consider when using digital tools to handle patient data. These laws are also important to HIPAA compliant telehealth programs, as they update protections for the digital age.

Timeline of Healthcare Privacy Laws

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998

COPPA sets rules for collecting data online on children under the age of 13. The law requires companies to inform parents or legal guardians on the use and sharing of children's personal information. The intent of COPPA was to protect young people amid the rise of e-commerce and targeted online marketing. However, HCO's must also comply with these rules when collecting and storing data on patients under 13 years old.

Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act of 2000 

The ESIGN Act set rules on collecting and confirming consent for electronic signatures. HIPAA permits collecting e-signatures in healthcare, but any process must comply with the ESIGN act. Of course, any method for storing e-signatures must also comply with HIPAA standard, just like any other PHI.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 

The HITECH act strengthened HIPAA for the digital age. The intent of the law is increasing protections for PHI stored electronically, or ePHI. The law includes financial incentives for adopting safe and efficient EHR systems to manage patient data. Providers can also face added penalties for breaking HIPAA rules when handling ePHI.

Congress amended HIPAA itself in 2013, expanding privacy and security rules to cover healthcare business associates. The 2013 amendment pertains to vendors whose software handles PHI, making these rules very relevant to telehealth.

Keeping up-to-date with all of these crucial laws can feel overwhelming. However, there are public resources to help understand what these rules mean for you. Government agencies provide a great deal of material on the laws they enforce. Medical journals and other publications also publish articles to help the healthcare industry understand the laws that govern it. Take a look at some of these sources to learn more:

HIPAA and Telehealth Platforms

The burden to protect PHI has only grown with the rise of web-accessible tools in healthcare. The same HIPAA rules apply to in-person healthcare and telehealth. With the challenge of cyberattacks growing, providers must look beyond their own conduct to promote security. They must also scrutinize how their software tools keep PHI secure.

Telehealth has become a very convenient method of care delivery for both patients and providers. However, this convenience can put PHI at risk if HCO's don't do their due diligence. Telehealth services rapidly expanded due to a dire need during the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to many providers choosing the fastest and simplest technology options. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype became popular for quickly starting a telehealth program.

However, standard video conferencing tools do not always include the security required to comply with HIPAA. The risks that come with a non-HIPAA compliant telehealth platform are high. Recent reports have revealed that Zoom will pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit for violating users' privacy. These breaches include actively sharing user data with other firms and allowing hackers to access meetings. For any user, this negligence is troubling. However, for healthcare providers and their patients, it is dangerous.

The Zoom lawsuit proves that providers must be exhaustive when building a HIPAA compliant telehealth program. Unsecured software can expose any practice or hospital to serious liability. Software vendors must also make privacy and security a top priority.

Largest HIPAA Breach Lawsuit Awards and Settlements

What does great HIPAA Compliant Telehealth look like?

The Right Tools for High-Quality Telehealth

An encrypted video feed is a must to keep telehealth visits secure. However, that should not come at the expense of connection strength. Consider the bandwidth requirements of your software options. Encrypted video with a strong connection even at low bandwidths will provide both security and a positive user experience. With both high video quality and security, you can offer HIPAA compliant telehealth that is easy to use.

Providing Useful Instructions at a Distance

Even before a telehealth visit begins, providers can educate their patients to help make remote care run smoothly. The right telehealth software can help with notifications sent ahead of an appointment. Patient notifications should encourage pre-visit routines like preparing crucial information, testing connection speed, and securing their location. Instructions for connecting can make it easy for a patient to join their visit and keep their visit secure.

Providing an easy-to-understand user experience can also reduce security threats. Consider whether a platform requires patients to remember specific login data. Many patients have a dangerous habit of writing down usernames and passwords in unsecured locations. These credentials can be lost or stolen, creating vulnerabilities in your system. Verifying patient identities with a unique generated code for each visit reduces your dependence on their data privacy practices.

Some of these best practices may vary depending on the type of visit or the provider's clinical specialty. That is why HIPAA compliant telehealth software should include customizable methods to notify patients based on a provider's needs.

Secure the Provider and Patient Locations

Building a HIPAA compliant telehealth program goes beyond the technology itself. Providers must take their surroundings during a visit into account. Select a secure and quiet working location where only authorized individuals can see and hear the visit. Whether an office is in a commercial space or a home, it must be private.

Providers should separate themselves from staff, other patients, and anyone not essential to the visit. Sessions held in unfamiliar locations must be just as secure. If you cannot protect PHI in your current location, strongly consider whether you should reschedule a visit.

Likewise, the patient should also conduct their visit in a private location. Under HIPAA the patient is responsible for securing their own safe space for virtual treatment. Yet a provider can act as a valuable resource to help the patient protect their own privacy. A proactive approach to security can go a long way towards protecting patients and building trust. Here are some precautions that providers can take with patients when starting a telehealth visit:

These steps go beyond the requirements of HIPAA, but diligence is key to protecting your patients.

Adopt HIPAA Compliant Telehealth Software With Easy-To-Use Tools

The software you choose should be an asset to building a HIPAA compliant telehealth program, not a liability. A platform should encrypt communication channels and secure stored data. Providers have a responsibility to scrutinize the entire care environment, both physical and digital, to keep PHI secure. Equipping your workspace and care team to prioritize security is an important piece of the puzzle. Choosing a software partner that values security creates even more protection for you and your patients.

If you want to be confident that your telehealth services protect you and your patients, consider Mend. Mend is a total telehealth and patient engagement software that never compromises on security with all HIPAA compliant features. Mend is also SOC 2 Type 2 based on HITRUST, NIST CSF, HITECH Act, E-Sign Act, COPPA, ADA WCAG 2.0, PCI, CAN-SPAM, TCPA, & 42 CFR Part 2 compliant. Take advantage of high-quality video visits, automatic patient reminders, live tech support for patients and providers. Offer HIPAA compliant telemedicine with Mend, and use our suite of tools to help more patients than ever.

How to Choose the Best Telemedicine Software for your Practice

Telemedicine providers are changing healthcare worldwide. More and more practices are adopting telemedicine. How can you start searching for the right solution? There are many top telemedicine software options to consider, making it challenging to narrow down your options. It is even more difficult to be sure which one best fits your practice. So let's look at some of the most important things to know when choosing the best telemedicine software for you.

What is telemedicine?

Healthcare providers can use telemedicine to diagnose and treat patients. The key difference with traditional care is less of a need for in-person contact. Patients and healthcare providers can connect from almost anywhere with telemedicine software.

Virtual visits are one of the most common uses of telemedicine software. These visits can take place over phone, video, or online messaging. A virtual visit is often more convenient for patients when they do not need in-person attention. Some health conditions or urgent needs may even require remote care. Physicians can also write prescriptions and send their patients important files like test results online.

Providers often work together to deliver effective care. Care teams can use telemedicine software to connect in a secure way. Just as important, it can make working together more efficient. For example, some of the best telemedicine platforms allow providers to submit digital prescriptions.

What are the benefits of telemedicine?

Interest in telemedicine continues to grow. There are many ways to be successful with the right solution. Practices can simplify work, reduce costs, and increase access to care.

For patients, many factors can make it difficult to get in-person care:

Virtual visits are more flexible and convenient for patients. Remote visits can remove obstacles to care like distance or time constraints.

Telemedicine software for providers helps to increase efficiency and profitability. Flexible hours can mean fewer no-shows and canceled visits. Practices can acquire new patients who have more access to care, and reduce overhead costs and manual tasks.

Telemedicine can even help limit the spread of infectious diseases. We saw providers use this tactic in the fight against COVID-19. This will continue to help providers protect their patients and staff in the future.

Yet there are more and more telemedicine software options to choose from. So what do you need to consider to pick the best telemedicine software?

How do you evaluate a telemedicine software provider?

Always focus on how telemedicine will affect your practice. There are many points to consider. These three questions can point you in the right direction:

  1. Do the features of the software product meet the needs of your practice?
  2. Is the solution right for your budget?
  3. Will the company be a trustworthy partner to help you succeed

What features should the best telemedicine software offer?

Telemedicine software is more than just remote healthcare visits. There are many tools that make up a platform. It must be easy to use for you and your patients. Make sure the features address your unique goals and challenges. A well-rounded offering will give your practice better options for how to make use of telemedicine.

Healthcare is often stressful for patients. Complex logins can make that worse. Joining a visit must be quick and easy. Look at what telemedicine software is supported by browsers, systems, and devices. Too many limitations can hurt patient access to care.

The time before a visit starts can be crucial. Patients need to be sure that they are in the right place when they log in. It is also important to make sure they stay engaged and avoid distractions for when the provider joins. Examine whether telemedicine software provides a welcoming virtual waiting space for patients. This can help make visits efficient and impactful, as well as reduce drop offs. For example, the Mend platform comes with an Enhanced Virtual Waiting Room experience. Patients can browse relevant health and wellness videos and articles before their visit. They also have direct access to live tech support if the need arises. How did this impact patient satisfaction? Patients who experience this virtual waiting room give their Mend visits an average rating of 4.94/5 stars.

Do sudden gaps appear in your schedule? No-shows are a big financial risk for practices. Ask how telemedicine software can help you lower your no-show rate. Automated reminders can keep patients up-to-date and reduce work for your staff. Patient self-scheduling is an easy and efficient way to book appointments. When patients are active in their care, both they and their providers benefit. Make sure that the software makes scheduling just as easy for you.

Providers need a solution that also makes their jobs simpler. Telemedicine software should deliver on this promise from the start. Software that is difficult or time-consuming to install may not be easy to work with either. Look for a solution that is easy to implement. Even if you need custom options, a vendor should work with you to make the startup as painless as possible.

Telemedicine should make day-to-day work easier for your staff. The software should be easy to navigate and understand. At its best, telemedicine software can save time and reduce staff burnout. This means your team stays focused on providing the best care.

Integrating telemedicine software with an EHR, EMR, or PMS can cut down on redundant data entry. Managing and reviewing patient charts is easier and faster when these systems work well together. How telemedicine software collects, stores, and shares data can have a large impact. Forms should be easy for patients to fill out while they wait for a virtual visit to start. Built-in payment capture can take yet another manual step out of the process.

Telemedicine software should always be secure. The risk of data breaches is a threat to patients and practices. The US government was not strict in enforcing HIPAA compliance for telemedicine during COVID-19. Yet it is unlikely that this will always be the case. Telemedicine software must protect patient privacy. 

Telemedicine is about bringing patients and providers together. Clear video and sound are an important part of that. Make sure any software offers HD video and supports clear audio. All parties must understand each other during a virtual visit. Secure messaging can complement video and audio for a seamless experience.

What is the cost of telemedicine software?

It is important to know your telemedicine software budget. Vendors should also be transparent with you. Pricing and options should always be clear. Telemedicine must adjust to fit the needs and budget of different practices. The cost of telemedicine software depends on its features and functions.

Many vendors build solutions for single-provider practices all the way up to large health networks. Custom options can also help you find the right fit. For example, Mend offers multiple options to meet different needs:

ProductPricingTop features
MendFreeFreeOur free solution offers core telemedicine features. HD video, secure messaging, live tech support, and more. No equipment or downloads necessary.
MendEnterpriseQuotedA custom solution for custom needs. Full-service implementation, payment capture, and custom workflows with the best telemedicine software. Live tech support responds in seconds to help you and your patients. No special equipment, downloads, or fees for maintenance upgrades.

Telemedicine software costs and pricing structures vary with different vendors. Most telemedicine software options include a subscription fee. Some may charge to install software and train users. Any special equipment needs or custom software changes may come with added costs. Maintenance and upgrades may also have a price. Some telemedicine software providers also offer extra services like patient marketing.

What makes a strong partnership?

Success depends on more than just a product. You need a lasting relationship with a telemedicine software vendor. After the initial setup, you should be able to rely on tools and support for your practice. The right vendor will want to help you grow with their product.

Learn as much as you can about a telemedicine software company's values. Review their mission statement and hear what real customers have to say. Make sure any vendor lives up to their stated values.

Always keep your eyes open to how telemedicine software vendors treat you. What is their response rate, and do they answer right away? Do they have a helpful and friendly attitude at every stage? Make sure their responses to your questions are transparent and that claims are never vague. Lastly, a quality telemedicine software vendor offers relevant material and knowledge for the providers and consumers.

IT problems can throw off appointment schedules and lead to a bad patient experience. Do your telemedicine options offer support for when these problems arise? Many telemedicine software platforms will offer support to providers, but not for patients. Make sure that both your staff and your patients can access help for technical issues. A built-in chat feature staffed by real people is one of the fastest ways to get help. Live technical support helps patients and providers stay connected for a remote visit. Fast responses are key to keeping your schedule on time.

Even the best telemedicine software should have strong tech support. Make sure to ask if technical support comes at any added cost. Also check whether or not they outsource support services. Your telemedicine software provider should offer consistent service from day one.

Not sure where to start?

Mend is an experienced telemedicine software company. We transform digital health services so you can engage and connect with patients.

We invite you to see the proof with a free demo from our experts. You can also sign up to receive more insights on telemedicine by email.

FAQs

How do you evaluate a telemedicine software provider?

The software features should meet your practice's needs. Make sure the price matches your budget. Also consider the level of service the company provides.

What determines telemedicine costs?

Monthly or annual subscription fees are often a main cost for telemedicine software. The best telemedicine equipment or training may come with added costs. Always make sure pricing is clear and not vague.

What are telemedicine reimbursement rates?

Many telemedicine rates are the same as in-person rates. Payers must list any difference in rates. Knowing the right billing codes can keep payments accurate.

What are telemedicine startup costs?

Startup costs include software, training, and equipment. Processes like updating care protocols and legal review may also come at a cost. Some costs depend on the practice size.

Telehealth: Why Healthcare Organizations of All Sizes Must Fully Integrate

Telehealth is more important now than ever. Below is an excerpt from Mend's latest eBook which discusses how practices of all sizes can easily integrate telehealth. If you would like to download the entire eBook, you can do so for free by going to The 2021 Guide to Fully Integrating Telehealth and Eliminating No-Shows.


As we adjust to the “new normal,” we must reflect on our understanding of patient needs and challenges from pre-pandemic times, and apply them to the new barriers to care we have begun to encounter.

In 2018, across geographic regions and healthcare specialties, as many as 23 percent of scheduled appointments were not completed.

In order to address no-show rates, healthcare organizations must understand and address the reasons that patients don't present for scheduled appointments.

By identifying the most common barriers, clinics and practices can employ solutions that change the entry point to care and improve administrative processes to reach more patients.

According to a study by Todd Molfenter, strategies such as streamlining processes, reducing wait times, and introducing automated appointment reminders reduce no-show rates considerably.

Why Do Patients No-Show?

Missed appointments can happen in any population, and the reasons vary widely. After examining demographics across the spectrum, Zivin, et al in the American Journal of Managed Care identified specific populations who are most likely to miss appointments.

“Research demonstrates that ‘no-show' patients are more likely to be younger, male, and unmarried.” Their study also identified young adults with children and those with less experience in mental health treatment to have a higher likelihood of no-shows.

While these populations may be more likely to miss an appointment, they are also most likely to be accessible via technology. These patients need a better way to access care, and a more comprehensive tool to help overcome psychological, motivational and/or physical

barriers. By working with enhanced tools that introduce engagement via technology, these populations are able to receive care and interact with their care teams in ways that are familiar and simple for them.

Access to technology can also be a barrier for some populations, and thus makes receiving care virtually challenging. Some social determinants of health could remain as barriers for vulnerable communities, such as digital literacy and access, lack of medical insurance and limited financial resources. Recent studies estimate that at least 1 in every 4 Americans may not have digital literacy skills or access to Internet-enabled digital devices to engage in video visits.

Improving access and affordability of healthcare is feasible through telehealth, but other advancements will also be required to reduce these inequities. As noted by Nouri et al., “Now that telemedicine is the default for delivery of primary care — and is likely to remain so for the near future — it is imperative that we proactively evaluate and address disparities in access to telemedicine to limit the already worsening health outcomes and health disparities.”

In July 2020, local lawmakers from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit introduced resolutions urging Comcast to improve broadband strength and expand public hotspot access swiftly and equitably in support of virtual learning for students across those communities. In June, a bipartisan coalition of United States Governors submitted a letter urging federal support for digital infrastructure developments, stating, “This investment will unlock the potential of a new generation of technologies for healthcare advancement, ensure that school children across America have access to the best educational tools, foster new ways of doing business... and give states and communities the opportunities to capitalize on smart infrastructure deployment.” These efforts and similar public/private partnerships — prompted further by the COVID-19 pandemic — could dually benefit access to technology and internet connectivity critical for modern-day healthcare delivery.

Motivational Issues

Beyond post-covid apprehension about in-person meetings, behavioral and chronic illnesses often impair motivation, making it difficult for patients to follow through with available help. Patients who are struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disease, PTSD, etc. may not be motivated to leave the house, even if the end goal is the treatment that will help them overcome this. Further, the stigma associated with behavioral health treatment can be independently anxiety-inducing.

Solution: Telehealth

The right HIPAA compliant telehealth software can instantly connect patients with their providers in a secure video conference with just the tap of a link and date of birth. 

Research shows that in some diagnoses and instances, treatment via telehealth is as effective or more effective than in-person care. By increasing diversity in the range of providers available, telehealth makes it easier to match patients with an appropriate specialist. Additionally, telehealth has been shown to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps.

On the top-rated platforms, telehealth visits consistently average single digit no-show rates without requiring the patient to download software to connect.

Ask vendors about their connectivity rates and find out if instant support is available if a patient or provider ever has trouble connecting. The right telehealth solution will ensure your staff and providers do not need to assume the role of a help desk...

How the Latest Pandemic Relief Bill Effects Telehealth

Telehealth advocates aren't impressed with the lack of support for connected health services in the latest pandemic relief package.

While the $900 billion bill, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump shortly before Christmas, does include funding for broadband expansion – including the Federal Communications Commission's COVID-19 Telehealth Program â€“ and Medicare coverage for telemental health and telehealth at rural hospitals, it doesn't extend telehealth access and coverage provisions enacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizations like the American Telemedicine Association, Alliance for Connected Care and Connected Health Initiative, healthcare providers and dozens of lawmakers had lobbied to make at least some of those emergency provisions permanent. But those calls were largely ignored.

“The noticeable lack of permanent reform or a guaranteed extension of the telehealth flexibilities in this relief package is disheartening for the millions of Americans who relied on telehealth to access care, and our healthcare providers still on the frontlines of the pandemic,” ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson said in a press release issued a day after Trump signed the bill. “We believe arbitrary restrictions on telehealth must be permanently removed to make way for a modernized and more accessible healthcare system.”

To be fair, the news wasn't all bad. The bill did add critical access Hospitals (CAHs) and small, rutral hospitals with less than 50 beds to the list of sites eligible for reimbursement through Medicare for certain telehealth services, opening the door to the expansion of telehealth services in parts of the country where access is a challenge. And it eliminates geographic restrictions for the mental health treatment delivered via telehealth, while also allowing patients to be treated in their homes.

The bill also increases funding for a variety of programs aimed at expanding broadband to underserved regions and populations, including the FCC's COVID-19 Telehealth Program, Broadband Infrastructure grant program and Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and it adds $60 million to the Department of Agriculture's Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program.

Those provisions were met with approval, and also some disappointment. Critics noted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service still has a strict definition for “rural,” and it limits what telehealth services can be provided to rural sites. And the telemental health coverage comes with the condition that patient and provider meet in person within six months of the first telehealth session and have in-person exams at regular intervals.

“We are disappointed that the telemental health provision includes an in-person requirement, as we strongly believe a provider-patient relationship can be established via telehealth,” Johnson said in the ATA's press release. “Particularly in light of the crippling provider shortage, this in-person pre-existing relationship requirement will unnecessarily deprive Medicare beneficiaries of telemental health options, and we are hopeful Congress will remove this provision in the near future.”

“While this provision would expand access to tele-mental health care, we are very disappointed to see an in-person requirement added to statute,” the Alliance for Connected Care added in a separate news release this week. “Years of telehealth advocacy have been devoted to removing these restrictions. Adding an in-person requirement prevents people that are homebound, transient, or have existing healthcare access challenges from using telehealth – really negating so much of the value that telehealth creates in helping people that NEED expanded access to care.”

On a more positive note, the bill adds $6.5 million to the Telehealth Centers of Excellence program and directs the program to take on HIV prevention, care and treatment. It also provides $1 million for a national study of rural telehealth investments, and it encourages the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support the use of telehealth in tackling the nation's opioid abuse epidemic.

It also urges the US Drug Enforcement Administration to follow through on a long-delayed pledge to create a special registration process to allow healthcare providers to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth for substance abuse treatment. That registration process was included in the Ryan Haight Act of 2008 and reinforced by the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) Act in 2018.

Telehealth advocates and lawmakers have lobbied the federal government to create that registration process, and the Trump administration had said it would do so, but no action has been taken.

Supporters are now focusing on the more than a dozen bills still before Congress, and hoping that the administration of President-elect Joe Biden and a new Congress will pick up the slack.

“We applaud Congress for starting down this path this year but urge state and federal lawmakers to take definitive measures next year to act on permanence,” Johnson said. “There is still much work to be done to set the course ahead for access to telehealth following the PHE. The ATA remains optimistic that we will see movement in the new Congress during the months ahead and will continue to work to ensure access to telehealth becomes a permanent modality in a hybrid delivery system that includes both in-person and virtual care.”   

Telehealth Guidelines for Indian Health Service Facilities

Recently Indian Health Services (IHS), which is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services announced its desire to expand telehealth across IHS federal facilities. Telehealth services allow patients can stay home and reduce their risk of infection and also keep healthcare workers and others in waiting rooms and emergency departments safe from COVID-19. 

“Expanding telehealth allows more American Indians and Alaska Natives to access healthcare they need from their home, without worrying about putting themselves or others at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “Thanks to regulatory flexibility and hard work by IHS, providers will be allowed to use everyday technologies to hold appointments with their patients. Telehealth options ensure that heroic frontline IHS providers who may be under stress from responding to COVID-19 have maximum flexibility to provide the care patients need.”

Recently, the Trump Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services announced unprecedented steps to expand Americans' access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded Medicare coverage for telehealth visits. The HHS Office for Civil Rights announced it will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for non-compliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the emergency.

Telehealth also gives providers access to services from locations other than hospitals and clinics, as in the case of self-quarantined clinicians. Providers can continue to practice medicine and remain available to their patients. They can also consult with their colleagues across the Indian health system.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic reminds us how important it is to be able to reach your healthcare team,” said Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee, IHS principal deputy director. “Telehealth will further protect our patients and employees by expanding services and increasing access to care, while doing our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

IHS has issued additional guidance that allows clinicians to use certain additional, non-public facing audio or video communications technologies to augment all clinical activities related to providing care to patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This applied to telehealth provided for any clinical reason, regardless of whether the telehealth service is related to the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions related to COVID-19.

IHS service units and their clinicians who are using the system will obtain verbal consent from patients who meet with their provider via a telehealth appointment. Health care providers are required to verify the patient at the beginning of each encounter and are not authorized to record the session.

