Is your medical practice ready for the continued fast-growing use of remote technology to deliver healthcare services? Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals and clinics to shift to new ways to ensure patients received the proper care, telehealth services were on the rise.

Yet it was the pandemic that has accelerated the shift of telehealth into what seems to be a permanent fixture for providers and patients across the United States. And like many new initiatives in the medical field, since the telehealth corner has turned, a return to the former status quo is unlikely.

Illinois recognized this in July of 2021 and passed legislation geared to ease the transition to telehealth. The law provides patients the right to request telehealth services without providing a specific reason for doing so.

“Illinois is now one of the first states in the nation to turn our emergency pandemic response into a permanent reality,” Governor JB Pritzker said upon signing the new law.

The law:

  • Eliminates geographical barriers to telehealth delivery.
  • Sets limits on patient cost-sharing.
  • Expands the use of remote patient monitoring.
  • Asynchronous telehealth and audio-only telehealth services.
  • Expands the list of healthcare providers allowed to use telehealth to include substance use disorder professionals and those providing early intervention services for children.
  • Establishes parity in fees between virtual and in-person visits.

With the rise in telehealth services, Clinic-ology offers online training in best practices for healthcare’s administrative professionals in both telehealth and in-person care settings, in addition to operations support and consulting services. Training and resources are geared towards front- and back-office processes that can help medical professionals adapt to changes in billing, medical recordkeeping, referral management and insurance claims.

Keeping abreast of the changes telehealth brings to healthcare is critical for medical practices due to its expanding use in delivering healthcare services and the increasing recognition of its value.

Telehealth services are now at a level 38 times higher than pre-COVID-19, according to a July 2021 ,McKinsey & Company report, with 13% to 17% of office and outpatient visits occurring via telehealth. And many healthcare industry experts predict this will only increase in the next decade.

In fact, many market experts predict the use of telehealth services may double by 2030 because:

  1. Independent medical practices are embracing telehealth. The success of small- and mid-size clinics in keeping revenue flowing through the use of telehealth during the pandemic has made them more hopeful for the future, a recent survey found.

Data analysis by a University of Georgia consumer analytics team of 1,300 independent practices found that the success in implementing telehealth has slowed the trend of smaller, independent practices merging with a hospital or another practice.

  1. Patients are increasingly willing to use telehealth. During the tragedy of the pandemic, telehealth bridged the need for care and strict safety precautions. Patient use of telehealth services increased from 11 percent in 2019 to the current rate of 46 percent.
  2. Healthcare providers are coming on board to offer telehealth in greater and greater numbers. Currently, 76% of hospitals have implemented partial or full telehealth systems, according to the American Hospital Association. And the federal Medicaid program has embraced telehealth, in particular for treatment of stroke patients and for substance use disorders.
  3. Regulatory changes similar to those enacted in Illinois bring better access and reimbursement for telehealth services. Federal emergency rules expanding telehealth services have been in effect since January 2020, opening the door for permanent federal regulations.

“This is going to have a lasting impact on the health care system, as patients are likely to demand access to telehealth services that they just used for the first time and as providers have become more able to deliver care remotely,” the National Health Council stated.

And, if passed in Washington DC, the bipartisan ,Telehealth Modernization Act would codify telehealth for Medicare and rural patients.

  1. The increase of aging baby boomers will bring need for more healthcare. By 2030, this large demographic group will be over 65, the age when increased health services are usually needed. This may worsen the shortage of clinical providers for patients who need continuous care for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Telehealth is one pathway to allowing the elderly to “age in place” and still provide the increased care many will require.

Still, the growing use of telehealth by patients and medical practices is not a foregone conclusion, McKinsey & Company warns. Security across technological platforms used for telehealth is one area of concern. In general, new and improved technology is critical for the continued ability to offer telehealth services, in the area of patient care, recordkeeping and billing.

Clinic-ology knows it can be difficult for medical practices to track changes in care while maintaining its focus on patient care. Our consultation and online training allows clinics to concentrate on day-to-day operations while preparing for what promises to be a rapidly changing future in the ways healthcare is delivered.