Source: HHS

Telehealth Guidelines for Your FQHC Facilities

Federal officials have clarified new telehealth reimbursement rules for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs), giving those sites more opportunities to use connected health services during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides clarity on changes to Medicare reimbursement that were included in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Those changes allow FQHCs and RHCs to use telehealth, as well as permitting doctors working for those clinics to work from home.

FQHCs and RHCs are classified as distant sites for telehealth coverage under Medicare, allowing them to use real-time interactive audio and video telemedicine platforms to treat patients.

Any practitioners working for an FQHC or RNC can work from any location, including one's home, and can use any telehealth service approved as a distant site services under the Physician Fee Schedule.

FQHCs and RHCs will be reimbursed at a rate of $92 per service, instead of their PPS or AIR rates, retroactive to January 27, 2020. The claims will be processed in July when the Medicare claims processing system is updated with the new payment rate.

Reimbursement for virtual communication services – which are considered mHealth rather than telehealth services – now includes online digital evaluation and management services, which are not face-to-face or patient-initiated and are conducted through a secure portal.

Beneficiary consent is required for all services, including non-face-to-face services, and can be obtained at the same time the services are furnished by someone working under the general supervision of the FQHC or RHC.

The new rules open the door for expanded telehealth and mHealth coverage for healthcare providers who typically serve underserved populations and who are being hard hit by the virus. They not only allow those centers to improve care access for patients affected by COVID-19, but also enable them to improve services for those with health concerns not related to the pandemic.

As with most of the emergency measures, however, the new rules last only as long as the country is in a state of emergency.

6 Crucial Considerations for Integrating Telemedicine with your Healthcare Practice

Today, the majority of primary care physicians fret that telemedicine is way too time-consuming and complicated for them to execute in their already busy practices. However, physicians who have adopted this state-of-the-art technology advise there is absolutely no need to spend a fortune or reinvent the wheel entirely to start seeing positive results with telemedicine integration.

The healthcare industry is already at the tipping point. According to a September 2020 market intelligence study published by BIS Research, the global telemedicine market was estimated at $21.55 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $123 billion by the end of 2030. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.66% during the forecast period 2020-2030.

It only makes sense for healthcare practices—both big and small—to leverage the potential that telehealth solutions offer before the competition becomes too much.

In this piece, we will be looking at six important considerations healthcare providers should be aware of before integrating telemedicine with their practice to make the transition more seamless.

1) Licensing, Credentialing, and Basic Regulatory Obligations

It's important to remember that a telemedicine practice also has to comply with several regulatory barriers, such as those from regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), etc. 

That's why it's important to ensure you are aware of—and have met—all regulations for not only the state in which your practice is based out of, but in the state(s) where the patients you serve are going to be located. You'll also want to make sure that you have the staff, operational processes, and skills to monitor the changing regulatory landscape at fixed intervals. 

Here are a few other important questions to consider when starting out your telemedicine journey

  1. If your telemedicine practice is located in a different state than your patient, are you eligible to practice in the state where the patient resides? 
  2. Does the state allow a “foreign” employed physician to practice locally or will you be required to seek certain permissions first?  
  3. Furthermore, even if licensed and in compliance with regulatory constraints, is each physician that will be providing the teleservice appropriately credentialed by the hospital in which the patient is receiving care, or otherwise following regulatory obligations and privilege? 

2) HIPAA Privacy and Security

With more and more patient information being stockpiled and shared electronically, healthcare providers need to ensure data is maintained in ways compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and other privacy regulations. 

It requires supplemental measures which can add layers of security through workflows, resource requirements, and technical architecture investments. Providers need to make sure that compliance is maintained at each stage of data management—right from the moment it enters the organization to when it leaves it.

You can try looking for a partner with proven success in managing security in terms of where and how protected information is stored, updated, moved, and accessed, and how those handling this information are trained and monitored around the clock. 

3) Staff Training

In order for you to see optimal financial and clinical outcomes from your telemedicine program, you'll mostly have to make a few adjustments to your operational protocols. That's because with telemedicine, you're bringing in a lot more than a fresh piece of technology—you're bringing in an opportunity to modify how you deliver care. 

Your staff not only needs to understand what to do with the new equipment, but also how to integrate it into their daily workflows, and when to use it (and when not to). Nurse Practitioners, physician partners, and allied staff affected by the protocols will need to receive training particular to their role in the process. 

All staff will also need training on integrating telehealth into existing workflows—right from labs, imaging, registration and billing, to pharmacy, and follow-up—based on the requirements of your telemedicine program. 

One way to easily manage all of this is finding a telehealth platform like Mend that assists with or completely handles establishing protocols and staff training. 

4) Technology Requirements and Integration

A lot of evolving technologies are taking the world of telehealth by storm at present. This not only includes the commonly employed audio and video-conferencing solutions like telemedicine carts, but also the peripheral diagnostic devices used to assess patients remotely. 

What's often overlooked is both the ability of the technology to integrate into existing workflows, processes, and infrastructure; and for it to be able to scale for broader use. It should hold the potential to be easily used by all providers across the organization's departments and facilities. The same goes for whether or not it can be integrated with the institution's EMR or EHR, imaging infrastructure, and lab systems running atop the enterprise-wide security infrastructure with single sign-on. 

Simply put, whatever partner you choose should be capable of demonstrating and validating how the technology can integrate with protocols, workflows, and equipment you already have, or how things need to change to be clinically safe, and operationally and fiscally efficient. 

You need to constantly adapt and innovate in order to achieve telemedicine success.

5) Billing 

Billing is an aspect providers often fail to pay heed to when telemedicine programs are piloted. You'll need to figure out the process for ensuring precise billing for both facility fees and professional fees of your partners as well as staff, so you don't find yourself on the wrong side of a call from the concerned authorities. 

You will also need to figure out if your clinical service qualifies for pro-fees, what codes will be used for telemedicine billing, and whether your site will be able to benefit from facility fees. Another common challenge is understanding how to equitably compensate a team of physicians supporting a service when they themselves have pay disparity. 

Consider how you'll address disparate pay scales for providers participating in your telemedicine solution. If your specialists live and typically practice in a large metropolitan area, they will invariably be paid a higher rate than where a patient in a remote, rural area resides. However, reimbursement will likely be linked to the patient's location, not the provider's. 

6) Patient Onboarding

Lastly, it is important to remember that while telemedicine is a huge relief for patients, they can often also be hesitant when it comes to embracing it in their daily lives. A few of your patients might not historically be technologically savvy and might end up feeling that they can't use something like telemedicine because they won't always have the backup or help that they need.

Getting your patients onboard with telemedicine more often than not demands that you show them the benefits that come alongside its adoption, and not simply tell them that. By telling them it is going to be easy, they may still hesitate. By walking them through the experience to show that the actual connection takes far less time and effort, they will be confident to attempt doing it by themselves without supervision. 

The effort on the part of the organization can be as little as 5-10 minutes, but the outcomes can significantly create opportunities for transportation-less care for those who struggle to get to sessions, increase telemedicine utilization, and provide additional opportunities for follow up once other obstacles are removed.

Implementing telemedicine in your primary care practice is really more about the effort you put in than the time or money you invest. Once you know how to implement telemedicine technologies you can expect instant results that contribute toward ameliorating your practice’s bottom line when done right.

How Telehealth is Improving Behavioral Health Care Outcome in Our Children

Behavioral health providers have been utilizing telehealth for some time now, but one particular group has demonstrated an especially positive impact—our children.

There is some preliminary evidence that videoconferencing offers advantages for the youth and adolescents, including less self-consciousness, increased personal space, and decreased confidentiality concerns as the provider is outside of the local community. Telehealth may be especially suited for youth who are accustomed to the technology, especially adolescents who may respond to the personal space and feeling of control allowed by videoconferencing. 

Multiple studies have demonstrated the feasibility of implementing telemental health services with young people across diverse settings. Diagnostic assessments have been reliably conducted through videoconferencing for youth with various disorders evaluated in outpatient settings including disruptive behavior disorders, autism, and other developmental disorders, and psychotic disorders.

Currently, the point of delivery for telemental health services is as varied as the type of services that are being provided: primary care clinics, community mental health centers, physician offices, outpatient clinics. There are also other settings that are starting to utilize telehealth to support behavioral health issues such as schools, correctional facilities, residential treatment facilities, critical access hospitals, group homes, sites serving foster care, military bases, and daycares. 

How Telehealth Improves Mental Health in Community Settings

Clinics & Offices

There is a long history of moving mental health care for youth from the mental health clinic to the community to improve access to care, increase adherence to treatment planning, and to provide services in naturalistic settings. Consistent with this pattern, telemental health services are being moved outside of traditional mental healthcare settings. When telemental health services are implemented in community settings, they offer the opportunity to ascertain contextual factors involved in youths' behavior and mental health needs, as well as to involve stakeholders in youths' care and outcomes. In particular, telemental health offers a powerful opportunity for collaboration with pediatricians to help them address the increasing expectations to improve their skills in diagnosing and managing common mental health conditions of young people. Pediatric telepsychology has shown feasibility in overcoming some of these challenges when providing services during medical visits or at home.

School

School-based telemental health services engage youth during the school day thereby reducing distances youth must travel to a clinic, decreasing missed school days, disruption in the child's classroom time and parent's workday, allowing parents to be involved in a setting that is familiar and convenient, and incorporating school personnel into treatment planning. Telehealth allows the youth's provider to be efficiently involved in multidisciplinary planning, student evaluation, Individualized Education Plan meetings, and collaboration with teachers, school specialists (e.g., school psychologists, social workers, and allied health specialists), nurses, and administrators.

Examples of services that may be delivered by the provider to the school system include mental health evaluations, behavioral interventions, medication treatment, ongoing sessions with students and families, evaluation for support services, continuing education for staff, and consultation on both classroom specific and general school issues and consultation in the event or threat of an event that may adversely impact the school community (e.g, the untimely death of a student or teacher, natural disaster, etc). 

Another area of school-based telemental health is the delivery of educational support services, such as counseling, occupational therapy, or speech therapy, to youth who are home-bound or as a means to continue services when school is out of session. 

Treatment & Correctional Centers

Residential treatment centers and correctional settings often require prolonged separations of families from a youth who is confined in a facility far distant from family and provider. Telemental health allows families to participate in a youth's treatment while remaining in their home communities or telecommute a mental health specialist to the youth's facility. For example, the multipoint capabilities of telemental health can deliver multi-systemic therapy, which includes a network of caregivers, school officials, peers, and neighbors to promote positive behavioral changes. Delivering telemental health services to such facilities provides challenges to privacy and confidentiality. Home-based telemental health offers potential advantages to observe the youth in a naturalistic setting and to practice skills in the lived environment. 

Some facilities are delivering behavioral interventions for early-onset behavior disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). They use videoconferencing to observe the youth's behavior and then to guide parents in facilitating behavioral interventions. 

Why Health Systems Should Use Telehealth to Steer Patients Away from the ER

Hospitals and health systems across the country are rolling out telemedicine services for patients. The existing landscape of telehealth companies means there certainly is no shortage of plug-and-play options, but Mend's goal in implementing virtual care is to not only provide more access and options for high-quality care, but also to allow Health Systems to engage with their community of patients across a city, state, or region.

When thinking about engaging people who seek health services, it's not just about treating the patient. The best health systems must ensure their patients get to the right place for their point of care within the system – hospitals, health plexes and physician practices as well as their website and virtual presence.

Improving Patient Access and Care Coordination with Telehealth

Health systems are amazing at staffing their facilities with physicians and advanced practice providers who are already familiar with treating local patients. Telehealth platforms like Mend can use their care coordination capabilities to redirect patients seeking care to specialists within the health system or load balance providers virtually across multiple physical locations to meet demand, reduce wait times, and improve productivity.

When digital front door partners fully integrate with EHRs, the referral process becomes simplified and referral metrics and client outcomes are just a few clicks away. On-call and after-hour services can easily be scaled because healthcare providers that idle in one location can easily treat patients through virtual kiosks stationed at another facility within the health system.

Other digital front door use cases for health systems include:

  1. Patient satisfaction surveys
  2. Specialist and third-party consults in real-time
  3. Virtual lab result and screenings review
  4. Patient self-scheduling, rescheduling and cancellations
  5. Ability to extend a health system's brand into rural markets without a brick and mortar facility

What Health Systems Should Look for in a Telehealth & Digital Front Door Partner

Health systems seeking out a telehealth or digital front door partner should evaluate whether the vendors being considered has the proper back-end capabilities to easily function with existing internal systems. Partners should not only be able to perform the tasks your health system wants to function now, but also in the future. 

Other minimum capabilities health systems should look for include:

  1. White label functionality
  2. Secure patient communication
  3. Virtual clinical assessments and consults
  4. Digital intake and other patient forms
  5. Digital signature capabilities on multi-party forms
  6. Video appointments (one-on-one, group, kiosk, on-demand, and more)

How Telehealth is Improving Continuity of Care for Primary Care Patients

Maintaining continuity of care, and managing patients with chronic diseases, has always been a difficult proposition. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult. Fear of exposure to the virus has led to many patients with chronic and comorbid conditions avoiding care.

To avert care crises and to ensure better continuity of care for our patients who need it most, many primary care practices are adopting fully integrated telehealth platforms like Mend to offer complete, specialist-guided care to at-risk patients as safely as possible. 

Many practices have found implementing telehealth in primary care empowers physicians to address two major challenges: lapses in care for chronic patients—leading to acute crises—and the increased burden on our health system from sudden waves of high-acuity cases.

Improving Lapses in Care for Chronic Primary Care Patients with Telehealth

Regarding the first challenge, chronic care and comorbid patients are unable to maintain appointments as usual during the pandemic, yet they are still in need of care. These patients often require a care team, including specialist doctors, to engage with patients who are due for a visit or in need of routine care. Maintaining a regular care regimen and enabling these patients to continue interfacing with their care team is key to improving outcomes.

So, how does telehealth improve patient outcomes? Establishing a telehealth platform allowed primary care providers to proactively care for patients as they track those who fall outside of typical buffers and may be due for an appointment. Through telehealth, PCPs can engage with these patients to ensure they're keeping up with their care needs. 

Diminishing the Burden of Hospitals with Telehealth

Improving access to care in this way helps primary care physicians to avoid the downstream challenge of overburdened hospitals and emergency departments in particular. When patients avoid proactive and non-urgent (but necessary) care, there is an increased burden to both patients and the healthcare system in the long run. By being available for routine care, and by proactively following up with patients, telehealth improves outcomes and reduce the upcoming strain on the healthcare system caused by a wave of patients seeking care that was put off.

Mend specifically assists primary care providers in preventing a backlog of specialty referrals from occurring once these providers are again able to take non-urgent appointments.

Primary Care Providers and Patients are Adopting Telehealth Favorably

With any major shift in how we provide care to our patients, it's expected that there will be hiccups and speed bumps as both patients and providers adapt to the change. We have found the transition to focusing on telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic to be surprisingly smooth, with both patients and providers expressing satisfaction with our new telehealth capabilities.

In fact, most patients share resoundingly positive feedback when dealing with telehealth. Patients in need of routine specialty care have been delighted to find that their needs can be met without the need for an in-person appointment. Certainly, many patients will be glad to get back to something approaching normal. But overall, most patients have been blown away by the sheer volume of treatments and care maintenance that can be administered via telemedicine and telehealth.

Providers, meanwhile, are also enjoying providing care via telehealth. Teams as a whole feel empowered by the access to specialist input that is available when partnering with robust telehealth platforms for primary care such as Mend. Now, they can address both primary care needs and many specialty care needs that are absolutely crucial for our chronic and comorbid patients. Furthermore, telehealth quite simply enables primary care practices to remain in operation at a much higher capacity than would be possible otherwise. Many primary care offices have been forced to furlough employees, making it even more difficult for non-coronavirus patients to receive care, but adopting a telehealth platform has enabled many offices to retain our team members and continue to serve patients.

----

As the coronavirus pandemic set in, many patients began to forgo care, believing that lockdowns and social distancing requirements would be a temporary blip. However, as weeks have turned to months, patients are realizing that this crisis represents a new normal and that they will still need to seek care in the interim. Primary care practices that have implemented telehealth have found that they can provide ongoing care that would otherwise be impossible, improve outcomes for chronic patients, and continue to work at what they do best — serving their patients.

Integrated Telehealth Platforms are Making Patient Visits Effortless for Healthcare Providers

Like many of today's important innovations, telehealth is powered by the latest in information technology. Thanks to cutting edge telehealth platforms, healthcare professionals can make house calls without having to leave the office. Patients can call in emergencies with the benefit of being able to give full explanations of their symptoms using the added information-rich medium of high definition video.

But integrated telehealth platforms are far more than the real-life version of the video phones he saw in 1980s science fiction and never believed would exist until a few years ago. They also provide a host of features and offer a range of advanced capabilities that make it easier for medical business proprietors and practitioners to run their businesses in ways that could scarcely be imagined just 15 years ago.

Here are some of the many ways today's most advanced telehealth platforms are making life and business easier and more productive for healthcare providers.

1. Improvements in New Business Models

With improved access and higher communications bandwidth come opportunities to create new business models and to further refine them. “Specialists are finding they can launch a telehealth platform,” according to mHealthIntelligence, “offering services online much like a banker, real estate agent, or other business professional.”

Integrated telehealth platforms have made it possible for specialists to bring their services one step closer to the patient, opened up opportunities for extended hours, and provide more attractive options to patients.

2. Improved Patient Engagement

With the growing role of consumer consumption via the Internet, people expect higher and higher levels of choice and opportunities for input. Telehealth platforms facilitate this beautifully and give enterprising practitioners more opportunity to serve these higher expectations.

 Furthermore, with easy access to the advice of professional clinicians, patients who would normally shirk a visit to the doctor are more likely to seek professional medical advice. 

3. Expanded Access to Care

Research has shown that with the normalization of telehealth portals, significant barriers to medical care have fallen away. This can be seen by comparing the average time for a traditional doctor's visit (121 minutes) to that of a telehealth visit (16 minutes). The more people learn about how much time they can save, the more reluctance to see their doctor will disappear.

4. Improved Clinical Workflows and Productivity

The primary way telehealth platforms are improving just about every aspect of medical business can be attributed to what we might call clinical bandwidth. Anything that can be done by talking and via high definition video can be done without travel, without waiting, and without the major traditional bottleneck to all healthcare — the limited number of available rooms in which to see patients.

With all these “choke points” effectively evaporated, telehealth platforms make all kinds of medical practices able to see more people more quickly, to process more patient information, and at the end of the day- deliver better patient outcomes.

5. Lower Overhead

With less demand on brick and mortar assets, medical entrepreneurs are able to get new practices up and running faster with less need for investment in square footage.

It means less expense for the patient as well. The average emergency room visit costs roughly $1,500, and the average doctor's visit costs $150. Of course, we can't do away with these completely. But with the lower cost of a telehealth visit ($80 avg.), more transactions take place at a lower cost for everyone involved.

6. Better Quality Healthcare

In the traditional model, minor consultations are almost as expensive and time-consuming as more in-depth interventions. Telehealth platforms make it possible for low-level consultations to take place at very little expense and in very short amounts of time. What's more, patient no-shows have dropped precipitously as a result of this technology. 

It can be expected that as these portals become more and more accessible to patients, we will eventually see patient no-shows become virtually a thing of the past. That means more work for doctors, fewer bills slipping through the fingers of accounts payable, and greater value for the healthcare consumer.

7. Improved Patient Satisfaction

With all of the improvements we've talked about so far, there is one boon to your business that telehealth platforms deliver in spades, and that is patient satisfaction. When it comes to serving patients and earning their loyalty, convenience matters, as does lower costs. But nothing boosts patient loyalty like improved healthcare outcomes- and that's what telehealth platforms deliver most.

The growth trend has been measured quite thoroughly since 2013, and it looks like this:

Growth of Patient Returns & Satisfaction (in millions)

Clearly, the dramatic rise in patient retention satisfaction we see this year through telehealth platforms is about COVID-19 containment. But the elevated exposure of patients and clinicians to telehealth platforms is all but certain to result in more patients understanding the benefits of this technology and seeing it as part of a major value proposition from any healthcare provider who offers this kind of access. 

At the end of the day, the benefits for both doctors and patients are demonstrated, and growth projections from here are simply staggering.

What You Need to Know About the New CMS 2021 Telehealth Services Plans

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finally came out with its plans to expand telehealth coverage once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The 2021 Physician Fee Schedule, which was released earlier this month, highlighted several new opportunities for remote patient monitoring and added nine billing codes for connected health services. However, 74 codes are slated to end when the public health emergency is over. While some vocal detractors have said the changes don't go far enough, many proponents say the proposed changes would offer providers a coherent and permanent path forward from the emergency measures initiated in March to deal with COVID-19.

These plans came, incidentally or intentionally, on the same day that President Trump issued an executive order focused on “Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access,” which included a number of important telehealth policy proposals, including an expansion of the list of telehealth services that will remain permanent beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency. It also proposed Category I and Category III codes, some of which will remain on the list through the calendar year in which the public health emergency (PHE) ends.

“Compared to last year, where CMS made only minor additions to telehealth services, the changes proposed for 2021 are bold and designed to more deliberately expand the use of telehealth technologies among Medicare beneficiaries,” Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner with Foley & Lardner and chair of its Telemedicine & Digital Health Team, said in a blog co-authored by Thomas Ferrante, senior counsel, and Emily Wein, an attorney with the firm.

Telehealth Services Expected to Become Permanent

CMS proposed adding nine codes to the list of telehealth services covered under Medicare, to remain covered even after the PHE ends. Subject to CMS' final rule, these services are expected to be added, on a permanent basis, effective January 1, 2021.

Service Type HCPCS/CPT Codes 
Group Psychotherapy 90853
Domiciliary, Rest Home, or Custodial Care services, Established patients99334-99335 
Home Visits, Established Patient 99347- 99348 
Cognitive Assessment and Care Planning Services 99483 
Visit Complexity Inherent to Certain Office/Outpatient E/Ms GPC1X 
Prolonged Services99XXX 
Psychological and Neuropsychological Testing 96121 

Telehealth Services Expected for Removal When the PHE Expires

CMS proposed removing seventy-four (74) codes when the PHE expires. This, CMS says, is due to its conclusion that there would be no likelihood of clinical benefit after the PHE ends. Stakeholders can submit comments and clinical data in support of making one or more of these codes permanent.

Service Type HCPCS/CPT Codes 
Initial nursing facility visits, all levels (Low, Moderate, and High Complexity) 99304-99306 
Psychological and Neuropsychological Testing 96136-96139 
Therapy Services, Physical and Occupational Therapy, all levels 97161-97168, 97110, 97112, 97116, 97535, 97750, 97755, 97760, 97761, 92521- 92524, 92507 
Initial hospital care and hospital discharge day management 99221-99223, 99238- 99239 
Inpatient Neonatal and Pediatric Critical Care, Initial and Subsequent 99468- 99472, 99475- 99476 
Initial and Continuing Neonatal Intensive Care Services 99477-99480 
Critical Care Services 99291-99292 
End-Stage Renal Disease Monthly Capitation Payment codes 90952-90953, 90956, 90959, 90962 
Radiation Treatment Management Services 77427 
Emergency Department Visits, Levels 4-5 99284-99285 
Domiciliary, Rest Home, or Custodial Care services, New 99324-99328 
Home Visits, New Patient, all levels 99341- 99345 
Initial and Subsequent Observation and Observation Discharge Day Management 99217-99220, 99224- 99226, 99234-99236 

New Telehealth Services During PHE (Category 3 Codes)

CMS created a new category of codes designed for adding new Medicare-covered telehealth services, but on a temporary basis. Codes added this way would remain covered through the end of the year in which the PHE expires. For example, if the PHE expires in March 2021, these codes will remain Medicare-covered telehealth services until December 31, 2021. 

For a Category 3 service to become permanent, stakeholders will need to submit to CMS: 

  1. A description of relevant clinical studies that demonstrate the service, when furnished via telehealth, improves the diagnosis or treatment of an illness or injury, or improves the functioning of a malformed body part (including dates and findings of those studies)
  2. A list and copies of published peer-reviewed articles relevant to the service when furnished via telehealth. 

CMS proposed adding the thirteen (13) codes below to the Category 3 list:

Service Type HCPCS/CPT Codes 
Domiciliary, Rest Home, or Custodial Care services, Established patients 99336-99337 
Home Visits, Established Patient 99349-99350 
Emergency Department Visits, Levels 1-3 99281-99283 
Nursing facilities discharge day management 99315-99316 
Psychological and Neuropsychological Testing 96130- 96133 

How to submit comments to CMS

Providers, technology companies, entrepreneurs, and advocates interested in telemedicine and digital health should consider submitting comments to the proposed rule anonymously or otherwise via electronic submission at this link. Alternatively, commenters may submit comments by mail to:

FCC Runs Out of COVID-19 Telehealth Program Funding. What Now?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on July 8 that it had approved what was left of its $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

With last week's 25 funding applications, the FCC's COVID-19 Telehealth Program total of approved applications increased to 539 applications, including recipients in 47 states plus Washington, D.C. and Guam. The $200 million in funding was provided by Congress as part of the CARES Act in an effort to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This final tranche of approved funding applications includes recipients in both urban and rural

areas of the country, and from coast to coast,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a press release. “We have already seen the program's positive impact on expanding access to telehealth services and promoting the well-being of patients and healthcare providers across the country. And I look forward to seeing how those who are awarded funding today will help patients from New York to Guam, and Alabama to North Dakota.”

Despite some controversy pertaining to the program's selection process for the type of telehealth providers as well as the funding amount provided by the program, including by the American Telemedicine Association, which petitioned Congressional leaders in April to add $300 million to the program, Pai has defended the FCC's management of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. 

“The agency's decision-making has been meaningfully informed by collaboration and

Consultation,” Pai wrote in a letter to Senate lawmakers last month. “In particular, Commission staff consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and based on those discussions, Commission staff has identified ‘hardest-hit areas' using data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.” 

“The steps we have taken thus far have been very well received, not least by the recipient

health care institutions and the communities they serve,” Pai said. “But we also want to assess after the Program's conclusion how COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding was spent and lessons that could improve the Commission's upcoming Connected Care Pilot Program. Participants are expected to report to the Commission on the effectiveness of this funding on health outcomes, patient treatment, health care facility administration, and any other relevant factors.” 

Structured as a reimbursement program, the COVID-19 Telehealth Program required healthcare providers to submit an invoicing form and supporting documentation to receive reimbursement for eligible telehealth and mHealth expenses and services.

Will the FCC Expand the COVID-19 Telehealth Program?

If Pai's recent communication is any indication, it appears as if this is truly the end of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The FCC now is focusing on other efforts to improve healthcare provider's access to telehealth and mHealth, particularly when it comes to creating funding and guidelines for broadband access. 

The Connected Care Pilot Program, which was first unveiled in 2019 but had final rules presented by the FCC in March, is a $100 million, 3-year program created to defray health care providers' costs of providing connected care services, with a particular emphasis on supporting eligible low-income Americans and veterans.  

The Pilot Program would provide funding to selected pilot connected health projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to the intended patient population.

Other FCC efforts to support telehealth include the Rural Health Care Program, which recently received a boost in funding, and the Connect2Health Task Force.

Why Telemedicine is the Perfect Solution for ACOs

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to put stress on healthcare providers wanting to safely connect with their patients when in-person visits aren't required. One particular group of healthcare providers that have suffered are ACOs. Fortunately, telemedicine platforms such as Mend are bringing much-needed assistance.

What is an ACO (Affordable Care Organization)?

ACOs, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to give coordinated high-quality care to their Medicare patients. This coordinated care ensures that Medicare patients get the right care at the right time while preventing medical errors and avoiding unnecessary duplication.

How Are ACOs Helped by Telehealth?

Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to connect with patients virtually from anywhere. ACOs can use telehealth for virtual visits that are faster, cost less to conduct and, when managed on a secure, HIPAA-compliant telemedicine platform like Mend, deliver high-quality care. This, in turn, can help ACOs and Medicare programs save on expenses.

ACOs Solutions: Why is Mend the Premier Telehealth Platform

Mend started five years ago with a clear vision: to provide the best engagement and communication tools that connect a patient with their physician or healthcare provider. Mend developed this platform from the ground up to be reliable, simple and powerful. Over the past 3 weeks, Mend has responded to COVID-19 by helping thousands of new providers launch a full-featured telemedicine program. Want to try Mend's best features for free? Launch a successful telehealth program in minutes with MendFree. Hold HD video visits you can rely on with instant tech support. Joining with video is also secure and easy for patients with a single-click connection, no complex logins needed. Send messages, share files, and take notes all from one HIPAA-compliant platform. Take the manual work out of managing schedules with automatic text and email appointment reminders for patients. Engage patients to take an active role in their health from anywhere with Mend.

Why Telehealth is the ‘Medicine’ Healthcare Providers Need in the Wake of the Coronavirus

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared Coronavirus Disease (officially COVID-19) a pandemic. We've seen areas of China and Italy basically shut down, school districts close, and some of the largest conferences across the United States canceled. There's also talk of the first cancellation of the Olympics since World War II. In the United States alone, there are nearly 900 million physician office visits per year, not including emergency department visits, hospital utilization, and other healthcare treatment like mental health and substance abuse. What happens if the virus starts to affect your practice? HIPAA compliant telemedicine or telehealth allows healthcare providers to see patients by using a secure video connection or a secure messaging portal. The Center for Disease Control has urged healthcare organizations across the United States to step up their telehealth presence in preparation for the Coronavirus Disease. A bill signed into law on March 6 by President Trump included coverage for telehealth and lifting the geographic restrictions for Medicare.

Why Your Practice Should Use Telemedicine

No matter what demographic of patients you see, there are several reasons for a practice to add telemedicine.
  1. The safety of you, your medical providers and staff.
  2. The safety of your patients.
  3. Reduction in quality of care.
  4. Loss of revenue.
  5. A new, more convenient method of care for patients.
Every time someone walks into your office with COVID-19, they're potentially exposing your team and other patients. According to the CDC, Coronavirus spreads by respiratory droplets released by coughing or sneezing. As the virus spreads, patients may be unable or unwilling to come to a healthcare facility for treatment. Missing treatment equals missed appointments. Missed appointments equal lower quality of care and less revenue. Fortunately, implementing telehealth can be a permanent part of your practice and aid in reducing no-show rates.

What to Consider Once You Decide to Implement Telemedicine?

Upon starting telemedicine, determine what types of services you'll be providing. In addition to the law mentioned at the top of the article, the Center for Connected Health Policy shares the policy breakdown state by state. Telemedicine is still new to many providers and patients. Due to the coronavirus, this could be the first time many patients try telemedicine. Mend is an easy-to-use web-based telemedicine platform. Mend can be easily accessed from the web on a laptop, desktop, or mobile device. Telemedicine platforms like Mend can operate as a standalone solution or integrated with your EHR/PM. Mend can have your organization up and running in 72 hours to help combat the virus. Down the road, Mend can be integrated into your EHR and Practice Management solution to be a long term part of your practice. Once your practice has selected the services to provide and a platform, informing patients with a landing page like this one will help set expectations of the new service. Telemedicine will allow your staff, providers, and patients to communicate from the convenience of their own home. Mend's telemedicine platform is used by organizations across the country to facilitate virtual visits. Our team consists of healthcare technology experts, former practice managers, and more. We're fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and patients just like you. Let us know how we can help by requesting a personalized telemedicine demo or subscribe to our brand new self-service telemedicine solution called Mend Now today and be ready immediately.

Getting Your Patients On Board with Telemedicine: Demoing to Patients

While telemedicine is a huge convenience for patients, there can be hesitance from those who are not familiar with the technology or who are being asked to change their routine. There are some who are not historically technologically savvy who might feel that they are precluded from using something like telemedicine because they won't have the help or backup that they need. By using a platform that provides support while showing the patient the ease of use of the solution, organizations can get even reticent patients on board for using the technology.

It's Important That Patients Be Excited

The convenience is obvious. Staying at home to see a provider for a follow-up or low-acuity visit is a simple solution that opens up access to care for many patients. The care is HIPAA-compliant and easy to access. That said, the initial reaction from older patients or those who do not have the exposure to technology may be hesitance. Getting patients excited about the opportunity is the first way to get them to transition some of their care to virtual options. Mend works with a large behavioral health organization that does between 4,000-6,000 telehealth visits per month. They have a heavy Medicaid and indigent population, and many patients were concerned that they would not have the tools or the means to access the service. The organization was able to overcome this barrier by working directly with patients and providing staff-led demos of the solution. By working hands-on with the patients one time, they were able to alter perceptions about the potential change in the quality of care or difficulty accessing the solution, and the majority of those individuals became believers after a 5-minute walkthrough.

How Does Demoing for Patients Make a Difference

Patients often need to be shown, not told. By telling them telemedicine is easy, they may still have hesitations. By walking them through it to show that the actual connection took less than a minute and required them so simply click a link, they will be confident to attempt without supervision. The effort on the part of the organization can be as little as 5 minutes, but the outcomes can increase telemedicine utilization, create opportunities for transportation-less care for those who struggle to get to sessions and provide additional opportunities for follow up once other barriers are removed.

Creating Confidence In The Tools

Most patients are excited about the benefits of telemedicine, but you can even make champions of those who are hesitant with a brief explainer. If you work with a platform that offers round-the-clock support and share with your patients that they can work directly with the technology company for any questions or concerns, the barriers to treatment will reduce significantly. Your platform should not only offer excellent technology that is easy for patients to use, but they should also deliver assistance when necessary as part of the agreement. Technology without support can be overwhelming for patients and providers, the technical support burden should not fall on the organization. Access to immediate assistance that can triage and diagnosed a technical issue introduces new confidence in the technology.

Work With The Right Partner

By utilizing a combination of brief patient walkthroughs with hesitant individuals as well as support from the telehealth company, patients will feel confident in their ability to use the technology. The power of showing rather than telling makes it possible to move some of the care burden from exam rooms to telehealth, and it gives the organization new flexibility in care delivery.  

5 Ways to Stay HIPAA Compliant with Telemedicine

Making sure that the solution is secure is one of the biggest, and most-warranted, considerations when selecting a telehealth solution. Patient privacy is of utmost importance and organizations can't risk a breach that would put their patient's data at risk or result in large fines. Keeping telehealth HIPAA compliant isn't difficult when you partner with the right platform that will not only provide the tools but also help educate your patients on how to protect their own information. Here are 5 things you can do to stay HIPAA compliant while still providing an ideal telemedicine experience.

 

1. Pick the Right Location

HIPAA compliance goes beyond the actual technology and also affects the provider's surroundings during the visit. Providers must select a secure and quiet location where the only people who can see or hear the visit are people who are directly related to care. This means that offices in homes must be private and that sessions done from unfamiliar locations must also be secure. Often, telehealth visits are provided on the fly due to urgent complaints or last-minute needs from patients. Even in those situations, the provider must find a location where the patient cannot be overheard by those not involved in their care.

2. Secure the Patient Environment

It is highly recommended that the patient is in a private location where there are no uninvited individuals who can overhear. The burden of ensuring that patients are in a secure location actually falls on the patient, and not the provider. The patient is responsible to secure their own safe space for distance treatment under HIPAA. That said, many providers take the extra step, and they will have patients shows them the room that they're in, identify anyone who shares the space with them, provide an address for where they are currently located to match it with the address on file, and even discontinue the session if they're not comfortable with the security. These procedures vary considerably by the provider, and there are no clear-cut rules in HIPAA regulations that advise how to address these concerns. Limiting visits based on privacy concerns is an internal protocol for each practice.

3. Give Proper Instruction (At A Distance)

By working with a platform that notifies and shares best practices with patients, patients can be educated before beginning the session and reduce the burden on the provider to verify the patient's location. Notifications that are sent out in advance of the appointment should encourage pre-visit routines like preparing necessary information, testing connection speed and securing the environment. Users should have an understanding of what is considered acceptable for the visit, and the notifications should be customizable to include any pertinent information for this specific connection attempt. The instructions for a behavioral health visit may be different than a well visit, and the customization of the notifications that go out gives providers an opportunity to ensure that their patients have this information without delay.

4. Utilize Proper Security Protocols

Most of the work to ensure HIPAA compliance should be done by the platform that you're using. The connection should be encrypted and the platform secure. Beyond that, providers have a responsibility to ensure that their own location is secure, and many choose to develop patient security protocols as well. The burden of ensuring HIPAA compliance is not as complicated as it can seem. As long as no one aside from the healthcare provider and the treatment team has access to the patient's information, you have done most of the work.

5. Don't Sacrifice on Video Connection

The platform itself must encrypt the transmission of the video feed, but it can't sacrifice connection strength to do it. By working with a platform that can provide a consistent connection with low bandwidth requirements, it is possible to get a HIPAA compliant platform that is easy to use even on mobile data.

The Importance of Demoing Your Telehealth Platform

The internet is filled with options that you can use to connect face-to-face with patients who may be physically located elsewhere. A Google Search will yield hundreds of different options that purport to be the easiest on the market. You may realize quickly once you actually see it that the end result has problems that cannot be reconciled easily as a tool for your practice. Be diligent in selecting a solution, and make sure to view it at length with a representative for the organization. Demoing the product shows you where the pitfalls are, and it will give you a sense of usability for yourself, your staff and your patients.

What To Look For

What do patients and staff have to do to log in to the session? That's the most important consideration. Each has to be able to get in within a matter of seconds and without significant hassle. Does the platform require you to download software? Is the software compatible with all systems? Will your patients run into potential issues on their computers with a new piece of software that they either don't have room for or require plugins that they don't already have? By looking at the system, you will not only be able to tell if it's easy to use for you, but also if it's easy to use for your patient population. The time to accessing the session for them must be just a few seconds. The instructions must be clear, and patients need to be confident in their ability to use the solution more than one time.

What Other Tools Are Included

Telemedicine is much more than a face-to-face connection. The tools that come with the video need to be as simple to use and accessible as the actual visit. Telemedicine needs a scheduler, reminders, and virtual rooms. The solution needs to be secure so that patients are confident that their information will be saved within the transmission. While there are many teleconferencing solutions that purport that they are HIPAA compliant and able to substitute for a full telemedicine platform, the realities of those tools are often limited for the scope of what a practice actually needs. Telemedicine visits are office visits, so in many cases, they need to be scheduled. Even patients who schedule a same-day appointment are at risk to forget it without notifications and instructions. Additionally, easily following up with a patient within the same platform that you connected with them is important. By viewing the platform, you will be able to glean whether all of this is possible.

What Do The Notifications Look Like

A demo of the system will show you what control you have over the notifications that go to your patients, and if they represent your branding. It will also show you if those notifications are simple for patients to understand and if they give them the tools they need to successfully connect. A single notification doesn't impact outcomes much, but well-timed notifications that deliver reminders as well as instructions have a big impact on no-shows and follow through.

See It Before You Buy It

Reviewing a telemedicine system before signing on is an important part of the process. Virtual demos make it possible to see the ins and outs of a tool and how it functions as a practice, not just a video connection. Demoing should be an integral part of the sales process, and you should feel confident that the system is simple enough while still giving you the robust tools that you need.  

How to Improve the Patient Intake Process

Walk into the waiting room of nearly any doctor's office and you'll see patients covered in clipboard, forms and identification cards while staff reorganizes treatment rooms and waits for patients who are still working on the intake packet. When those forms aren't completed in advance, they put the schedule behind. Meanwhile, missing documentation can lead to denied claims, delayed preauthorizations and frustrating impediments to treatment.

Modernizing Patient Intake

Modernizing your intake can lead to big outcomes in schedule adherence and reduction in time from contact to evaluation. You can easily streamline the process of gathering patient information, updating existing demographics, and confirming that all elements are filled out completely and correctly. Paper forms are expensive to produce, and getting them from patients in advance of appointments can be near impossible. Return on mailed forms is often between 2 and 5 percent, and the cost far exceeds the benefit. Further, those forms require manual entry, scanning into the EMR for tracking, and eventual disposal. In the meantime, they create a significant paperwork burden in supposedly paperless offices. EMRs were designed to drive us paperless, but instead many offices experience a massive storage problem for forms that were still completed on paper but don't have a paper chart to live in. Paper has traditionally been the gold standard for information collection. While electronic charting has become the norm, many practices struggle to find a HIPAA compliant solution that takes the paper out of the process while being easily accessible for patients.

Electronic Intake Process

By adopting an electronic intake process, practices can move the focus from the waiting room to the living room. Patients can complete their paperwork from their personal devices before they even step into the office. Push the forms to patients days or weeks and advance, and let the system provide intelligent reminders that ensure that the paperwork is completed on time prior to the visit. On the rare chance that patients don't complete the requested documents in advance of the session, a kiosk device in the office allows patients to submit documentation from the waiting room with the added ease of electronic delivery. Once the forms are assigned, patients receive a text message and an email that the practice is requesting information from them. They simply click the link on any device, and they are connected to their personalized, requested paperwork that is custom-built for the office. Forms allow data input, file upload, assessment scoring and more. The practice can receive every document and identification that they need for review in advance of the appointment, not while the patient is already waiting.

Improved Workflow

Reducing administrative wait times allows providers to see more patients each day, and it allows practices to reallocate staff from the task of managing paperwork to more important, clinically valuable purposes. While intake is one of the most important needs for a modern practice, forms aren't limited to the first visit. Practices can request demographic updates at regular intervals to avoid billing delays for existing patients. Clinical assessments can be provided on a rolling basis to assess for improvement or decline. Patient satisfaction surveys allow clinics to assess how they're doing and find areas for improvement without the significant burden of a third-party survey organization. Mend can help you streamline your intake process and get your customized patient intake forms built and ready for electronic delivery. With a simple implementation and a team of dedicated clinical experts, Mend makes intake simple.

Telehealth Trends in 2019

As telehealth grows to new specialties and organizations across the world, the technology continues to evolve to provide more convenience and enhanced treatment tools. The global push to increase access to care is going to bring telehealth to patients in nearly every corner, and new integrated tools and simpler to use interfaces have emerged. The changes represent a general excitement and interest in innovative treatment for telemedicine trends in 2019, and they offer significant changes to the telehealth landscape.

Better Understanding

The biggest change in the telehealth landscape in 2019 is the general understanding of what is telehealth. In the past, telehealth has been met with resistance due to a lack of understanding of the availability and ease of use of the technology. As insurers, health systems and providers are introduced to the concept and evidence-based practices, comfortability with the tools is more commonplace. Individuals are more comfortable with the technology, and providers have learned about scenarios and opportunities telehealth is impactful with their patients. As reimbursements grow and become more common, telehealth excitement and proliferation grows.

Patient Excitement

Patients are excited to see physicians from home or work without having to travel. They are happy to wait at home rather than a crowded waiting room, and they are eager to reduce the hassle of receiving medical treatment. For non-emergency treatment, patients are educated on how to connect via their mobile device or computer, and ease of access is becoming more of a standard than an ancillary service.

Health Connected-Patients

Devices that allow patients to track their health can be bought at nearly every electronics store. This means that patients are more in-tune with their health, and that can translate into better outcomes for telehealth. The most recent incarnations of smart devices employ a version of heart rate trackers and blood pressure monitors that allow patients to electronically track their activity. Blood glucose meters now sync with smartphones, and pulse oximeters come with bluetooth chips. This information can be easily transmitted to providers via secure messages, which makes the distance evaluation more effective. While these tools are not often directly integrated into the telehealth software, the availability of tracked data enhances the treatment experience for patients and empowers providers to make treatment decisions based on a body of data, rather than just a single moment in time.

No Software

The easier the platform, the better. In 2019, expect the best platforms to operate without any software to download. Patients should be able to log in with just a few clicks. Patients can become as autonomous as the practice wants, with the most flexible platforms offering patients scheduling, rescheduling and cancellation. Platforms will move the burden of patient management from humans to servers as the innovations in scheduling and on-boarding from other industries makes it way to healthcare.

Growing Platforms

Telehealth can no longer be just a video connection. Telehealth platforms require robust schedulers, group scheduling tools, customized forms, messaging features, image transmission and more. The platform should offer integrations with EMRs to reduce double entry, and they should provide the full in-person experience to patients who are located at a distance. The best telehealth solutions make all of this available so that, regardless of the patient location, the provider has the full breadth of information that they need, and the patient receives the same robust treatment.

Telehealth is about the patient

The change in telehealth in 2019 focuses on the patient. While the convenience of telehealth solutions has been and still is the biggest advantage to the patient, convenience is not enough. It also has to be complete and patient-friendly. Patients should have access to their providers with just a few clicks, and providers should be able to offer the full in-person experience in a virtual platform. With tools like Mend, all of this can be achieved with a few taps on a mobile phone screen.

How Telemedicine Benefits Your Medical Practice

The convenience of telemedicine is well established for patients, but many providers and organizations wonder what the benefit is to their operation. While patients would love the opportunity to be seen at home, over-filled clinics may not conceptualize the immediate benefit if they're already seeing patients throughout the day and rushing from room to room. Telemedicine provides an alternative for additional billable opportunities while also increasing efficiency within the practices. By working with the right platform and establishing protocols for delivering care, organizations across the country are increasing access and revenue while reducing administrative overhead.

Increasing Efficiency

Telemedicine appointments for low acuity concerns are able to deliver the same quality of care in a shorter period of time. Patients wait for less time in the office, and providers are able to diagnose and evaluate complaints more quickly. By triaging patients who do not require a hands-on evaluation and utilizing a telemedicine appointment instead of in-person exam room, patients can receive the care they need without the travel to the office or wait time. Providers can see more patients and complete visits more efficiently while still providing high quality care.

Be In Multiple Places At Once

Providers with multiple offices are able to treat patients in varying locations without traveling to different sites. By working with a kiosk telemedicine solution, providers can treat patients at another location seamlessly. With the right platform, each facility can utilize existing technology to connect patients and providers, and providers can treat patients with just a few clicks. Patients have better access to care and facilities increase treatment hours considerably.

Turn Free Work Into Billable Hours

Many physicians spend hours outside of the office on the phone with patients. Whether they're addressing emergencies or answering questions that seem like emergencies, those interactions are rarely billable— even though they take the physician's time. The codes for billing phone calls limit the billable time based on when the provider last interacted with the patient in person. Even if the timing requirement is met, the copay for the visit is often higher than reasonable and customary, so providers receive nothing for their time. By transitioning those telephone calls into telemedicine visits, the providers are creating opportunities for actual, billable, face-to-face encounters. Telemedicine visits are billed using the same codes as in-person visits, so there are no timing requirements like phone calls often have. Providers can introduce the ability to work with patients at a distance, get paid for that on-call time, and still offer valuable medical direction to their patients.

Patient Satisfaction

Satisfaction scores for telemedicine visits often rank higher than in-person treatment. Patients appreciate the convenience first and foremost, and they rank the quality of care of telemedicine on par with in-person treatment for low acuity complaints. As we look more and more to patient satisfaction as a metric that determines reimbursement rates, telemedicine can be an important way to bolster those responses.

The Future Is More Efficient

Groups of all sizes and specialties are introducing telemedicine as a way to create opportunities to improve care. Patients with low acuity or urgent-but-not-emergent complaints can be seen quickly and easily without transportation or significant wait times. Patient satisfaction with telehealth is high, and it can lead to opportunities to bolster revenue, reduce no-shows and introduce more efficiency throughout your organization.  

What Features Your Patient Scheduling System Must Have

The primary goal of a scheduling system is to give patients access to the full schedule so they can compare your availability to theirs and make the best decision for what their days allow without having to speak to a human. Healthcare is one of the last industries that require patients to call for appointments, and it's not an efficient use of staff time. Self-scheduling is an emerging tool in the healthcare software market. So, which scheduling system best accommodates the patient? The best tools make scheduling easy, remove the administrative burden from staff, and still give the practice the necessary control over their schedule to ensure that the schedule is always accessible and accurate.

Appointment Approvals

One of the biggest hesitations to implementing a patient scheduling system into practice is the access that patients will have to the schedule. Practices and providers worry that patients will have unlimited access to schedule when providers aren't available or when the office is closed. Your scheduling solution should allow practices who require it to have approval over any patient-initiated scheduling, so that the appointment doesn't go onto the schedule until it is confirmed by a staff member. This ensures that staff still has full control over the schedule while reducing the time to schedule appointments from minutes to seconds.

Flexible Provider Schedules

Provider schedules change, and your scheduling solution should make accommodating that simple. Your patient scheduling system should have features that allow each provider to have a different schedule, and make changes to that schedule as simple as tapping a few buttons. This will ensure that, with or without appointment approvals, your day are always correct and that patients only have access to times when the provider is confirmed to be available.

Patient Triage

Keeping healthcare safe has to be the primary goal of every technological solution that is introduced into the field. When new or existing patients are scheduling their own appointments, the practice still has a responsibility to ensure those patients are scheduled correctly. Your patient scheduling tool should have a triage tool that directs patients to the correct appointments and providers. Triage ensures that patients are scheduled for the appointments that their symptoms or situation is most appropriate for without requiring a person to walk them through the questions. Triage can be used to ensure that patients are safe to wait for an appointment, that they don’t need to be seen urgently at another location, or that they are scheduling with the correct location. Your triage solution should be robust and customizable to the needs of the organization.

Multiple Locations

A flexible patient scheduling tool should have the ability to manage multiple locations and multiple providers in each location. By integrating with the patient triage, patients should easily be able to select their provider, location and verify that they are scheduling in the correct location. The tool should require just a few taps from the patient but still direct them to the correct location for treatment and scheduling.

Full Integration

The scheduling tool isn't complete if it requires double entry into the EMR or practice management system. If staff have to move scheduled appointments to another system, there isn't a time savings over manually scheduling them via phone. Integrations are not one-size-fits-all solutions, however. The scheduling partner should have access to an arsenal of integration tools so that all organizations, from health systems to single provider practices, can find a tool that works for them. Not all scheduling integrations require a full, five-figure, HL-7 interface.

Save Time While Ensuring Accuracy

With the right scheduling partner, practices and organizations can ensure that their schedule is correct, that patients have 24/7 access, and that providers are comfortable with the level of access provided to patients. Self-scheduling doesn't mean handing over full control to patients, but it does mean moving the burden of managing the schedule from an overworked team who manage thousands of patients to a server with unlimited capacity. Staff can then be reallocated to more important tasks that better support the organization.

Patient Appointment Reminders Can Increase Practice Revenue

Some practices experience no-show rates as high as 50 percent. The impact on daily revenue is considerable, but allocating human staff to rectifying the problem can often cancel out the lost revenue. Organizations across the country are looking for tools to reduce this ongoing issue in nearly every patient population. By working with integrated platforms that can provide innovative solutions for appointment reminders and patient communication, organizations can reduce their no-show rates significantly without dedicating additional staff to the effort. With the right tools, human capital is not necessary. Work with an integrated solution that pulls data from the scheduling system and can drop in changes and reschedules when necessary. By utilizing interfaces with an EMR or practice management system, changes made in the primary system will be automatically reflected in the appointment reminder tool, and changes made by patients or staff in the scheduled appointments can be pushed back seamlessly as well. Technology partners with existing integrations make it possible to implement solutions like this so that all of the data movement is done silently in the background while staff are not required to significantly change their workflow.

Do More Than Remind

Reminders that go out to patients are the first step in ensuring patients are in the loop about their scheduled medical appointments, but a single reminder is rarely enough, and more than one method of contact should be required. People receive information through a number of different channels, and capitalizing on at least two of them reduces the chance of an avoidable no-show. Reminders can go out via text message, email, and phone. For patients that don't have mobile phones or who have not provided that contact information, phone calls should be a requirement. The technology partner should be able to identify the type of number to ensure that the appropriate phone-based communication goes out without requiring a human to verify the information. By utilizing the phone number that is already present in the patient's demographics, staff can be certain that patients will receive a reminder while the intelligent system does the remainder of the administrative work.

Multiple Notifications

It can be easy to forget about something you have to do next week, so your solution should send out multiple reminders to catch patients when they are most likely to remember. Patients should receive initial confirmations and then follow up reminders at set intervals throughout the process. Three touches are more likely to ensure that the patient arrives for the visit, and the multiple platforms ensures that they receive the notification regardless of what tools they are looking at regularly.

Built In Additional Resources

The patient appointment reminder solution should also make it possible for the patient to include the appointment on their calendar with just a tap. They should provide the patient everything that they need to know with customized language for their appointment, and they should give the patient the ability to confirm. Engaging with the technology ensures that the patient is more likely to remember the visit.

Increase Practice Revenue By Refining Existing Protocols

If a physician sees 20 patients a day and experiences a 30 percent no show rate, the lost revenue over a year is substantial. If each of those missed visit represents a reduction in revenue of $60, the physician is losing $360 per day, $1800 per week and $90,000 over a 50-week year. That's nearly $100,000 that the practice is losing for a single physician. By just solving half of that problem with a simple to use technology solution that requires little-to-no-manpower, practices can add $50,000 in revenue per physician. You can calculate your practice's ROI with our ROI Calculator.

Add Tools For More Impact

Empowering patients to review their own healthcare tools removes some of the burden from staff while still giving them the control over the internal schedule. Technology solutions that allow patients to confirm, reschedule or cancel appointments keep the phone lines clear for more pressing needs while still giving patients the access that the need for their own healthcare. These tools work with appointment reminders to reduce the rate of no-shows and provide appropriate notice for appointments that cannot be completed. Want more information on how these tools can impact your operations and improve appointment retention? Fill out our demo form!

Telehealth Outcomes in Dermatology Match In-Person Care

Telemedicine has a lot to offer for treatment of common dermatologic conditions according to a study completed by the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California. In fact, a group who completed treatment for psoriasis via telemedicine reported on par or improved outcomes when compared to the control group for the same diagnoses. Telemedicine was indicated to meet the standard for in-person care, and it presents solutions to shortages of dermatologists and care gaps throughout the country.

Two Groups Provide Considerable Insight

Three hundred people were sorted into two different groups: telemedicine and in-person care. For those who participated in the telemedicine program, the focus was on reducing the time to care by providing images to the physicians rather than treating the patient with an office visit. The type of care and the access to the physician was shifted to a different entry point than the traditional care model and even some more common telemedicine solutions. The telemedicine patients were evaluated based on images and both groups participated in standardized clinical assessments that were compared.

Asynchronous Care For Better Outcomes

The study completed by the Keck School utilized asynchronous telemedicine rather than live-video. The patient's symptoms were documented via image and forwarded to a physician for review at a later time. The provider would then review the images from the secure upload and provide a diagnosis or treatment plan. The information was either uploaded by the patient or the patient's primary physician who would then receive an update with the diagnoses and treatment plan recommendation.

Sample Specific

Patients with psoriasis were invited to participate in the program. Researchers were able to compare disease severity and symptoms over all patients. They evaluated patients with the Patient Global Assessment scale to review the patient's perception of their illness as well as the efficacy of treatment that was provided. They also used tools specific to psoriasis and dermatologic illness to verify improvement as well as initial severity.

Fewer Symptoms Overall

Potentially the most important outcome from the study was a reported reduction in symptoms for patients in the telemedicine group. Those who received the remote care reported lower perceived severity than those who presented in person. Though the difference was slight, there was a trend toward an overall reduction on complaints for those who were treated via telemedicine. Outcomes for patients in the telemedicine group were comparable or improved overall to those who received in-person care.

Low Acuity Patients Seen In A Snap

The ease of use telemedicine solutions can make near immediate treatment a reality for patients in several different stages of care. Asynchronous file sharing allows patients and providers to share images of dermatologic illness for multiple purposes. Providers can share images for consult to determine the acuity of the issue. Patients can receive treatment for minor complaints, and providers can reserve office hours for patients with more severe diagnoses that require in-person evaluation.

A Few Clicks Away From Asynchronous Solutions

By working with a solution that specializes in telemedicine and ease-of-use for all parties, dermatologists can make getting information, providing diagnoses and communicating as simple as a few clicks. Mend - one of the best telemedicine companies offers drag and drop solutions for asynchronous telemedicine that can handle high resolution images from patients, providers and third parties. Our automated forms can allow parties to upload images directly to their patient paperwork, and information can be provided by multiple parties. For more information on how your organization can utilize Mend's suite of asynchronous and HIPAA compliant live video telemedicine tools, request a demo above. A workflow and implementation specialist can help you design a customized solution to meet your needs.

Medicaid Reimbursement For Telehealth Services Is Expanding

While telehealth for Medicaid patients isn't a new tool, the delivery methods are certainly changing as access to technology increases. For many years, most Medicaid plans followed CMS guidelines that required that patients present to an "originating site" or a healthcare facility to connect with a remote provider. A recent evaluation of Medicaid plans throughout the country, however, indicates a major shift toward home-based care. While Medicare still strictly enforces originating site restrictions as well as restrictions for rural areas, many Medicaid plans are taking a more forward-thinking approach.

What Is An Originating Site?

An originating site is a medical office, hospital or affiliated site that facilitates telemedicine care for patients who can present in person. While originating site-based telemedicine can be valuable for increasing provider availability and delivering specialty care into underserved areas, it does not bridge what is often the largest barrier in access to care-transportation. Patients still struggle to present to the originating site, and they are often required to rely on transportation services with limited availability that can only transport the patient. By switching to home-based care delivery, patients are able to bypass transportation barriers while still receiving high-quality care for many diagnoses.

Changes To State Rules Have Made It Possible

According to the Center For Connected Health Policy's State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policy publication, Medicaid plans in 10 additional states now recognize the home as a valid originating site. Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, Washington and Wyoming have all opted to forego facility-based care and enable patients to receive care in the home when medically appropriate.

Still a Long Way To Go

While the change is big move in the right direction, there are still many states who don't allow care in the home for this often-underserved population. The report provides hope but notes that there is a long way to go to realizing full parity for all payers across the country. Some of this is significantly limited by state law while others still report significant disparity for reimbursement due to a lack of payment parity.

Schools Are Now An Option

One indication that we are moving toward more patient-focused care is the intermediate step of offering school-based telemedicine for students. According to the report, 16 states have now include schools as valid originating sites. One of the biggest barriers in providing school-based care, however, is the access to consent from parents and custodial adults. Telemedicine care often cannot be provided in school if there is no signed consent on file. By working with a solution like Mend, providers and schools can communicate seamlessly with parents to receive updates and request consents without the parent leaving work or being there in person. While school-based telemedicine does not apply to all patients or providers, it does provide a huge option to treat often underserved children in a location where they are already present. There is evidence to support improved treatment of chronic disease in children due to school-based telemedicine, and state Medicaid plans do appear to be shifting to accommodate this.

Telemedicine In The Home Is Becoming More Prevalent

While it's not a perfect landscape, the access to telemedicine-based care in the home for patients with Medicaid is progressively getting more realistic. The increase in coverage and reduction in states with strict originating site requirements makes a large difference in the ability to deliver care. Now that smart phones, computers and high-speed internet connections can deliver low-cost internet into homes, patient not only have access to communication, but they are emerging as an appropriate, targeted group for telehealth in the home. As this innovation continues, we can expect more states and more payers to accept low-cost telemedicine alternatives to in-person care. h/t http://mhealthintelligence.com/news/state-medicaid-programs-are-seeing-the-value-of-telehealth-at-home

Kansas’s Telemedicine Bill Becomes Law With Governor’s Signature

Kansas has hopped on the telemedicine train. In May, Governor Jeff Colyer signed a recently passed bill that mandates some coverage for telemedicine, though there are restrictions in the new language. In certain areas, state law is more restrictive than just about any in the nation with language that requires for nullification of the entire Kansas telemedicine act if specific areas are struck down by state courts.

Coverage Parity But No Payment Parity

The new Kansas telehealth law does require that payers cover telemedicine as they would in-person services when it is medically necessary or appropriate. What it doesn't do is mandate payment parity. This means that insurers can set their own rates for telemedicine reimbursement, which could equate to either higher or lower payment than in-person services. Odd are, it will vary considerably by payer. Some payers could decide to reimburse for telemedicine services commensurate to in-person treatment, but there is no guarantee of this for contracted providers, facilities or health systems.

Additional Medicaid Coverage

The law as written focuses mainly on medical services, but it will expand to additional allied health specialties through Medicaid coverage beginning in 2019. Eventually, audiology and speech language pathology coverage will also be mandated.

Establish Care Via Telemedicine in Kansas

One of the most important provisions of the new law is that it is now acceptable for providers to establish care with new patients without an in-person evaluation. It is unclear at this time whether providers can prescribe medications to patients who were not evaluated in person. In other states, controlled substance prescribing is allowed while some only permit non-controlled prescribing. Some outlaw prescribing via telemedicine outright. Prescribing laws have not been established, but the Board of Medicine has been instructed to complete these provisions by the end of 2018.

Real Time Or Asynchronous

The Kansas law covers real-time video telemedicine, as most state laws do, but it also requires insurers to cover asynchronous communication through telemedicine. Asynchronous (also called store-and-forward) telemedicine includes the collection of telemedicine data for later review by a physician or appropriate healthcare provider. This could mean that images, x-rays, recorded video or other non-real-time healthcare information is provided to the physician who reviews at a later time and provides a diagnosis or opinion on the information provided. It is an especially important tool for remote radiology and image review, but it has implications in pediatrics, dermatology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and many other specialties.

Abortion Ban Could Undo The Whole Law

The most controversial aspect of the law is language related to abortion services provided via telemedicine. The law specifically indicates that telemedicine cannot be used for remote consultation related to abortion, and the law goes even further to indicate that, should a court strike down the provision regarding abortion services, the entire law will be null and void. This controversial language created some significant conflict during the process.

The Future of Healthcare for Kansas

Though the bill has been fraught with controversy since its earliest phases, it is now law and does provide increased access to many important treatments for residents of Kansas. Rural communities could substantially benefit from the remote services, and the provider shortage can be bridged by more efficient staffing and additional hours without brick and mortar locations. There are many possibilities of how this can improve treatment throughout the state. For more information on how you can implement telemedicine into your practice, request a demo above and one of our workflow specialists can design a customized plan for our organization. h/t http://mhealthintelligence.com/news/kansas-enacts-new-telemedicine-law-with-anti-abortion-language

The Next Step In Telehealth Services: Care In The Home

While telehealth, especially telepsychiatry and telemental health care, are not new, the treatment method is experiencing a renaissance of sorts as access to technology expands beyond big facilities and urban areas. Telehealth has traditionally utilized a "hub and spoke" or "site-to-site" model. In this set up, the patient still presents to a facility, but the provider is remote. This allowed for better provider coverage at multiple facilities, but it did not directly address some of the larger barriers in healthcare delivery. The first proliferation of telehealth was definitely a step in the right direction. At a minimum, it has shown healthcare providers and administrators that remote care can still be high quality and simple to deliver. This reinforcement has prepared the telehealth company and the medical community for the next step of care: delivering medically appropriate services directly into the home and removing the originating site requirement. We're graduating from Telehealth 101 to next-generation care delivery.

Originating Site Matters

Up until recently, transportation barriers have been addressed as an issue to resolve for healthcare providers rather than a barrier that actually keeps patients from receiving reliable and consistent care. Long drives and traveling to multiple sites reduce the amount of care that a physician can provide. Increasing available treatment hours, however, does not directly assist patients who do not have reliable transportation or who are unable to travel. Those patients are still excluded from services. By delivering telehealth services into the home using a reliable and secure platform, patients who are limited by transportation can now receive quality care. Patients without access to reliable public transportation are not precluded from meeting with their providers. Furthermore, telehealth reduces costs from the payer perspective by reducing healthcare sponsored transportation, which can be expensive and frequently unreliable.

Overcoming Childcare Issues

Keeping patients in the home when it's appropriate also reduces the childcare burden that most affects many patients' ability to access care. While both mother and fathers arrange child care to go to the doctor, the issues disproportionately impact low-income mothers. While they may be able to access transportation through their insurance coverage, these options are usually only for the patient. Children are unable to access them to accompany the parent and cannot "tag along." Impower, a large behavioral health organization in Central Florida, has been able to deliver care to single mothers who would otherwise be unable to access it by delivering it into the home on a schedule where the parent can be engaged rather than distracted.

Reduce Impact on Employment

Most physician's offices and treatment programs operate on banker's hours. Patients have to make it into the office between 9 and 5. For many, missing work isn't an option, so they forgo care to protect their employment. By offering telehealth that can be accessed from anywhere, patients can connect with providers from a secure location on their lunch breaks rather than using personal time or missing a half-day of work.

When In-Person Care Isn't Required

Not every patient or situation will qualify for telehealth services. Further, a patient who qualified last time might not meet the standard the next time. This can be addressed with internal protocols and by using a platform like Mend that gives you tools to triage patients to the right type of care while informing patients who don't qualify. Some groups will only allow a certain number of telehealth visits before they require a follow-up in-person. Others will allow unlimited telehealth visits for a certain set of diagnoses but limit access for those who do not fit the criteria. There are groups who use combinations of site-to-site and in-home access so they can get vitals are regular intervals while still reducing physician travel. Work with a partner who understands that importance of a customized workflow and can offer the tools to take the burden of enforcing that workflow off of your staff.

Not An Option Everywhere

Some state laws have not kept the pace of the technological revolution, and what's on the books still restricts telehealth care to an approved originating site, though these laws are being changed daily. The difference varies considerably by state. The Center For Connected Health Policy is an excellent resource on location restrictions based on current state law.

Increase Access To Care

Site-to-site telehealth was a huge boon for provider convenience, but it has not entirely bridged the gap for patients who face many barriers to treatment. By delivering medically appropriate care into the home, facilities and providers can offer high quality care to those who would not otherwise have access. For more information on how this can affect your practice or facility, request a demo above. One of our workflow specialists will be happy to walk you through how this fits for your organization.

Telemedicine In The Operating Room: Bringing in Physicians and Family

Bringing telemedicine into the operating room is a reality in some hospitals. Abington-Jefferson Health, specifically, is using the technology to deliver consulting providers as well as patient families into the previously restricted space. By using a live-video connection during the procedure, the surgeons and staff can openly and easily communicate and reduce wait times for family updates. Dr. Mauricio Garrido, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the hospital, stated in a press release that by utilizing technology, they are "opening the blinds' to the classically inaccessible sanctum of the operating room and reimagining a more respectful experience for those waiting anxiously for their loved ones." "We take immense pride in the service we provide to families with each patient we care for."

Instant Consult

A patient may have multiple providers included in their care, but those additional physicians receive updates similarly to how the family does: once the procedure is completed and when the surgeon has time. Furthermore, input from physicians who are required throughout the operation often has to be provided in person and can delay completion. Some facilities have audio connections that can be accessed, but they may be insufficient or unreliable. These communication barriers also lead to backups and delayed start times for those who are scheduled afterward. Guidance, oversight and feedback during the operation can be limited. By utilizing telemedicine, treating physicians are now able to communicate with other providers who are involved in the care as well as specialists who may be able to provide insight from a distance. For cardiac procedures at Abbington-Jefferson Health, the video connection provides an additional level of oversight and collaboration that has been difficult to achieve prior to the addition of these technologies.

Reducing The Time On The Table

These consults provide a greater impact than just offering valuable information or feedback. For those patients who require intervention from another provider prior to the conclusion of a procedure or operation, the live video solution allows other physicians to get the information that they need to proceed to the next step. "In cases where a remote consult is performed immediately," Garrido stated. "Abington's surgical team can potentially reduce a patient's time on bypass or under anesthesia."

Reducing The Wait

By introducing HIPAA compliant live video into the operating room, the facilities can focus on important elements of treatment that go beyond the operating room. While a family member or loved one is being operated on, the wait time for the family can seem eternal. There are few updates, especially on very long procedures, because the people who could update are actually providing the service. The operating room is a sterile environment that should limit the number of people who enter and leave during the procedure. By introducing a secure way to communicate with people outside of the operating room, telemedicine allows family members to receive updates during a time where they are typically in the dark while still preserving the operating room environment is preserved.

Telemedicine During Surgery Is Just The Beginning, But It’s Available Now

Over time, live video connections will work alongside robotic tools and remote monitoring devices to offer a more complex level of care and supervision than patients have ever experienced. We get closer to this every day. Telemedicine, however, can be implemented quickly without considerable overhead. It's is the simplest part of the equation for these facilities, and it can provide tools for oversight, supervision and input. It also eases of the emotional burden for families. For more information on how telemedicine can be implemented into the surgical theatre for your facility, request a Mend telemedicine demo above! One of our workflow specialist can help you design an ideal solution for your team. h/t http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2018/05/10/abington-hospital-jefferson-telemedicine-surgery.html

Cultural Impact of Telehealth Services: How It Bridges Gaps & Delivers Care to All

While telemedicine services increase access to care in different ways, one of the most transformative effects of telemedicine is that it opens access for patients to receive care that aligns with their ethnic or cultural background. Facilities that previously had limited access to translators and few providers with knowledge of specific culture can now expand their panels to include providers who may be physically located elsewhere but who can bridge the cultural gaps that often keep patients away from medical care.

Cultural Background Matters

While medical diagnoses may have the same symptoms regardless of a patient's background, the ability to effectively treat conditions can be limited by language barriers and patient comfort level. In the past, the solution has been for large entities to provide translators to patients. While translators provide a valuable service, translators alone have been proven insufficient to engender physician trust and manage cultural disparities. This gaps can hinder delivery of high quality care and lower patient satisfaction. A study published in 2015 in the Internal Journal of Dermatology found that that the challenges of communicating with patients with language and cultural barriers "can lead to compromises in the quality of care." A study completed in Denmark in 2010 and published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare reported that patients were more comfortable and had better outcomes when communicating with physicians in their "mother tongue" through telemedicine and it was preferred over interpreter assistance. In the most basic sense, having a translator in the room with a patient draws the patient's attention away from the physician and limits the direct transference between patient and provider. The nuances of body language and nonverbal communication are frequently lost in this interaction, and this can impact both the patient and the provider. If the provider is focused on a translator rather than the patient, he or she may miss important aspects of the patient's behavior that could impact the diagnosis.

Family Gets Lost In Communication

Smaller healthcare facilities and offices may not have access to a robust team of interpreters, and family may be used as a replacement. Patients may be less likely to communicate fully with a provider in front of a family member, and they do not get to enjoy the same level of confidentiality that is afforded to a patient who speaks the same language as the provider.

Telemedicine Provides Solutions

Telemedicine services enable practices and facilities to identify providers who may best suit their patient population and connect those patients to them without significant travel. Telemedicine enhances access to culturally competent care by reducing geographic boundaries and enabling facilities to work with providers who bridge the need for certain languages or who have experience with different ethnic backgrounds. While translators will still have an important place in medical treatment, the ability to deliver multilingual providers enhances care and treatment outcomes by increasing patient comfort level, transference and satisfaction.

Matching Patients With Appropriate Providers

Impower, a telemedicine behavioral health agency based out of Central Florida, reported that telemedicine has enabled them to match patients with the right provider, not just any provider. Vice President of Behavioral Health, Amy Blakely, stated that they have had noted positive outcomes by scheduling patients with the providers who they feel will not only meet the patient's mental health needs but also their cultural needs. They have young female patients who have recently moved to the United States and speak primarily Spanish. The flexibility of telemedicine has allowed them to match those patients to bilingual providers who understand the culture of the patient's home. By identifying the patient's chosen language as well as their age and reported cultural needs, they are realizing better treatment compliance and outcomes.

Connect Patients With The Right Providers

Telemedicine services offer solutions to cultural and geographic barriers that were previously only a healthcare pipedream. Remote services make it possible to locate and contract with distant providers who can elevate the level of care. Telemedicine allows patients to appreciate the nuances of communication that are often lost through a translator, and patients report better outcomes and higher satisfaction levels with these interventions.

How Telehealth Fits Into Your Schedule

When adding a new type of care to your schedule, there are often questions related to how to include these patients into your daily routine without disruption to existing structures and without missing appointments. New and innovative care delivery also must be easy to access for the provider and patient, and it can't disrupt in-person care or push the remainder of the schedule behind. By evaluating your workflow as well as the goals for telehealth, groups can choose from several solutions that work alone or in tandem to meet your needs.

Telemedicine Time Block

By far the most popular scheduling solution we see is the telemedicine time block. Telemedicine time blocks reduce double scheduling while keeping the schedule organized. Providers or administrators will determine a period that is set aside for telemedicine scheduling only. This could be a considerable stretch or a short burst, but the most common increment is about 2 hours. On the master schedule, this time is blocked out for telemedicine, and all the appointment scheduling happens on the telemedicine platforms. For patients who are self-scheduling, they are only able to schedule within the time block. While staff can schedule at other times, it is recommended that telemedicine scheduling be restricted to ensure that patients do not get missed or left waiting. Some groups block out time daily while others reserve it for a single period throughout the week. This will be dictated by volume and the needs of the organization, and can be designed specifically depending on the use case.

Telemedicine Days

For providers who will frequently be remote or who may provide administrative services that keep them out of in-person examination rooms, days dedicated to telemedicine may meet their availability. In this case, they offer telemedicine services throughout the day on one or more days per week, and they provide those services as scheduled while still completing non-clinical work. Providers who travel or may frequently be outside of the office can benefit from this workflow if they know that they will be in one location for long periods of time.

On-Call Scheduling

In situations where providers want to offer telemedicine services during off hours, maybe in lieu of after-hours phone calls, on-call scheduling offers flexibility. Often, providers who utilize on on-call schedule also require prior approval of all scheduled appointments to ensure that availability at the scheduled times. On-call schedules can still be limited to specific time periods, and appointments that are scheduled at inopportune times can be rescheduled with a few clicks. Groups with multiple providers can use on-call scheduling similarly to the how they provide phone coverage for after-hours calls. The biggest difference between the two is that an after-hours phone call is rarely reimbursed, while an after-hours telemedicine session is considered a reimbursable office visit in many cases.

Open Schedule

This is the least used scheduling option, but it is a tool that providers who have open schedules or who provide clinical services secondary to another position may use. For those who have are able to review and approve appointments throughout the day or who want to offer urgent care appointments with some flexibility, the open schedule option is available. It's highly recommended to use an appointment approval process to ensure that the provider is notified prior to the official scheduling of any visits. Open scheduling is a great tool for large groups who use a queueing system and can transfer patients to the appropriate provider. It's more complicated and requires more management for patients who are trying to schedule for a specific provider, but it is still an available solution in the right situation.

Use One Or All

The scheduling solution that fits best for your organization will vary based on your needs and use cases. You might opt for one or have different situations where all of the above are used. The trick is to work with a platform that has flexible tools that can support your needs as well as workflow experts who can help you design the best solution. Mend has both of the tools and the support, and we'll help you to design these solutions in a way that is easy to implement. For more information, request a demo above!

Veterans Affairs Expands Telehealth Across State Lines

The Department of Veterans Affairs serves more than nine million veterans a year at 170 medical centers and over a thousand outpatient locations. Provider shortages and delays in treatment have been well-publicized over the last several years. In an attempt to shorten wait times and increase access to care for patients who are entitled to the care, the Department of Veterans Affairs amended rules for providers and telehealth as of June 11, 2018. Through telemedicine, Veterans Affairs providers can now offer services to patients regardless of the state where the patient resides, and the services can extend to the home site as well. This is a monumental change that will open up access to care for important and often life-saving services.

Access to Many Specialties

Now, providers in many different areas can offer telehealth solutions to patients who may be located anywhere in the country. The provider does not have to be licensed in multiple locations to offer these services as long as the patient is under the care of Veterans Affairs. According to the rule as published by The Office of the Federal Register, "Telehealth enhances VA's capacity to deliver essential and critical health care services to beneficiaries located in areas where certain health care providers may be unavailable or to beneficiaries who may be unable to travel to the nearest VA medical facility for care because of their medical conditions." This is a large divergence from the previous policy. Before, providers were required to follow state laws for licensing, which often limit the provider to offering telemedicine services only to patients who reside in states where the provider has a license. While the most frequently discussed implementation of these telehealth software programs is in mental health, primary care and medical specialists can also look forward to using technology to deliver care to patients who may be remote or located in rural areas. As long as the care is medically necessary and within the standard of treatment, all Veterans Affairs beneficiaries qualify.

The rule further states:

"By providing health care services by telehealth from one State to a beneficiary located in another State or within the same State, whether that beneficiary is located at a VA medical facility or in his or her own home, VA can use its limited health care resources most cost efficiently."

Why Does It Matter?

With considerable provider shortages and often long wait times at VA facilities across the country, telehealth provides an alternative while still offering quality medical care to our nation's veterans. Up until the rule change, VA facilities were required to follow state laws for licensing and practice that limited providers within the system from accessing patients who may be over state lines or located in the home. Facilities that did have the specialists or staff were unable to assist locations that were underserved. The rule change means that "providers may exercise their authority to provide health care through the use of telehealth, notwithstanding any State laws, rules, licensure, registration, or certification requirements to the contrary."

What Isn't Allowed?

While providers are now able to practice over state lines, that flexibility does not extend to the prescribing of controlled substance. Prescribing, in many cases, is still subject to state laws and limitations, and providers will not be able to write controlled medications for patients who are located outside of the state unless state law specifies that this is allowed. Some states do not allow prescription of controlled substances via telemedicine at all, while others limit it to specific medications or specialties. The laws vary considerably by state, and the new rule does not provide any variability for access. The rule does not specify how this will be managed by the VA health centers.

Costs and Competition

While the goal of the rule was to extend care to veterans who may otherwise be underserved, the added advantage is the access to more technologies as well as making the VA more attractive to talent. The agency is positioned at the forefront of distant medical delivery, and the flexibility that is afforded by this schedule enables them to hire providers from all corners of the country. They can meet care gaps while expanding the pool of available specialists and strengthening the organization overall. h/t http://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/05/11/2018-10114/authority-of-health-care-providers-to-practice-telehealth

Pennsylvania Closer Than Ever Before To Telemedicine Parity Law

While the law still isn't on the books, Pennsylvania is much closer to introducing a telemedicine parity law that would ensure that payers cover telemedicine. A bill passed the state Senate on June 13, 2018, and it now travels to the State House for consideration. While the bill will go through several revisions before finding its way to the governor's desk, this is a definite step in the right direction for service coverage in Pennsylvania.

Joining Many Other States

More than 30 states have telemedicine parity laws that require some sort of coverage for services provided via telemedicine. This makes Pennsylvania one of a handful of states left that haven't passed a law encouraging technology as a means for expanding access to care for both rural and urban communities. Telemedicine services have been shown to reduce emergency room utilization, cut down on travel and expand treatment to frequently underserved areas, but the actual legislation to support it is often slow moving. New Jersey passed a similar telemedicine law in 2017 that is still being regulated, even after it was signed by then-Governor Christie last year.

The Good News

Even though it's not a fast track to success, the bill, introduced by State Senator Elder Vogel, Jr., unanimously passed the State Senate after going through committee last year. This is a drastic change from previous attempts in 2016 that were never up for a vote. The shift in readiness to review and pass these bills signifies a considerable change in attitude toward the realities of problems with access to care.

Considerable Support From Big Entities

Big organizations have put their weight behind the telemedicine bill, which encourages payers to cover these services. Pennsylvania medical society, hospital association and the AARP have thrown their weight behind the bill and eventual plans to introduce telemedicine as a covered benefit. These organizations focus on a variety of different perspective when tracking healthcare-related outcomes, and it's a clear recommendation for telemedicine that they're all behind the bill. AARP focuses on patient-centered outcomes that improve things for the lives of seniors. Hospital associations generally look the balance between quality of care and cost of care, and they also engage with solutions that increase patient satisfaction overall. Medical societies often consider a provider-centric perspective of utilizing technology to reduce burden on care delivery while still providing quality care with outcomes-driven goals.

What Will The Coverage Be Like?

It's much too early to tell. The bill still has to pass the State House and be signed into law by the governor. There are two different kinds of parity that could be included in the finished law as well as a few pitfalls that can weaken laws once they're on the books.

Coverage Parity Versus Payment Parity

Many telemedicine laws include provisions for coverage parity. This means that services that are medically necessary and appropriate for telemedicine must be covered if they would be covered as an in-person service. Laws that include coverage parity do not automatically include payment parity. Payment parity is the guarantee that services provided via telemedicine with be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person services. Without language that guarantees payment, providers can be reimbursed at a substantially lower rate for telemedicine services. In some cases, the rate (or a minimum rate) is specified in the law, while in others there is no language that addresses how much providers should be paid. Bills can change many times between being written and becoming law, so there is no way to know how broad Pennsylvania's law will be--if it makes it to the governor's desk. Further, once the bill is law, there are simple language additions that can weaken it even when everything looks good. Additions of phrases like "subject to plan language" can mean that the service is covered if the plan itself covers the service, which isn't much different than not having a law at all. For the most part, it will be a waiting game to determine what's next.

What Do We Do Without A Law?

In the meantime, providers in Pennsylvania may be able to secure telemedicine reimbursement by approaching their individual payers to have the services added to their contracts. Providers across the country have success without a parity law. For more information on how Mend - one of the best telemedicine companies can help you see more patients and increase access to care, request a demo above! h/t http://www.timesonline.com/news/20180614/pa-senate-unanimously-passes-vogels-telemedicine-bill

Originating Sites? Medicare Now Reimburses for (Some) Remote Services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the largest payer of health insurance claims in the United States, but they have been one of the slowest to move on reimbursing for new technologies offered by the best telemedicine companies that reduce overall healthcare costs while allowing the patient to remain in the home. As of early 2018, however, some of those restrictions were eased to open to the door for patients who most need additional supervision. CMS will now pay for code 99091 for remote patient monitoring or "collection and interpretation of physiologic data (e.g., ECG, blood pressure, glucose monitoring) digitally stored and/or transmitted by the patient and/or caregiver to the physician or other qualified health care professional, qualified by education, training, licensure/regulation (when applicable) requiring a minimum of 30 minutes of time." The information provided here is a guideline based on the available information, and it does not constitute billing advice. For more information, we recommend following up with your billing department, payers or legal team. Each organization is responsible for their billing decisions.

The Code Isn't New

Billers may be familiar with 99091 because it has been in the manual for a while. Previous uses of 99091 required that it be a bundled service with other codes for chronic care management and similar programs. Facilities and physicians were informing CMS that the service was provided, but they weren't receiving reimbursement for performing the service.

But Is That Actually Telemedicine?

To be clear, according to the code, this is not a telemedicine service. The code covers the monitoring of data collected remotely through a variety of modalities. While virtual interaction may be an element of the data review included,, the telemedicine service isn't enough to qualify for reimbursement for a patient who is located outside of a rural area and isn't at a healthcare facility. Telemedicine services are still limited under current Medicare rules. That being said, telemedicine could be part of that 30 minute minimum. A telehealth connection isn't required, but it could offer added value for assisting providers in collecting or reviewing data with the patient and family. Providers who bill 99091 are not billing directly for the face-to-face connection, but they can be reimbursed for remote patient monitoring that is provided while the patient is located in the home.

So What Service Is Billable?

99091 focuses on the collection of what is called Patient-Generated Health Data, or PGHD. This information is collected through tools that monitor the patient and report back to the healthcare entity with the information. Providers bill for reviewing the data that was collected through the tools that provide an "active feedback loop."

When Can I Bill It?

99091 is billed for 30 or more minutes of service, and one unit can be billed within a 30-day period. It can be billed alongside other health services. There are no clear restrictions on how many times it can be billed as long as the service is identified as medically necessary and it's not billed more often than once every 30 days. For patients who need the higher level of care, providers can engage in remote monitoring of medical conditions one time in a 30 day period and be reimbursed for those services. Before billing 99091, providers should see the patient in person and document the medical services that the patient requires to treat their ongoing medical conditions. For established patients who have been seen in the year prior to the beginning of remote monitoring, there is no need for an additional in-person visit.

How Is It Different From Chronic Care Management?

It could be easy to confuse remote monitoring with the services provided under Chronic Care Management. In fact, remote monitoring was frequently bundled with CCM prior to 2018. The biggest difference between the two is that CCM can only be billed for patients with ongoing chronic illness that requires additional intervention, and remote monitoring can be used for patients who meet medical necessity but might not have a chronic illness. The patients who meet this criteria will be identified in their care plan, and the provider will still be collecting remote monitored data on them. Remote monitoring can also be billed for patients in a CCM program as a separately identified service.

Express Consent Is Required

Before beginning a monitoring program, providers must get express consent from their patients or the patient's proxy. Advanced beneficiary consent should be on file in the patient's chart prior to billing for the services.

So What Exactly Does 99091 Cover?

That's still a little unclear. The code as described above clearly covers the review and analysis of data related to the patient's medical diagnoses, and we know that that information is collected and provided to the treating practitioner or "other qualified healthcare professional." Other guidelines on what kind of data qualifies or doesn't qualify are limited.

Your Patients and Your Practice

While this isn't a slam dunk for telehealth, it does provide additional opportunities to meaningfully interact with patients, which could lead to improved health outcomes across the board. By evaluating reliable health data, providers can replace some aspects of patient self-report with analytics. Remote monitoring programs promote patient engagement and compliance outside of the exam room. The improved outcomes often lead to fewer emergency medical care visits for patients with chronic illness, and patients are more likely to be able to remain in their home environment because their ongoing health data is reviewed.

Children with Autism Benefit from Telehealth Services

For patients on the Autism Spectrum, finding the right balance of treatment and social interventions can be difficult, especially for families located in rural communities. Recent studies have shown that outcomes for these patients improve when telehealth programs are implemented in both the home and clinic-based settings. By increasing this access to care, behavioral triggers can be evaluated more quickly, and family members can receive more comprehensive training on how to support their children.

Limited Access In All Communities

While rural communities tend to have the most difficulty accessing in-person treatment services, there is a national shortage of targeted treatment available for patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Some urban areas boast a few hundred specialists who are tasked to provide services to thousands of clients over vast geographic regions. ABA therapists who do serve rural areas often have to travel substantial distances and lose valuable time that could be dedicated to other clients who are similarly underserved.

Telemedicine Improves Outcomes

The University of Iowa Stead Family and Children's Hospital has completed two studies on telehealth usage for behavioral interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders. A review of services in 2018 focused on observation of children in their home environment. By working with the parents and focusing on behaviors as they were happening, remote therapists were able to provide education and interventional tactics to family members that improved or resolved these behaviors. The patients were monitored for 9 months. While they were generally located in the home, there were instances where patients presented to a local health clinic or pediatrician to connect. This enabled other treatment providers to participate and provide feedback on the patients'Â progress.

Small Study, Big Outcomes

While the most recent review at University of Iowa focused on just 17 families, the numbers show big improvement in the small population. Of the participants, 86 percent noted that telemedicine care resulted in reduced negative behaviors and improvement overall. These results were similar to outcomes with in-person treatment, but they were available to patients without access to that treatment. Furthermore, families and treatment providers reported notable reduction in negative behaviors.

Cutting Costs By A Wide Margin

In 2016, the same program at University of Iowa completed a review of other programs that utilized telemedicine in treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study revealed that training programs and treatment provided via telemedicine cost, on average, $2,100 over the treatment period. In-person care cost approximately $6,000 per patient. Telemedicine care was delivered into the home environment or into local clinics for a third of the cost of traditional methods with no reported negative impact on outcomes.

Focus On The Family

While the patient was the center of all ABA treatment and common interventions, the focus on family allowed the practitioners to reinforce behavioral modification techniques by educating the family on how to implement them. By watching the patient in his or her natural environment while remaining remote, therapists were able to observe behaviors as the family experienced them and educate on methods to redirect and intervene. Rural families especially benefited from this more consistent access to treatment and support.

Impacting Outcomes, Transportation and Overall Cost

The impact of telemedicine for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders cannot be overstated. Delivering easily accessible care into homes and local facilities increases access substantially while reducing costs by as much as two thirds. Participants reported similar or improved outcomes and practitioners are able to reach more patients. By working with a simple-to-use technology like Mend, groups can benefit considerably from easy-to-implement and cost-effective telehealth software. For more information on how Mend can help connect patients and providers with just a few taps, click our demo request above. h/t- http://www.videoconferencingdaily.com/healthcare/telemedicine-is-improving-patient-outcomes-for-children-with-autism/ h/t- http://medcom.uiowa.edu/theloop/news/telemedicine-can-save-time-money-for-families-with-children-on-the-autism-spectrum

CMS Recommends Telehealth For Combating the Opioid Crisis

Payers should look to telehealth for opioid treatment, according to guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that was released on June 11, 2018. The letter from the acting director of CMS guides local Medicaid agencies on methods for using technology and monitoring tools to facilitate both preventative medicine and treatment. CMS recommends a comprehensive approach to patient supervision, identification of problem behaviors, and recommendations for treatment that utilize technology to bridge care gaps.

Telehealth Reduces Care Barriers For Preventative Care and Ongoing Treatment

CMS encourages Medicaid payers to evaluate telehealth as a solution for both increasing access to care and improving care coordination for patients who are high-risk or who are actively seeking treatment. These recommendations are specifically for Medicaid payers and do not apply to Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans, though the evidence for telemedicine opioid treatment applies to all demographics. Telehealth platforms help bridge provider shortages and reduce wait times for patients who are seeking treatment, and CMS is encouraging payers to support implementation of telehealth tools to limit these gaps. Federal funding is tied to efforts to use technology for care coordination, which can be managed through telehealth at limited cost to the payer or the provider. Telehealth is recommended as part of a Medication Assisted Treatment program when access is limited and when it is appropriate for the patient. CMS goes as far as recommending options for virtual treatment centers and utilizing remote counseling options. The letter supports telehealth for service planning and coordination, facilitation of services, advocating for the member, and monitoring and reassessment of services. These categories offer broad support in the utilization of telemedicine for opioid addiction when clinically appropriate and within the standard of care to deliver services.

Funding May Be Available

Medicaid agencies may have access to funding to support their efforts to implement these strategies. The HITECH act can match up to 90 percent of funding for activities related to health information management, and the letter from CMS indicates that these efforts potentially fall under that category. States could receive up to 90 percent match for designing and implementing programs to meet these needs and up to 75 percent funding for maintenance of the programs once they're implemented. EHRs were the primary drivers behind the HITECH funding, and CMS notes that many behavioral health providers lack access to EMRs. By supporting these providers with funding as well as the tools to bridge care gaps, HITECH increases access to care by offering funding to payers who can then support providers in these efforts.

Who Qualifies For Funding?

There are several things taken into consideration when evaluating which agencies qualify for the match funding under the HITECH act, but at a minimum, programs should be categorized as a Section 1115 demonstration program under the Social Security Act. Section 1115 focuses on state-specific programs for improvements in Medicaid populations.

Non-Telehealth Recommendations

The letter also emphasized the importance of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and recommends that these programs begin integrating with Electronic Medical Records to reduce the number of programs that facilities need to use to e-prescribe and check prescription records. Clinical workflow is important in these instances, and CMS recommends that PDMPs be integrated with Prescribe programs to take advantage of single sign on and make warnings available to providers from within the program.

Big Steps For Medicaid Populations

While telehealth reimbursement from CMS still lags behind for Medicare patients, national steps are being taken to support states in finding ways to combat the opioid epidemic, and telehealth is being recognized at the national level. Payers are empowered through funding and support to increase access to care, utilize more providers and share best practices for implementation and maintaining these programs. To get more information about how our telehealth company can help your program, request a demo above. Our team can assist in customizing workflows and developing a program just for your use case. For more information on the CMS Recommendations, click here: http://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd18006.pdf

Occupational Therapy Telehealth – Bringing Supportive Care In House

While telemedicine is often considered to be a tool for emergency care, monitoring and traditional outpatient care models, the use cases are expanding quickly into other allied health care areas like physical therapy, occupational therapy, nutrition and more. "Telerehabilitation" has proven to improve clinical outcomes for patients in many instances without the considerable cost of travel for providers. While telemedicine may not be a full replacement for in-person occupational therapy care, the supplemental benefits are considerable, and the increased access to care for those in remote areas or without access to transportation and in-home care is tremendous. The American Occupational Therapy Association, as reported in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, supports telerehabilitation and telehealth in the field. Both sources note that more study is needed on outcomes, but the information that is presently available indicates similar or better outcomes for patients who participate in a telehealth program for occupational therapy.

Increase Access To Care

Occupational therapy telehealth significantly impacts access to care for patients in remote areas who do not have access to services often found in urban areas. While home health care and in-facility care may be plentiful in more populous areas, those who need rehabilitative care in rural locations often go without treatment due to distance. Telerehabilitation provides a viable solution without the increased cost burden of physically delivering individuals into rural areas for short periods of time.

Improving Access to Specialty Care

Treatment shortages are prevalent even in highly populous areas, and telerehabilitation extends access to care by reducing distance and allowing highly skilled therapists to visit multiple locations without travel. These services often work in tandem with occupational therapy assistants who can facilitate in-person treatment while the occupational therapist remotely monitors treatment. In some cases, even the assistants may be able to interact with the patient remotely. While there are different workflows and use cases for each program, there are many new options for delivering care. By working with the right telehealth company, like Mend, organizations can develop customized workflows that meet their specific needs.

Where Occupational Therapy Telehealth Can Impact

According to the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, telehealth has implications in multiple treatment areas including "developing skills; incorporating assistive technology and adaptive techniques; modifying work, home, or school environments; and creating health-promoting habits and routines." These vital skills can be evaluated without in-person care. Remote occupational therapists can examine environments and make suggestions for improvement. They can review current field-specific technological usage from a distance while still providing valuable feedback and direction for the patient. Telerehabilitation services can be used to discuss routines, provide feedback on areas that require improvement and offer supportive direction for those who need motivational interviewing. AJOT also noted that telehealth for occupational therapy can improve access to services and therefore improve quality of life.

No Limit On Age or Demographics

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy does not note any specific restrictions on age or demographics for telehealth. In fact, they report multiple populations where tools have proven efficacy, and some that they feel could continue to improve with further study. Telerehabilitation is supported for children and adolescents in school-based settings for skills development, aging populations for reducing hospitalizations and improving self-management and rehabilitation/mental health for assistance with activities of daily living in multiple affected populations. While occupational therapy telehealth remains an emerging field and requires additional study to further grow the available knowledge base, the numbers that exist show improvement in fields regardless of age, location or demographic. Telerehabilitation may not replace the value of in-person care in some instances, but it can provide supportive and supplemental care that, at a minimum, increases access to services and considerably reduces the cost of care delivery.

Rural Telemedicine Programs Get A Funding Boost

The value of telehealth in rural communities can hardly be overstated, but the funding for those programs can be difficult to come by. The Federal Communications Commission took steps to alleviate some of this burden on June 6 when they increased the budget for the Universal Service Fund's Rural Telemedicine Healthcare Program. These funds can be allocated for telemedicine programs in rural areas.

What is the Rural Healthcare Program?

The FCC isn't a medical agency, so you might ask why would they allot funds for telemedicine services. And that's a good question. The money that they provide doesn't go directly to starting healthcare programs or subsidizing treatment. It does, however, offer reduced cost high-speed internet connections to these programs, who are then more able to facilitate treatment that requires technology that they did not previously have access to. The funding for the program goes directly to "reduced rates for broadband and telecom services." The Federal Communications Commission is the agency that regulates internet and telephony services throughout the United States, so they are responsible for managing the grant that brings these services to rural America. The Rural Healthcare Program is divided into the Healthcare Connect Fund Program and the Telecommunications Program.

The Healthcare Connect Fund

The first of the two subdivisions of the Rural Healthcare Program offers qualified programs a 65 percent discount on costs associated with the tools needed for telemedicine services. Specifically, they offer cost reductions on broadband expenses and network equipment necessary to facilitate a high speed connection in areas that might not have much access.

Telecommunications Program

Participants in the Telecommunications Program are offered a discount that varies by locality and is based on the difference in cost between services in urban areas and services in rural areas.

Why Did They Need an Increase?

Telehealth utilization is growing, but access to the necessary high-speed internet in rural communities was not meeting this pace. For many health clinics in remote areas, reliable broadband connections and the equipment to facilitate those connections were cost-prohibitive. While broadband connections could deliver healthcare into their facilities that their patients would not otherwise have access to, they didn't have the tools to take advantage of the opportunity. These programs made it possible for clinics to get the access that they need, but the growing prevalence of telemedicine and huge care gaps outpaced access to these funds.

A Large Increase

The increase was substantial. The formerly $400 million budget now tops out at $571 million. The reason for the change is pretty straight forward. The budget was set in 1997, and there was no language that allowed for inflation adjustment. Thus, the funding has remained stagnant for 20 years despite changes in technology and sharp decreases in available care to rural areas. More than just increased funding, however, the budget now allows for funds to roll over from one year to the next. If a program doesn't use all of their funding within the initially allotted time, it can be put toward programs the following year.

Do We Qualify?

For more information on the June 6 change and to find out whether your team qualifies for the extended funding, go to usac.org/rhc. For more information on whether telehealth and working with the best telemedicine companies is the right choice for your rural health clinic, request a demo and a Mend team member will be happy to walk you through how telehealth can improve access to care and reduce costs overall.

Studies Show That Telemedicine Saves Critically Ill Patients

There is considerable evidence to support that telemedicine consultations reduce travel and introduce convenience from an outpatient perspective, but a recent study takes telemedicine from a matter of convenience and proves it to be a life-saving clinical measure. The study completed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality confirms that telemedicine in certain settings has a considerable impact on patient survival. The telemedicine study evaluated outcomes of telemedicine programs at the inpatient, emergency and outpatient level of care. Specifically for patients in the ICU, access to telehealth care for monitoring and ongoing intervention is indicated to have reduced patient mortality.

Telehealth Saves Lives

You read that right. Patient populations who were treated via telehealth or remote ICU care (in addition to the high-level care provided) had reduced mortality rates. Overall, the telemedicine studies that followed patients at these levels of care reported a reduction of between 2 and 6 percent on average. In one instance, the hospital that implemented the remote ICU program determined that the odds of mortality were reduced by 40 percent, and the actual mortality rate was 29.5 percent lower than the estimates before the program was introduced. These patients often participated in remote monitoring programs or had medical interventions that were assessed as necessary through a telemedicine consultation. Remote care, though not a replacement for in-person treatment for these critical patients, did assist in delivering necessary care and reducing mortality overall in the cases reviewed. In short, telemedicine consultations and evaluation save lives in high-risk populations.

No Evidence of Harm

While there were some metrics that didn't demonstrate substantial improvement, telemedicine consultations and remote monitoring were not indicated to cause harm in any of the instances studied by the agency. It's possible to implement programs with inexpensive technology and cost-effective platforms. Those costs for urgent care telemedicine platforms are miniscule when compared with the potential positive outcomes, and there is no evidence of clinical or administrative harm, either.

Accelerating Step Down

Additionally, there was evidence to suggest that treatment via telemedicine consultation could also reduce length of stay at higher levels of care, such as Intensive Care Treatment. While the correlation between treatment duration and telehealth was not as substantial as the reduction in patient mortality, there is evidence to support that telemedicine also impacts the cost of care by reducing ICU time or high-intensity care duration. Diverting unnecessary emergency care also leads to considerable cost savings in healthcare, and the study revealed a reduction in emergency room utilization when specialty care is made available through telehealth. Telemedicine care reduces the likelihood that patients will utilize the emergency room as a means to access specialty care. Further, patients who do present to the Emergency Department receive treatment faster when telehealth is an option. More patients who require treatment are admitted appropriately, while other patients are more quickly redirected to the appropriate level of care.

Reducing Hospital Costs

Possibly the most telling impact on emergency care is the reduction in costs for rural facilities by delivering specialty care through telemedicine consultation to emergency department patients. The overall cost of emergency department care was reduced in 7 emergency departments located in rural areas from $7.6 million to $1.1 million. Not only are patients getting increased access to difficult to secure specialties without considerable travel, but the hospitals are reporting a reduction in expenditure. Patients remain at local facilities rather than being transferred to distant metropolitan areas for evaluations that may not require further inpatient treatment. This enhances both the patient experience as well as the quality of care that is available.

Telehealth Saves

We knew that telehealth software had the potential to save money, but this shows evidence of cost reduction in the millions. More than financial, however, are the considerable impacts on patient mortality in our highest risk populations. By working with a reliable and simple-to-use platform, facilities from across the country can impact their patients directly while offering care remotely. For more information on how Mend can help you achieve this, fill out our demo request form. For more information on the study, click here: http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/telehealth-draft-report.pdf

Telemedicine Billing: How to Make It Easy

Simplifying Telemedicine CPT Codes for Billing Claims

One of the questions that we get most often from providers and organizations interested in offering virtual services is about telemedicine CPT codes for billing claims. Billing telemedicine can seem confusing and overwhelming, but the actual codes used are probably the simplest part of implementing a telemedicine program. One of the things to remember is that, as with any insurance claim, there is no guarantee of payment unless it's a covered benefit and in your contract with the organization. That being said, if you're ready to submit the claims and you just need to be pointed in the right direction, it's a pretty straight path to the right options.

Know Your Telemedicine Modifiers

In most cases, billing for telemedicine looks a whole lot like billing for in-person evaluation and medication management. The biggest difference is that you will add a modifier. There are three potential modifiers that earmark a claim as telehealth: GT, GQ and 95.

What is GT Modifier?

GT is the modifier that is most commonly used for telehealth claims. Per the AMA, the modifier means "via interactive audio and video telecommunications systems." You can append GT to any CPT code for services that were provided via telemedicine. It is most often used for codes like 99201-05, 99211-15, behavioral health codes and other services that are medically appropriate for telemedicine.

What is 95 Modifier?

What is the difference between modifier GT and 95? Modifier 95 is like GT in use cases, but unlike GT there are limits to the codes that it can be appended. Modifier 95 was introduced in January 2017, and it is one of the newest additions to the telemedicine billing landscape. Per the AMA, modifier 95 means: "synchronous telemedicine service rendered via a real-time interactive audio and video telecommunications system." Modifier 95 is only for codes that are listed in Appendix P of the CPT manual. There is considerable overlap between situations for using GT and 95. Codes listed in Appendix P are likely to fall under the following categories: The specific codes include:

In What Situations Do I Use GT? 95?

In short, ask your payers. Rules vary by payer, with some requiring one while others will prefer the other. It's pretty difficult to predict, so asking is the right way to go. Reimbursement should be the same regardless of the modifier, but that might be a good question to ask as well.

What is GQ Modifier?

GQ is an option for certain situations where asynchronous telemedicine would be appropriate. Per the AMA, GQ means, "Via an asynchronous telecommunications system." Asynchronous telemedicine means that medical care was provided via image and video that was not provided in real-time. A patient will undergo a service that is recorded as video or captured as an image, and the provider will evaluate it at a later time. Usually, the evaluation is completed within the same day, but there may be situations where that is not the case. GQ is reimbursed by some payers, but the reimbursement is not as common as the GT modifier. Most use cases for asynchronous telemedicine are in spaces where providers would normally be reviewing the information after the service. It's frequent with imaging studies and ophthalmology, but there are many use cases.

Place of Service

A frequent area of confusion for billing telemedicine CPT codes was whether the place of service changes. If the provider is at the facility but the patient is at home, is the place of service still 11? As of January 1, 2017, the recommended Place of Service for telemedicine was 02. This references a location where the service is received through telemedicine technology. Not all payers require the 02 place of service to bill a telemedicine claim, but it's good information to have if you receive remittance advice indicating that the Place of Service is incorrect.

A Few More Codes To Consider

There are a few codes that are specific to telemedicine, but they do not have to be used to bill telemedicine. 99444 can be used to bill an online E/M service provided by a physician and 98969 is meant for online assessment and management services.

Are You Ready To Get Telemedicine Billing?

Knowing how to submit the claims is actually the easy part. What you need now is a partner who can finish out the rest of the picture and make the technology and implementation just as simple. That's what the best telemedicine companies like Mend can do. If you're ready to get started, request a demo from our website!

What Do Patients Expect From a Telemedicine Platform and Provider?

The patient experience is the most important part of delivering telemedicine services. If it isn't simple, patients won't take part, and you will have invested in a system that doesn't provide significant benefit to your practice. We'll explore some patient requirements and why it's important to work with someone who can manage them for you.

Patients Expect to Connect Without Hassle

Patients don't only want a telemedicine platform-- they want telemedicine that is simple to access. Pick a telemedicine platform that limits the number of steps necessary for patients to connect to an appointment. While telemedicine can represent a huge improvement in convenience, downloading software, setting up usernames and passwords, verifying email addresses and entering account information is cumbersome for those who aren't tech savvy and tedious for those who are. With Mend, patients click a link, enter their birthdate and connect to the virtual exam room for access to their telemedicine provider. It's that simple. They can access telemedicine from any device with an internet connection, camera and microphone. The technology is fully HIPAA-compliant and secure while simultaneously offering the simplest-to-use interface on the market.

Patients Expect Status Updates

Doctors run late. Most patients understand that reality, but they appreciate being kept in the loop if the practice is running behind. With telemedicine, there is no human at the front desk to ask about wait times. Mend understands the importance of patient experience with a telemedicine platform, so we built tools to enable staff and providers to communicate with patients. If a provider is running behind and another patient logs in while the provider is with the last patient, the provider receives a notification and can send a text to the waiting patient with just one click. If a patient is waiting in a session and the telemedicine provider is not logged in, a text is sent to the provider to let them know. Providers and staff can easily send text messages to patients with wait times, last-minute reminders and other information, and these messages are one-way communications that patients cannot reply to. Patients are aware of the status of their appointment with just a few clicks. Working with a telemedicine platform partner who understands the patient experience makes all the difference.

Patients Expect Reliability

You should be confident that your patients will be able to connect to the telemedicine platform every time they try. When you're selecting your platform, check into the reliability and session completion rates for each different option. If a platform has a 10 percent non-completion rate, that means that you could miss 10 percent of your sessions every day because the solution isn't reliable. 99.85 percent of sessions that are started in Mend are successfully completed.

Patients Expect Technical Help Right Away

We'll leave the medical advice and follow up to the medical professionals, but technical support shouldn't fall on medical office staff or providers. Pick a telemedicine platform partner who has incredibly low support utilization but who still offers unlimited support without additional fees. Low support utilization means that people rarely need technical support, but the availability indicates that the help is there if necessary. Technical support has to be reactive, but it should also be proactive. Your solutions should be able to diagnose potential connection issues prior to report so they can be automatically resolved. Mend identifies potential connection issues, tests the microphone and camera and verifies that the patient is on a sufficient Internet connection. We offer free, unlimited, instant, in-house support for patients, providers and staff, so that help is there in the rare instance that you need it.

How Will You Handle Patient Expectations?

The convenience of telemedicine cannot be overstated, but it has to be matched with simplicity to be a truly valuable tool for your organization. Mend can offer all of the above and more while adding considerable value to your daily operations.

Informed Consents for Telemedicine: What To Know In Your State

In-person patients usually complete a stack of paperwork prior to their first visit and again at set intervals throughout the patient's time with the practice. The consents that are completed at that time provide important protection for the provider and give the patient valuable information about the services that they are about to receive, storage of patient records, explicit patient consent policies, and more. These patient consent forms are just as important for telehealth, and some states actually require a specialized telemedicine paitent informed consent form prior to treatment. The laws vary drastically by state, but informed consents for telehealth are a good practice whether they're required or not. There are a lot of good examples throughout the web of what should be included in your informed consent. If you work with a seasoned platform partner like Mend, those consents are already included in your licensing fee, and we can customize them to your needs.

What is a Telehealth Informed Consent?

An Informed Consent explains the services that the provider offers as well as the risks and benefits associated with that treatment. A telehealth informed consent does the same, but it also focuses on ensuring that the patient understands the medium through which care is going to be delivered as well as the limitations of the treatment provided via telemedicine.

What Should My Informed Consent Include?

You'll want to explain what telemedicine is, who provides telemedicine services, who the telemedicine provider is, and what information may be shared over telemedicine. Most informed consents include an explanation of the type of technology that is being used and the different ways that patients can use it. You can list the benefits of telehealth, but you will also want to list the possible risks and what the patient should do in the event of an emergency. Next, the patient consent portion of the document explains that the patient is consenting to remote treatment and explains that this treatment is voluntary. There should be a discussion of state and federal law and an acknowledgement that the patient is aware that these services are delivered in compliance with those laws. The American Telemedicine Association's Practice Guidelines for Live, On-Demand Primary Urgent Care, includes an extensive list of what the patient should be informed of prior to or during the telemedicine visit. They recommend informing the patient about the nature of the visit, the timing of the service and the record keeping methods. They also encourage telemedicine providers to discuss: Mend supplies sample patient consent forms that can be used as-is or edited to the needs of the organization. When choosing a patient consent form for treatment, ensure it was written by a reputable source or have one drafted by your counsel.

State-by-State Breakdown

Informed consents vary by location and provider, and each state may have a different requirement of what needs to be stated in the consent. Below, is a state-by-state breakdown of informed consent requirements. The information provided was supplied by the Center For Connected Health Policy at cchpca.org. It was up-to-date at the time this article was published, but be sure to check for updated legislation pertaining to your state. Alabama- Written informed consent required for Medicaid patients. Alaska- The law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Arizona- Written or oral consent required for all patients. Oral consent should be documented in the patient record. Medicaid requires written consent if a recording is made. Arkansas- Providers are required to follow applicable state and federal laws, but there is no specific requirement for informed consent. California- Written or oral consent required for all patients. Oral consent should be documented in the patient record. Colorado- Providers are required to issue a written consent to the patient that explicitly states: "1) The patient may refuse telemedicine services at any time, without loss or withdrawal of treatment; 2) All applicable confidentiality protections shall apply to the services; 3) The patient shall have access to all medical information from the services, under state law." Connecticut- The provider should verbally disclose information to the patient regarding limitations of treatment and treatment information, and he or she should obtain verbal consent during the visit. Delaware- The law specifies that the provider must have informed consent to treat via telemedicine, but it does not require it be a written consent. Medicaid rules state that the patient must consent to telehealth, and this consent can be obtained by either the referring, consulting or distant site provider. Florida- The law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Georgia- Medicaid requires written informed consent prior to the telemedicine visit. Hawaii- The law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Idaho- State law specifies that consent must be obtained from the patient. The Medicaid program specifies that the written informed consent is required. Illinois- The law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Indiana- State law specifies that the provider is not required to maintain a separate informed consent, though Medicaid law requires that the spoke site must obtain consent and both sites must maintain it. Iowa- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Kansas- State law does not specific any guidelines on informed consent, but the Medicaid program specifies that consent must be obtained for telehealth home services. Kentucky: State law specifies that informed consent must be obtained by physicians, chiropractors, nurses, dentists, dieticians, pharmacists, psychologists, occupational therapists, behavioral analysts, physical therapists, speech language pathologist/audiologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. The law does not specify how the consent should be obtained. Louisiana- Regulations indicate that the provider must inform the patient about the relationship of the patient and provider as well as any other providers who are involved in the care. The patient may decline telemedicine treatment. Maine- Maine regulation and Medicaid specify: "Providers must deliver written educational information to patients at their visit. This information should be written at a sixth-grade comprehension level, and include the following: Maryland- Informed consent requires that the provider, "inform patients and consultants of the following: Medicaid rules state that the originating site must obtain consent. Massachusetts- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Michigan- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Minnesota- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Mississippi- Regulations specify that the provider must receive informed consent, but there is no information on required modality. Missouri- State law requires that providers obtain patient consent, and consent is specifically required prior to asynchronous (store-and-forward) services to ensure confidentiality of medical records. Additionally, parents/guardians must provide consent for school-based health services. APRNs must also receive informed consent. The Medicaid program requires written informed consent. Montana- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Nebraska- Written patient consent is required prior to any service delivery. The Medicaid program states that consent can be written or emailed, and is only required before initial service delivery. The consent must include: Nevada- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. New Hampshire- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. New Jersey- Informed consent is required for telepsychiatry through the Medicaid program. New Mexico- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. New York- Informed consent is required for telepsychiatry. North Carolina- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. North Dakota- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Ohio- Regulations specify that the originating site is responsible for obtaining informed consent. The modality is not specified. Oklahoma- Regulations specify that written informed consent is required. Oregon- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Pennsylvania- Informed consent is required for telepsychiatry through the Medicaid program. Rhode Island- Regulations specify that informed consent is required for email or text-based communication. South Carolina- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. South Dakota- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Tennessee- Medicaid requires that the patient be informed prior to the telehealth visit, and that the patient be given an option to opt for in-person care if preferred. The consent should be documented in the patient record. Texas- State law requires that consent be obtained for telehealth services, and it can be obtained at either the originating or distant site. Parental/guardian consent is required for school-based services. Medicaid requires signed and dated consent for telemedicine, written or oral consent to allow another individual to participate in the session, and a "good-faith attempt" at written acknowledgement of privacy practices for email or electronic communication. Utah- State law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Vermont- The health care provider must document written or oral informed consent. Informed consent is required at the originating site for tele-ophthalmology or tele-dermatology. Asynchronous (store-and-forward) tele-ophthalmology or tele-dermatology does not preclude the patient from receiving the same service via real-time telemedicine at a later time. Patients also have the right to receive a consult with a distance site provider and get the results of said consult. Virginia- State law specifies that informed consent is required. The modality is not specified. Washington- The law does not specify any guidelines on informed consent. Washington DC- Regulations indicate that written consent is required. West Virginia- State law specifies that informed consent is required. The modality is not specified. Wisconsin- State law specifies that informed consent is required. The modality is not specified. Wyoming- Regulations state that written or oral consent is required for physical therapy. A telehealth consent for is required for the Medicaid program, and the patient can indicate that they want to discontinue telehealth services at any time.

How Implementation of Telemedicine is Changing Healthcare

Provider shortages across the country have made innovation in care delivery a necessity. Without a change in how patients access care, treatment deserts will continue to grow and specialty care will become even more sparse. The Association of American Medical College estimated a national shortage of up to 104,000 physicians by 2030. As treatment technology evolves, care delivery has to change as well. Telemedicine is the most accessible form of innovation, and telehealth platforms like Mend have already made simple-to-use and easy-to-implement technology available throughout the world.

More Than Just Critical Consults

While one of the more valuable use cases of telehealth services is to deliver specialty services into areas where it is otherwise unavailable, the sheer convenience of telemedicine in Primary Care and Pediatrics has made it a game changer for patient retention and treatment of low-acuity complaints. Telemedicine makes treatment accessible and fast, and the visits usually take less time than in-person appointments. As primary care and pediatrics panels get larger, working with a telehealth platform offers an alternative to waiting days for an acute but non-emergent complaint. Virtual healthcare solutions can deliver treatment for rashes, upper respiratory infections, abrasions, colds, flus and other non-acute illnesses within minutes.

Triage Patients To The Right Care

The access provided by digital healthcare means that patients can avoid the emergency room for non-emergent complaints. The ER is often a last resort for patients who were unable to secure time with their primary care, and it's a much more expensive alternative that doesn't offer continuity of care with their established physician. By working with a telehealth platform, providers can connect with patients prior to ER presentation and still secure some form of reimbursement for those services. Utilizing telemedicine in primary care can both reduce ER utilization and unpaid after hours phone calls.

Making Specialist Care Accessible

The physician shortage is most evident in medical and surgical specialties, and it is expected to grow at an astounding rate over the next 12 years. It's estimated that there will be a shortage of up to 62,000 providers as currently practicing physicians retire and fewer students enter medical school. Telehealth services can significantly bridge these gaps by encouraging specialty consults without travel for the patient or the physician. Transportation is a growing barrier to treatment as areas suffer from lack of specialty care and public transportation options shrink in many areas throughout the country. Using a platform like Mend, physicians and patients can connect regardless of location with just a few taps on low-cost technology like tablets and laptops. Virtual healthcare is a valuable asset that can be implemented with limited upfront technology costs for patients and providers. Hospitals are not required to purchase large, costly carts to engage in telemedicine, and solutions that were previously cost-prohibitive in an outpatient setting become entirely attainable. What previously required a $100,000 electronic set up can now be achieved with the combination of a 429 tablet, the appropriate telemedicine platform and an Internet connection.

Telemedicine Is The Key To Better Health In The Face of Provider Shortages

As the demand for care grows and the number of providers shrink, telehealth services can be the key to extending care to underserved populations and ensuring patients receive the complete continuum of care. Telemedicine reduces costs, extends the physician patient relationship and solves some of the largest dilemmas physicians and patients face in the years to come. Though there were once considerable barriers to telehealth including limited access to technology, poor proliferation of high-speed internet and low patient/provider buy-in, these barriers have largely disappeared. The technology can be inexpensive and the return is considerable for all stakeholders.

Benefits of Adding Telemedicine In Premier Primary Care Practices

The average primary care specialist treats approximately 19 patients per day, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. On average, PCPs spend 22 minutes per patient. Even with this type of intense panel, there is daily pressure to increase patient load, identify more billable encounters and treat patients faster. Introducing telemedicine services as a method of treating your own patients is an excellent way to bolster those efforts without sacrificing quality of care.

No, you don't have to join a panel of physicians.

Solutions like Mend make it possible to connect with your own patients through telemedicine solutions that don't require you to contract with another physician organization. There are many agencies that hire physicians to treat patients who request services through that agency, but these patients would not become a part of your standing panel. In those arrangements, physicians and patients are connected at random, and there is limited (if any) follow-up or continuity of care beyond the single encounter. Through Mend, primary health care providers have access to simple technology that can be used remotely by both patient and provider. Primary care physicians can treat and follow-up with their own patients through telemedicine solutions as long as the treatment meets the standard of medicine and is delivered in accordance with state law.

How to Introduce Telemedicine

Telemedicine can be an interesting but overwhelming prospect. Physicians and practice managers are often receptive to the idea, but they become stymied when trying to figure out how to implement it and fill their virtual clinic. By working with an experienced platform partner, like Mend, who can help you navigate the implementation waterways, you can skip the stress of implementing a telemedicine solution and move right to the benefits.

Reduce no shows

Primary care telehealth company provides an alternative for late cancellations or no-shows, and it enables providers to capture the encounter without searching for another patient to fill the spot. By working directly with those responsible for managing cancellations and no-shows, your platform partner can assist in implementing a reschedule to telemedicine services policy that encourages patients who cannot make it to an in-person visit to use telemedicine as an alternative. By diverting even half of missed or cancelled visits to telemedicine, practices can recoup hundreds per day.

Divert low-acuity visits

Telemedicine visits tend to be faster, and low-acuity complaints can be treated in minutes. By diverting these patients to telemedicine, either during set hours or on an as-needed basis, providers can free up limited in-person time for more severe cases that require hands on care. Primary care specialists can divert simple prescription refills, routine follow up care and low-acuity complaints to telemedicine for faster visits without sacrificing quality of care. Mend's implementation specialists can educate on best practices, and our telemedicine triage ensures that only patients who are appropriate for telemedicine services receive those appointments. By working with the right partner, you have an expert on hand who can help develop these workflows.

Turn phone calls into billable encounters

Premier primary care physicians provide a considerable amount of free care to patients after hours and throughout the day. By turning quick phone calls into often-billable or fee-for-service telemedicine services, providers get paid for their after-hours effort. Your platform can collect copays or fees prior to the session, and the time you would have spent on the phone becomes a full visit.

When provider after hours care, phone calls also often go undocumented. Telemedicine is documented like a regular visit, and that ensures that patient records are complete regardless where the patient is located when the support is provided.

Most importantly, telemedicine is not your EMR.

Many providers and office managers are hesitant to embark on a telemedicine implementation because they have had arduous software implementations before. Telemedicine solutions require a small fraction of the effort to implement when you work with an experienced partner like Mend. You won't have to overhaul your daily workflow, and we can show you how to best work telemedicine into your regular day. Do you want to use a telemedicine time block? Is this a tool for strictly after-hours? Do you prefer to use it for nurse follow ups and to deliver lab results? Whatever the use case for your practice is, there is a workflow and implementation plan that is easy to implement when you're working with the right partner.

Next steps?

Think you're ready to get moving? Let us help! We can walk you through the process, get your implementation plan moving and start you on the road to realizing the benefits of introducing telehealth into your practice.

Common Request: Telemedicine Platform With Documentation Solutions

A telemedicine platform needs to be a lot of things like secure, simple-to-use, and easily accessible. It needs to have robust tools to simplify telemedicine encounters and make the information gathering process prior to the appointment easy. Visit documentation, however, is not meant for a telemedicine platform.

It's a Common Question, and A Valid Request

Having one system for telemedicine documentation guidelines may seem convenient, and providers think that they can cut out an extra step out of a sometimes frustrating documentation process. One system would be the ideal, but it presents hurdles for providers who even see one single patient in person among their telemedicine appointments. Focusing on convenience is important for your telemedicine platform, but the requirements for a telemedicine platform and a patient EMR are vastly different. It's more difficult than you would imagine to get everything within the same portal, and that's why it's not easy to find a one-size-fits-all solution as much. Providers often don't consider how customized their patient medical records are, and how flexible their documentation program with a telemedicine platform would have to be in order to support that level of flexibility. In theory, it's an excellent idea, but in execution, it's much more difficult to make it a reality.

Where The Real Problem Comes In

Imagine that your charts were still on paper. Every time you took a note, you put it in the folder for the patient in the room where you saw him or her, and those charts were never merged. When you saw the patient in Exam Room 1, you would have the notes for only the times where he or she was treated in Exam Room 1. When you treated the patient in Exam Room 3, you wouldn't have any notes because he or she had never been seen in that room before. Chaos, right? That's similar to what would happen if you tried to keep documentation in a telemedicine program rather than in a single electronic medical record. Your telemedicine solution should work alongside your documentation software, but it should never replace it. This ensures that your patient records are always complete, and that HIPAA-sensitive information is not abandoned in a documentation program that you only access when the patient presents via telemedicine. While it seems convenient to chart in your telemedicine software, the result is fragmented records that have to be regularly compiled or, worse, that never get amassed into a single record. The solution is to find an EMR that meets your needs AND a telemedicine program that can work alongside it. That way, whether you see the patient in-person or virtually, the documentation is standardized and your records are always complete. What sounds like a good idea in theory can actually create a much bigger problem in the long run.

So How Does The Telemedicine Program Meet Your Need?

Your patient medical records won't be maintained in your telemedicine platform, but your telemedicine platform can introduce many other conveniences that you would not have otherwise. Your telemedicine platform should provide patient appointment reminders, information capture for patient demographics, intakes and forms, customized automated consents and unlimited technical support. It should help replicate the in-person experience by delivering high connection rates, unlimited (and free) technical support, and implementation specialists who make it a painless process. Have more questions about a telemedicine platform? Fill out our demo request form and we'll be happy to share.

9 Essential Telemedicine Features Your Platform Should Include

With the number of solutions on the market, it can be hard to narrow down your top needs and wants in a platform. Before you start interviewing software or finalizing the best telemedicine companies, you should identify your list of non-negotiable items.

1) HIPAA compliance

If you're going to be treating patients, the system must be HIPAA compliant. A lot of video-conferencing software can provide a video connection for telemedicine providers, but it's not a good idea. Skype and FaceTime are not encrypted or secure. Check with your telemedicine platform to ensure that it meets all the minimum standards for HIPAA, and verify with your state laws that there are no additional requirements that platforms must meet. Additionally, your telemedicine platform partner must be willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement

2) Business Associate Agreement

Though often overlooked, ensuring that your telemedicine platform will sign a Business Associate Agreement is an integral part of implementing a platform into your practice. The sessions may not be recorded, but your telemedicine platform is going to store information related to your patients on their server. The Business Associate Agreement specifies that the provider/organization and the telemedicine platform have agreed that this information can be stored on the platform servers, and it specifies how the information is stored and cared for. The BAA protects healthcare organizations should the telemedicine platform be negligent in protecting that data. Willingness to sign a BAA further indicates that the platform is designed with healthcare in mind.

3) Web-Based

Downloading software is cumbersome and presents additional steps into a process that may already be foreign to patients. Software downloads add several variables that can be difficult to overcome. The telemedicine software features on the computer may be out of date. The patient may be unfamiliar with how to launch a download. They could have limited space on their hard drives or not remember the password to allow the download to start. If the patient isn't technically savvy, the hurdles presented could be insurmountable. It is important to provide telemedicine guidelines to all.

4) Flexible Hardware Requirements

You don't have to buy an office full of new equipment to use telemedicine. The telemedicine platform you select should be able to run on any device with an internet connection, microphone and front-facing camera. That means you can connect with patients from a computer, tablet or phone. The flexibility and ease of implementation are imperative.

5) One Step Login

How many user names or passwords do you use to log into your accounts and devices every day? Do you know those passwords offhand? Does the account require a user name or an email address? Do you remember what email address you used to make the account? If you have these questions to log into systems that you use all the time, how often do you think these come up for patients who are trying to log in to speak to their provider? It's possible to have a HIPAA-compliant connection without requiring a user name and password, and it eliminates a massive barrier to effective and expedient treatment.

6) Telemedicine Triage

One of the most important things to consider is how you can ensure that telemedicine is reserved for the right patients. Telemedicine platforms should have a triage solution built-in that allows providers to specify who qualifies for telemedicine visits and who should be referred for in-person care. This keeps telemedicine safe, and it ensures that no one slips through the cracks when self-scheduling or being scheduled by office staff.

7) Instant, In-House Support With Low Utilization

The telemedicine platform you select should be supported by the people who built it, and their help should be available to you instantly if you need it. A support response longer a few seconds doesn't help when you're trying to connect with a patient who is waiting on the other end of the virtual visit. Your telehealth platform should have proactive support features like connection testing, appointment reminders and live help for patients, staff and providers. Full-service support that is rarely utilized indicates that the telemedicine platform is reliable but that help is available if necessary.

8) Information Capture

While treating patients at a distance is convenient, it does present hurdles as far as collecting medical histories, current complaints, intake forms, patient consents and demographic information. If you work with a platform with a paperwork automation solution, this information can be easily collected prior to the visit without emailing forms, scanning information or manual entry into your EMR.

9) Workflow Experts On Staff

Whether you're a telemedicine provider, rolling the platform out to a large group, or just switching platforms, the partner you select should be able to offer guidance on how to best implement telemedicine into your organization. They should be familiar with state law, understand best practices for a telemedicine platform and help you establish a designated workflow to make the solution easy for both you and your staff. Telemedicine providers don't need a one-size-fits-all solution, and workflow and implementation experts are a good indicator that your telemedicine platform understands variability.

Telepsychiatry Basics

In many specialties, telemedicine is an emerging concept. In psychiatry, however, telemedicine is a well-established tool that allows providers to reach patients regardless of the location of either party. Per the American Psychiatric Association, telepsychiatry was first practiced in 1959 to coordinate group therapy, ongoing therapy, training and consultations. Since then, it has grown in many ways, and it is now considered to be as effective as in-person care in many instances.

What is telepsychiatry?

Telepsychiatry is exactly what is sounds like. It's the delivery of psychiatric treatment and therapy through live-video or store-and-forward connections. According to the American Psychiatric Association, "Telepsychiatry is equivalent to in-person care in diagnostic accuracy, treatment effectiveness, and patient satisfaction; it often saves time, money and other resources." Are there times that telepsychiatry is preferred over in-person care? Studies say yes! Research has shown that pediatric and adolescent populations may have better outcomes with treatment delivered via through telepsychiatry providers. Family interactions via telepsychiatry services may be more authentic, and children feel more comfortable in their own environment. Additionally, young people are confident when using technology. There is also information to support improved treatment in severe anxiety disorders and PTSD. Keeping these patients in their own environments and at a distance from someone who they are unfamiliar with bolsters treatment. Additionally, treatment adherence is frequently improved with telepsychiatry.

Do I still need to see patients in person?

Initially, that's determined by state laws and rules. Some states don't allow providers to establish care via telemedicine, and some require in-person care at certain intervals. You can get more information on establishing care from the AMA here: http://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2018-10/ama-chart-telemedicine-patient-physician-relationship.pdf. If your state allows fully virtual care, then it's up to you or your physicians to determine if they're comfortable treating patients without in-person interview and follow-ups. We work with groups who are fully virtual and others who have chosen to retain some of the in-person care. Many psychiatrists and community mental health centers are confident in telepsychiatry for treatment delivery, and they have turned to telemedicine to reduce overhead and limit brick and mortar locations. Other physicians and groups prefer to retain the in-person evaluation for certain diagnoses, while still others require regular in-person care with supplemental telemedicine. Going fully virtual is entirely possible, but the feasibility will vary by the patient population, comfortability of the providers and the state laws and regulations. Mend can help you sort through the best option for your practice.

What do I need to get started?

All you need is an internet-connected device with a front-facing camera and microphone. When you work with the right platform, you don't need expensive technology or peripherals. Some providers opt to use multiple screens because that is how they have developed their workflow, but it isn't required. In fact, by working with a telemental health platform like Mend that allows you to shrink down the telemedicine screen and nest it on top of your EMR, you're able to maintain better eye contact with the patient while charting, which enhances the therapeutic relationship and mimics an in-person interaction.

How do I get paid for my services?

Reimbursement is the one of the few pieces of telepsychiatry that still has considerable variation by location. Some states have telemedicine parity laws that require payment for these services and others do not. More so, some states require that telepsychiatry services be reimbursable but exclude many other medical specialties. The best resource to find out where your state falls is the state-by-state guide from the Center For Connected Health Policy at www.cchpca.com. If billing insurance isn't part of your business plan, then you can skip those steps all together. Mend can process credit card payments based on your preferences.

What's next?

Have more questions about getting a telepsychiatry practice up and running? We work with mental health groups and practices across the country, and our workflow experts can help sort out your ideal implementation plan. Just ask! h/t: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662387/#B13 h/t: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/index.asp

How Do My Patients Complete Forms?

Form submission is one of the simplest parts of what we do at Mend, and we get a lot of questions about how that works in our system. Mend is designed to be the easiest way to request and receive paperwork from patients, and it's also the simplest way for patients to complete new patient forms, digital patient registration forms, insurance updates, demographic details and more. Healthcare is one of the last industries in America to hold on to paper and the standard for information collection. With the growth of telemedicine, our industries as a whole have shifted to electronic form signatures, digitization, text and email for communication. Due to HIPAA and other security requirements, there has been a considerable amount of red tape in the way of advancing healthcare past archaic methods like paper, faxes, scanners and wet signatures.

Patient Forms Can Be Simple

Practices have been trying to go paperless for years, but it seems that the stacks of paperwork just continue to grow. The patient forms continue to grow in length, and the cost of materials and human capital for maintaining manual processes gets higher. When people present to the office for a new patient appointment, they typically complete patient registration forms while sitting in the waiting room. If they aren't completed in time for the appointment, the schedule gets pushed back while staff waits for demographic information and medical histories. Patient information forms can create significant backlogs for practices, but it doesn't have to be that way. With a few taps, staff can send new patient forms to patients on their personal technology, to be completed by the time they present for the appointment. The patient can view the forms after completion on their patient online portal, and the staff can avid considerable backlog in the waiting room. There is no more scanning information or manual entry of data. Mend takes care of all of that for you.

So How Does It All Work

Once we customize and build new patient forms, patient education, demographic updates, consents, or any bit of important data that a practice wants to collect, these forms can be pushed out to patients in one of two ways. 1) Tied to appointment type- Any time you schedule a specific appointment type, forms will be pushed to your patient that are appropriate for that visit type. New patients can receive intake packets while returning patients can be sent demographic and insurance updates. The set up is fully customizable, so only the forms that you select or identify for certain appointment types will be pushed out. This is built to your specifications. 2) Manually- Forms can be pushed out to patients without an appointment type trigger or as part of the booking process. This enables practices to send as many as they like without a requisite appointment scheduled in Mend. Additionally, it enables them to send different forms depending on the patients, rather than the type of scheduled appointment. Once the customized forms are sent out, patients receive a text message and email with a link to the requested information. They click the link, enter a birthdate and are connected to their forms for completion. Upon completions, the forms are pushed back to the Mend portal, where they can be reviewed or automatically integrated with your EMR. That's it.

The Impact Of Mend

Mend a telehealth company reduces overhead, manual labor and materials costs. We make it easier to get information from patients, and we shift the burden from your staff to our servers. With Mend, administration is easy.

Paperwork Automation in Healthcare: What Does it Mean & How to Start?

Paperwork automation is easily the most flexible tool that Mend offers. Healthcare is one of the last industries to hang on to paper forms and snail mail. Some of this retention is due to laws and regulations. For instance, healthcare providers and allied health companies are required by law to send out two paper bills to any customer who owes money to the organization. While you can also provide electronic bills, the paper is required. That isn't the case for most information gathered in healthcare, however. The real barrier is that the industry hasn't found a simple, secure method for collecting information from patients. New patient forms don't have to be on paper, but it's been difficult to find a simple way to get electronic forms to patients without cumbersome portals that are unreliable and have high compliance rates. Mend- a telehealth company changes that. Mend's robust paperwork automation solution can collect information from ANY healthcare endpoint. The possibilities are endless, but don't get overwhelmed. When we work with new groups, we ask them to find a single piece of paper or one information request that, if the process of collecting it was improved, would save their office staff a considerable amount of time. Is it new patient paperwork? Insurance information collection? Patient education forms? One of our groups was desperate to get their intake and new patient paperwork automated. Their patients have to complete new patient paperwork, financial forms, consents and more. Often, patients would sit in the waiting room for 30-40 minutes just working on completing the information. It would then have to be manually entered into the EMR while their financial paperwork was scanned in. Then, they had to be sure to return the financial documents to the patient, but the probability of it all getting lost in the shuffle was high. It was an ineffective system, but they didn't have the technology to devise a better, less cumbersome way of supporting their patients. That's where we came in. Mend digitized all of their new patient paperwork exactly to their specifications. We didn't use templates or we didn't require them to fit the requests into the fields that already existed. We created their forms exactly as they were on paper, and we replaced scanning documents with image and PDF uploads. They send the forms out to new patients via text message and email prior to the new patient visit. They also send out regular demographic updates for patients who have not been seen recently or who need to complete updated consents. This information can then be pushed to the EMR with our proprietary integration system. So what can be digitized with Mend?.
  • Intake paperwork
  • New patient paperwork
  • Forms
  • Insurance information collection
  • Demographic updates
  • Consents
  • Patient education
  • Patient satisfaction surveys
  • Health-risk assessments
  • Multi-party paperwork
  • Information requests
  • Records requests
And, actually, ANY form or paperwork that you need to collect from a healthcare endpoint. What is your one pain point that, if streamlined, would save time and money for your organization? When you identify the most important area to streamline and make more efficient, we can work with your team to build it to your specifications, develop your customized workflow, implement into your practice and fully realize the impact of new technology. Workflow specialists are the key to a successful and painless implementation. With Mend, all of it is included in your paperwork roll out. So where would you like to start?

Implementing Telemedicine Into Schools Drives Health Outcome Improvements

Adding telemedicine technology to schools leads to improved health outcomes for students, according to recent studies. Many children in American public schools have limited access to medical treatment due to poor transportation, difficulty coordinating with parent schedules and lack of primary care. By adding a telemedicine kiosk in the school nurse's office, students miss less school for medical appointments and gain access to care that they may not have had otherwise. Richard Lampe, MD, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, reported to the Texas Tribune that "Ninety percent of what you would see in a general pediatric clinic, we could handle it by telemedicine."

Addressing Care Gaps

Access to care is strongly linked to location and socioeconomic status. Children in lower income areas often wait longer for care due to limited access, transportation difficulties or lack of availability of guardians. A program in Rochester, New York made telemedicine available to patients in 4 "inner-city" schools. Students were treated within an average of 23 minutes for ENT issues, physicals, dermatology consults and other use cases. 85 percent of patients were treated the same day, and a patients were afforded treatment that would otherwise be unavailable to them. School attendance increases when students are afforded the appropriate care. The outcomes are positive for acute but non-emergent complaints as well as physicals that are often required by the school board to participate in activities. When parents are not immediately available to pick a child up from school, telemedicine can address acute complaints and, in many cases, return kids without contagious illness to class rather than sending them home.

Chronic conditions

By providing care to students with chronic illnesses such as Type I Diabetes, care outcomes improved over in-person care, and patients missed less time in class. In a study of school telemedicine for Type 1 Diabetes published in The Journal of Pediatrics, A1cs were lower in the telemedicine follow-up group than in in-person treatment. Improvements were noted on the Pediatric Diabetes Qualities of Life questionnaire, and there were significantly fewer urgent diabetes-related calls in the telemedicine group. Additionally, patients with school-based telemedicine follow-up were hospitalized less. The access to specialist care without significantly disrupting the educational environment was a valuable addition. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022347609002340

Parents Can Consent To Treatment From Anywhere

School-based telemedicine programs still require parental consent, but these forms can be provided electronically to parents and guardians regardless of where the custodial adult is located. By working with a solution like Mend, paperwork can be instantly pushed out to a parent's mobile phone or email for completion within seconds. This consent allows the patient to be treated without the parent present. Mend also enables parents to participate in the session from anywhere. Multiple parties can log in to the same session with a secure link. This means that the custodial adult or adults can take part with the treating provider, patient and school nurse. The parents don't have to leave work or find transportation to participate with their child.

Forward Treatment Information To Parents

When only the patient and provider participate in the session, parents often have questions regarding prescriptions, treatment plans or ongoing care. By working with Mend, providers can finish charting and forward treatment information or notes to parents through a secure message. Parents still have access to their child's treatment information, and the information is forwarded through a simple-to-use, HIPAA compliant channel.

Use Existing Technology

One of the largest barriers to school-based telemedicine up to this point has been the cost of the equipment. Large carts are no longer required to connect to a patient in a school setting, and the school may not need to be any extra equipment. Solutions like Mend can work on any phone, tablet or computer with a front-facing camera, microphone and Internet connection. Many schools utilize existing technology and offer telemedicine with limited out-of-pocket.

Improve Outcomes With Limited Overhead

There are considerable advantages to making care available where children are already located. By delivering medical services into schools, one provider is able to cover multiple locations without any travel. This provides for greater coverage, better attendance, improved chronic illness outcomes and high satisfaction for all participants. If you have questions about how telemedicine could be implemented in your district, let us know! Our workflow experts are happy to help.

Remember Your EMR launch? Implementing Telemedicine Is Much Easier!

One of the most common hesitations that we hear from practices and large organization is that software is too hard to implement and their last rollout was a nightmare. They don't want to put their staff through that again. It's easily the most frequent objection to technology from people who are interested but unsure. And you know what? That makes perfect sense. Historically, software implementations have been difficult on staff and providers. They are long, arduous processes that manage important patient records, and they have to be managed properly to ensure that patient records are accessible despite the huge shift in platforms. We know what a traditional software rollout is like. There are long training sessions with employees from all different departments. The software may be cumbersome or complicated to use, and it might have been difficult to get it off the ground to begin with. Often, tools don't work correctly the first time, or they have steep learning curves. The process is difficult and can throw an entire, well-organized staff into chaos. Oh, and the tools are expensive and frequently difficult to use? Mend is a totally different experience. Mend deals with fewer patient medical records than your EMR, so there is less involved in setting up. While the platform remains fully HIPAA compliant and secure, but the setup process is significantly less arduous. Mend was designed for ease of use. Our goal was to make a robust, secure, intuitive communication platform that can have staff trained in minutes with secure methods that still allow handling of limited patient records. By building a web-based solution, we eliminated the need for software installations. Unlike your patient EMR or portal, it's a simple addition to your daily routine. Our WebRTC architecture ensures the best connection on the least amount of bandwidth. The flexibility of our system guarantees that telehealth software will work on any device with an internet connection, camera and microphone. Form completion requires only an Internet connection. Those patient records are securely managed in Mend and then transferred to the EMR through a number of integration options. We work alongside your existing workflow, so you don't have to start from scratch. Our training team is available to show you how to use the system, answer any questions and support you through your roll out. We build your information collection system from the ground up, and by not having features of an EMR, your patient medical records are always retained in a single place. We have implementation specialists who will help you design your workflow and share best practices so you can skip the pitfalls. And we offer complimentary, unlimited in-house support to patients, staff and providers to ensure that questions get answered and help is offered when needed. No support contracts. No complicated software to learn No trying to provide technical support to your patients or staff. Mend is unlike any other software that you've implemented in your practice. Our approach, architecture and availability set us apart. Improved communication is the future of healthcare. The Mend experience is drastically different from your previous software implementations, and we can work with you to ensure that your patient EMR works with Mend is the most efficient and cost-effective way for your practice. Mend is the future of improved communication and the next generation of simplified medical software.

Telemedicine in Dermatology: The Dos, Don’ts and Best Practices

By adding telemedicine, dermatologists can extend access to care while increasing the number of encounters that they can complete in a single day. Dermatology telemedicine services offer reduced wait times, increased schedule flexibility and high patient satisfaction. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, "The technology has reached a point where, in many situations, health care providers can use IT to offer quality health care services remotely," and they support telemedicine as an additional treatment tool to supplement in-person services. "The Academy supports the appropriate use of telemedicine as a means of improving access to the expertise of Board-certified dermatologists to provide high-quality, high-value care. Telemedicine can also serve to improve patient care coordination and communication between other specialties and dermatology."

Manage Chronic Conditions

Add convenience to routine follow-ups by offering dermatology telemedicine services to patients for medication refills, lab results, imaging reviews and chronic illness management. Telemedicine is valuable for patients who lack transportation, and it simplifies visits for prescription refills.

Store-And-Forward for Simplicity

For mild or non-acute issues, store-and-forward telemedicine enables patients and providers to share images back and forth for review by the provider when appropriate. Patients can share an image of their abrasion or skin illness, and the provider can make an assessment upon review. This can considerably reduce the time for diagnosis and treatment. Consults are frequently provided via teledermatology where images are provided and reviewed at a later time.

Consult Without Leaving the Office

Dermatologists can consult almost instantly when requested by a referring provider. Patients can be evaluated using the best telemedicine software while still in the primary care office or while hospitalized. Dermatology telemedicine services make treatment by specialists more accessible to patients in rural areas, and patients without transportation or in underserved areas benefit considerably.

Get Paid for After-hours Work

By replacing after-hours phone calls with on-call telemedicine appointments, providers can create billable encounters from phone calls that are not considered reimbursable.

Make Follow-Ups a Breeze

Patients who are on medication maintenance, who are following up on a recent illness, or who need lab results may not require an in-person examination. Telemedicine makes it possible to quickly see these patients in succession while offering considerable convenience for the patient.

Higher Patient Satisfaction

Telemedicine services have a 95 percent satisfaction rating overall, according to a study completed by the General Journal of Internal Medicine. Patients report that they enjoy the convenience and flexibility.

Improve Provider Flexibility

Providers can treat patients from anywhere using the telemedicine platforms, which offers an unprecedented level of flexibility for those who travel, see patients in multiple locations or manage frequent emergencies.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

It's possible to get started with dermatology telemedicine services without purchasing any new hardware. By working with a platform like Mend, providers and patients can connect using any device with a front-facing camera, microphone and Internet connection.

What Diagnoses are Appropriate for Treatment via Telemedicine?

There is no definitive answer to this question because it varies considerably by physician and specialty. Every provider will have a different list of diagnoses that he or she is comfortable treating virtually. According to an article in JAMA Dermatology, telemedicine is appropriate for treatment of: The American Telemedicine Association supports additional consults for: Again, every provider will have a different standard, and it's only recommended that providers treat diagnoses that they feel most comfortable with treating through telemedicine. Telemedicine doesn't replace all in-person care, but it is an excellent supplement for the conditions that providers feel they can effectively treat virtually.

What Shouldn't Be Treated via Telemedicine?

This will also vary considerably per provider, but the American Telemedicine Association cautions against treating patients who require "aggressive intervention" and "protocol driven procedures" such as:

What Sets Mend Apart for Dermatologists

Simplest-To-Use Technology Patients log in with just a birthdate. Fully HIPAA Compliant and Secure Mend surpasses the minimum requirements for the American Telemedicine Association and state recommendations. Unmatched Connection Rates Mend has a 99.85 percent successful connection rate. Complimentary, Unlimited Support Patients, staff and provider can receive instant, in-house support whenever they need it No User Names or Passwords Patients log in to their sessions with only a birthdate. Web-Based Platform Patients and providers can connect from any device with an internet connection, microphone and camera. There is no software to download. Flexible Scheduling Options Mend offers multiple solutions for scheduling including staff scheduling, patient-initiated scheduling via website link or a combination of both solutions. Telemedicine Triage Mend's customized telemedicine triage ensures that only patients who meet the practice's criteria for telemedicine can schedule appointments. This keeps telemedicine safe. Customized intake paperwork Automate your front office with fully customized intake paperwork, demographic updates, forms and consents that can be pushed out manually or automatically sent based on appointment type. Telemedicine is the future of healthcare. Mend is the future of telemedicine. Get a demo now. http://www.aad.org/Forms/Policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Teledermatology.pdf

Can I Just Use Skype or FaceTime for HIPAA-compliant telemedicine?

Just about every internet-connected device comes with some sort of video conferencing solution, and it can seem easy to connect with patients using the programs that are readily available and free. After all, they're probably already installed on the technology that you own, and accounts are simple to make. If your patient doesn't mind, should you? Skype and FaceTime, though great tools for connecting with family and friends, are not designed for medical use, are not a designated telemedicine platform and should not be used to treat patients. They are missing critical tools and security features, like HIPAA compliance, that are absolutely necessary to appropriately connect with patients via telemedicine, and they can cause major compliance issues for your practice in the long run.

Skype and Facetime Are NOT HIPAA Compliant

Most importantly, the common, free video conferencing solutions aren't HIPAA-compliant. This means that any information transferred across the platform is not secure, and your patient's information isn't being protected. Many insurance companies have minimum requirements that platforms must meet in order for providers to bill for telemedicine. HIPAA compliance is the number one concern, and the top of those lists. Insurers won't reimburse for services provided on platforms that are not designed for telemedicine and that do not provide the requisite protections for their members' data and medical information.

You Need A BAA

Aside from the security precautions and encryptions that are built into telemedicine systems, an organization that is designed for telemedicine will enter into an agreement with you called a Business Associate's Agreement (BAA). This is integral to the HIPAA compliance. The BAA enumerates how data is stored, where it is stored and what the procedures that the entity, in this case the telemedicine company, follows to ensure that data is protected. A BAA is required by the Federal Government for one healthcare entity to share HIPAA-sensitive data with another healthcare entity. The BAA is important because it shows that both entities comply with HIPAA, but it also provides remedies should the telemedicine solution you partner with have a breach or other HIPAA violation. It's an important protection for both parties.

They Don't Have Scheduling Tools

Consumer-grade video conferencing solutions don't give you or the patient options to schedule appointments. Instead, one endpoint makes a "call" to another endpoint. It may be scheduled elsewhere or by hand, but there is no simple way to link the telemedicine appointment to any other software that tracks the appointment, the connection time or the patient information. With consumer-grade tools, it is much easier to accidentally log into a "session" that is meant for a specific person, and there are no other built-in methods to verify who you're speaking to. With a telemedicine platform, the patient logs into a scheduled appointment that is tied to their patient account and protected with identifying information.

No Appointment Reminders

When you have a scheduler, the platform can also manage appointment reminders to help ensure that the patient presents for the appointment at the right time. A telemedicine platform automates these solutions so you don't have to hire additional staff or a service to manage appointment reminders. So the next time you are required for dermatology telemedicine services, you will know.

The Details Are Important

There are big differences between tools that are designed for telemedicine and platforms that are meant for consumer use. Aside from major HIPAA violations, they lack the convenience and intuitiveness of solutions that are designed for medical use. HIPAA compliant technology, appointment scheduling, reminders and more are the minimum requirements for an effective telemedicine platform, and without them, providers leave themselves open for both inconvenience and major compliance violations.

Part 4: Treating Patients In Multiple States

Telemedicine has opened up considerable opportunities to treat patients throughout the country regardless where the physician is located. While the technology offered by the best telemedicine companies and provider willingness are there, state licensing creates a barrier in some situations. It's definitely possible to practice over state lines, but there are a few things to consider. Some states offer reciprocal licenses and others require full licensure. If you're traveling between two or more areas and you want to treat regularly in all of them, you may need multiple medical licenses to do so. A handful of states also offer telemedicine only licenses, which allow providers from anywhere in the country to treat patients within that state as long as they have both a telemedicine license and a valid license from where they currently reside. Additionally 12 states participate in an Interstate Licensing Compact that streamlines the process considerably. Currently, Alabama Idaho Illinois Iowa Minnesota Montana Nevada South Dakota Utah West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming have entered the Interstate Licensing Compact, which allows for practice of telemedicine over state lines when certain criteria are met. Additionally, providers in Maryland can be licensed to treat via telemedicine in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia in some cases. The best place to start is by calling or going to the web site of the licensing board in the state where the patients who you want to treat are located. An administrator for the board can give you the precise information based on their rules and legislation.

Part 3: How to Market a Telemedicine Practice

How are patients going to find your virtual practice? There are literally thousands of things that you can do to drive traffic, but they break down into two primary groups: hire a marketing professional or try some small-scale solutions yourself. If you have the budget for a marketing team, defer to them for the nuts and bolts. If that's not an option right now, here are a few things to consider (and later check on Part 1 of this series, 10 Things to Know About Starting Your Telemedicine Practice)... 1. If you're sticking with a cash-pay model, which many virtual practices do, you won't have a consistent stream of referrals from insurance companies. 2. Allow a fair amount of time for the patients to find you. 3. Unless you are partnering with a large organization that can send a considerable volume, don't expect to have your schedule packed immediately. You can definitely find reputable sources for patients to fill your days, but you'll need some time after day one. 4. Partner with local healthcare providers who need people to fill your niche. Psychiatrists can offer immediate evaluations to pediatricians and general practitioners with patients who need evaluation but not hospitalization. Physical therapists can provide remote evaluations for home-health agencies or orthopedists. What is your specialty and your niche? 5. Primary care physicians and mid-levels can partner with local pharmacies and get the pharmacy to hand out business cards to people who come in for over-the-counter medications. 6. Local parenting groups can be filled with people who don't have time to go to the doctor but occasionally need immediate care. 7. Mental health professionals can work with local agencies that have extended waitlists. Often, couples who are looking for marriage counseling have difficulty coordinating their schedules. Local faith-based organizations also see potential patients in distress who come to them and look for assistance. 8. There are many ways to reach out to potential clients, and many of them are inexpensive or free. A stack of business cards can do a long way. Find your niche and figure out how to meet the people on different telemedicine platforms, who can help fill it.

Do I Need Additional Medical Malpractice Insurance For Telemedicine?

Protecting themselves from liability is one of the first things that doctors consider when they make a change to their practice or begin providing an additional service. Questions about malpractice coverage are common and often the first thing providers want to clarify. The Center For Connected Health Policy reports that there have been few noted malpractice suits related to telemedicine services, but they encourage providers to do their due diligence and carry the right coverage as they would for in-person services. So, does medical malpractice insurance cover telemedicine? The following guidelines come from recommendations made by The Center For Connected Health Policy, and they do not represent official guidance on malpractice coverage or the type of policy necessary. For definitive information and guidance, we recommend contacting your malpractice coverage or legal counsel.

Contact Your Carrier

Before adding telemedicine to your practice, reach out to your malpractice coverage and verify that your current policy covers telemedicine services. Many carriers have a list of technical requirements and telemedicine best practices that they provide to their insured. The Center For Connected Health Policy also recommends discussing whether the policy allows you to practice over state lines. Some policies may not extend outside the boundaries of the state where you are licensed, and you may need multiple policies if you're licensed in more than one state. If you were hoping to connect with patients while on vacation or in another location where you are not licensed, this is important information to have.

Why Does My Location Matter?

State laws vary considerably on malpractice judgments, and some insurers may not be able to cover services that are provided in states with laws the vary markedly from the state where the policy was bound. If you're licensed in multiple states or you travel frequently and hope to use telemedicine to bridge those gaps, you'll want to make this clear to your insurance carrier so the representative can verify that your coverage extends to these circumstances.

Will The Premium Go Up?

Not necessarily. Many malpractice insurance binders cover physicians regardless how they deliver services, and telemedicine may already be considered under your current policy. In situations where the policy is new and the provider has not been insured for some time, there may be an increase in premium if you're opening a virtual only practice. Every insurer will be different, however, and there is no one-size-fits-all response to that question. So, if you're worried that telemedicine will cause your malpractice insurance costs to go up, the best solution is to ask!

Do You Need Additional Coverage?

There are situations where a policy does not cover telemedicine services, but they're rare. In those instances, providers may have to purchase an additional rider to cover the telemedicine services. Your carrier should be able to explain this to you when you call.

Other Kinds of Coverage

The Center For Connected Health Policy recommends providers evaluate the need for policies that cover electronic security issues like data breaches-- if this is not already covered in your malpractice policy. These policies are not required to practice telemedicine, but they do add an additional layer of protection for the best telemedicine companies. When it comes to telemedicine, malpractice insurance is rarely a hurdle for providers who want to add telemedicine to their practices. Virtual-only practices may require additional coverage in some instances, but premium increases otherwise are rare. By working with a platform partner like Mend, you can ensure that you meet all of the technological requirements to satisfy your malpractice coverage's requirements, and you can quickly be on your way to a successful telemedicine implementation!

Part 2: Should You Restart or Add Telemedicine Services to Your Current Practice? The Pros and Cons of Telehealth

A fully virtual medical practice can be an exciting prospect. You have the freedom to work from anywhere and at a much lower overhead than a full-service operation. The feasibility of a virtual practice as you are aware varies by specialty. Another critical thing to remember at this point is that you don't have to go virtual "entirely" to enjoy the flexibility of telemedicine. That's right. Many practitioners enjoy fewer days in the office, more favorable scheduling and increased revenue by integrating telemedicine into an existing practice. There are pros and cons or telemedicine adoption and this is precisely what we shall be discussing right here – Our second post in the series "Starting Your Telemedicine Practice."

Here's how you can incorporate telemedicine and get more patients into your existing practice

If you already have an office up-and-running, you can introduce telemedicine into your existing operation. Make sure whatever you set up is HIPAA compliant to secure your and your patients' information. This is beneficial for the fact that you can utilize your current staff and infrastructure in your newly set up telehealth company while still getting the flexibility of telemedicine.

1. You won't have to manage your own schedule

To take advantage of the low overhead of virtual practices, many practitioners schedule for themselves or allow patients to plan their appointments within the telemedicine platform. While this is an excellent option, it can get slightly challenging if you don't have a virtual office manager to handle this. By working with your existing staff, you have a team of people who can take care of scheduling for you.

2. Phone calls and questions are managed through your current practice

Again, if you're running a low-overhead operation, after hours call or post-visit questions will come to you directly. Yes, there's no need to have a separate email or phone number.

3. You can add flexibility, but you won't be able to hit the road quite as much

By keeping brick-and-mortar, you will likely have to be at the clinic on a regular basis and see in-person patients as well. While that probably isn't different from what you're doing now, it won't be quite as flexible as a fully virtual operation. Telemedicine is a better option for a doctor who wants to reduce travel between sites than a doctor who wants to be across the country for half of the month.

What happens when you decide to have a fully virtual practice?

1. You really can practice anywhere, as long as your medical license allows

Most state laws, medical licenses allow you to treat patients in the states where you are licensed as long as the patient is located in that state. There are a handful of states that are more restrictive than that, so you will want to check with the board to make sure that your license allows it. By going entirely virtual, you can maintain continuity of care regardless whether you're in the mountains or on the beach.

2. You have to be strict on protocols

Regardless of the specialty, virtual practices need to have very clearly stated and documented clinical protocols for who you do and do not treat, and how those diagnoses and treatments can be treated safety via telemedicine. You want to be clear about what you don't treat or prescribe, and you want to make that information available to patients, either through intake paperwork or a consent form. Also, don't forget to stay up to date with your state laws.

3. You won't have to hire staff if you don't want to

One of the most enticing parts of a virtual practice is incredibly low overhead. You can save lots of bucks. You don't have to hire staff as you will be automating a lot of the paperwork and managing many of the administrative tasks yourself. You will want to honestly look at your capabilities here. There are a lot of physicians who are better doctors when "managed" by an office manager who takes care of the administrative tasks. That's okay! There are others who appreciate the flexibility so much that they're able to shoulder all of it. A virtual office manager is a great way to offset some of that burden, but you can save the money if you think you'll be able to answer phones, manage your own schedule and address the technology.

4. You're going to have to do some marketing

We'll cover this more in our next post in this series, but if you're starting from scratch, you're going to need to get the word out about your practice with effective marketing. You won't have a big sign on the highway to drive patients to you. Telemedicine will require a marketing budget and a professional who can launch a full campaign or, at a minimum, some creativity, and a little sweat equity. So which do you think is best for your practice? At Mend, we can help you launch either. We offer the simplest-to-use platform on the market that can be up-and-running with just a few clicks - once you decide how you want your new virtual practice to run.

Part 1: 10 Things to Know About Starting a Telemedicine Practice

Starting a virtual or hybrid practice presents freedom and flexibility that can never be matched by a full-time brick-and-mortar operation. Virtual practices allow practitioners to travel, work from home and treat patients in several states with appropriate licensure. That being said, it's not as simple as downloading a telehealth company program and connecting with a large number of interested patients. To realize the full potential of working virtually, there are a few things that you need to consider beforehand. If you don't know where to begin to start a telemedicine practice, we can help.

When it comes to the question of how to start a telemedicine practice, Mend provides insight on the benefits, hurdles and organizational requirements and help get you up and running. We'll explore some of the best practices, discuss telemedicine pros and cons, and share some helpful tips as well. Remember, this is a general overview of the process, and the information here does not constitute official advice.

In our first post, we will look at 10 things you need to know about starting a telemedicine practice.

Starting a telemedicine practice can feel overwhelming, but Mend is here to help. We help providers start their practice from the ground up every day. Plus, there are these best telehealth software, which can make your experience better — whether you deal in primary care or behavioral health.

1. If you don't have a business already set up, you'll need to start one.

When it comes to how to set up a telehealth practice, we recommend contacting a local incorporation attorney, the Small Business Association or your local medical board to get more information on how to get incorporated. They can provide resources on incorporation, bank accounts, business licenses and more.

2. Telemedicine laws vary by state.

You'll want to familiarize yourself with whether your state has a parity law covering telemedicine. We recommend referencing the American Telemedicine Association's document on telemedicine coverage to familiarize yourself with what is permitted, i.e., what that law allows explicitly.

3. There are two types of video telemedicine.

Telemedicine laws are generally broken up into two delivery methods: hub-and-spoke and direct-to-consumer.

Direct-to-consumer means that the state or payer allows the patient to be located at home when receiving telemedicine services. The patient doesn't need a medical staff member present. Patients will self-report vitals (when able), and they may be directed by the practitioner for an in-person follow-up when necessary.

03

Not all patients qualify for direct-to-consumer telemedicine, and that's up to the provider to determine a protocol that ensures that only appropriate patients are receiving treatment via telemedicine. Mend can help develop and implement this protocol for providers.

Hub-And-Spoke means that the patient has to be located in an "originating site," i.e. "spoke," to speak to a provider who is at the "hub" or another location. The patient cannot be located at home. States and payers that restrict telemedicine to hub-and-spoke have different lists of facilities that qualify as spoke sites. In general, these sites are healthcare facilities, clinics, doctors' offices, hospitals, etc.

In both cases, it's important to use HIPAA compliant video conferencing, which Mend offers.

4. Medicare payment for telemedicine isn't robust yet.

Medicare does pay for telemedicine visits in very limited instances. Medicare restricts the patient location to specific types of medical facilities, so the patient cannot be located at home. The medical establishment or "spoke" site has to be located in a CMS-designated rural area. You can find out if your clinic or facility qualifies as one by using the locator on the CMS website. There is some movement that indicates telemedicine coverage may change for Medicare patients, but there is no timeline at this present moment.

5. In many states, Medicaid is the best payer for telemedicine.

Many Medicaid plans are very forward thinking about telemedicine because most members have serious problems with access to care. Working with Medicaid can often be your best bet for getting paid for telemedicine services.

6. Some states don't let you establish care via telemedicine.

Just like insurance coverage, the state policy landscape/laws on whether you can treat a patient for the first time via telemedicine vary considerably. Some states only require face-to-face interaction, and telemedicine is considered face-to-face interaction. However, some states require that you meet the patient in-person, and telemedicine, unfortunately, does not qualify as an in-person visit. Check ATA or your local medical board to know more about your state’s laws before starting a telehealth business.

02

7. Prescribing varies by location and substance.

State laws vary considerably on who can prescribe medication via telemedicine. Some laws restrict all prescribing, and there are others that allow it for established patients. Some states limit controlled substance prescriptions to specific diagnoses. This is another important thing to follow up with your state medical board about.

8. You can practice across state lines, in some situations.

You most likely need to be licensed in every state where you want to practice. There aren't many states that allow you to treat patients without some form of license for the area. If you already hold multiple licenses, then, in many cases, you should be able to provide services to patients in all of those states regardless of where you are physically located.

9. If you want to bill insurance, you will need a physical address.

Insurances list doctors by their physical address and zip code. That's how patients find doctors through the physician locator. If you already have an office where you practice in-person, then use that address for your telemedicine practice.

If you wish to continue with telemedicine practice exclusively, you may want to consider renting a virtual office or executive suite so you can provide a physical address that isn't your home address.

10. Billing telemedicine is almost as simple as billing in-person visits.

The codes for telemedicine are the same as the codes for in-person visits because the services that you're providing should be identical.

Bill your office visit code as usual, then add either the GT modifier or the 95 modifier. This varies by payer. You will also change the place of service code from 11 (office) to 02 (telemedicine).

If you still have questions, that's okay! Once you familiarize yourself with these 10 things, you are on your way to starting a telemedicine business. Mend offers to simplest-to-use telemedicine platform on the market, and we can get you up and running in no time.