Telehealth therapy and virtual care solutions have quickly become a staple of modern healthcare services. While telehealth solutions have been around for over a decade, they underwent a rapid ascension in response to the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic—a 2021 study found that some 40% of Americans have used telehealth services, with the vast majority doing so since the start of the pandemic.
The number of patients engaging with telemedicine has grown since then, and all indications are that telehealth’s newfound prominence is here to stay—remote care is too convenient for patients and providers alike to give up its place in the healthcare landscape.
Such a rapid rise in popularity is sure to come with many questions from would-be adopters. With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to provide statistic-based answers to some of the most common telehealth questions.
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Key Stats about Telehealth
There are many misconceptions about telehealth.
Today’s patients want convenient ways to see their healthcare providers, and telehealth is the answer. Learn more key statistics about telehealth:
Key Stat 1: Patients only want to see you in person.
Fact: Patients are demanding telehealth’s virtual convenience.
82% of patients say virtual visits are as good as in-person visits.
91% say telemedicine makes it easy to get the care they need.
93% find telehealth solutions easy to use.
In 2021, 40% of Americans will make use of telehealth.
Top 3 Telehealth Benefits:
- Improved patient outcomes
- Reduced travel times
- Increased access to specialists
Key Stat 2: Telehealth is way too expensive for my practice.
Fact: With the right solution, telehealth can be cost-effective for independent practices.
Yesterday: Complex, high-cost telemedicine solutions.
Today: Simple, affordable telehealth solutions.
Providers no longer need to invest $20,000 to $40,000 on video carts, cameras, and equipment.vi
Look for a scalable solution that allows you to add services as needed.
Choose a HIPAA-compliant solution that allows you and your patients to use existing computers/smartphones.
Using video is about workflow—not technology. If it is too difficult to use or requires an app, it won’t work for my needs. -Andrew Barbash, MD
Telehealth pays for itself:
- Lower service delivery costs
- Fewer no-shows
- Increased efficiencies
- Greater patient satisfaction
- Higher patient retention
Key Stat 3: Older patients aren’t comfortable with telehealth.
Fact: Today’s seniors are more connected than ever before.
High adoption of digital technology among seniors in 2022.
79% of people in their 60s rely on technology to stay connected. 76% for ages 50-60, and 72% for 70-80.
66% of seniors age 50+ use technology to connect with others
43% of seniors age 50+ use technology to stay healthy
- A majority of Americans age 65+ are willing to use telemedicine solutions.
- Patients 51+ accounted for 82% of discharge-related provider-to-patient telehealth in 2018.
- Not needing to travel makes telehealth ideal for elderly and homebound patients and their caretakers.
Key Stat 4: Telehealth would take long to get up and running.
Fact: Set-up is quick and easy with the right solution.
Reduce implementation time by starting small with things like lab result calls.
Implementation can take as few as 30 days.
“When I first thought about telehealth, I thought I had to buy all sorts of cameras, lighting, special cables, and equipment. All I need is a webcam that’s a part of my computer for my telemedicine visits.” –Phil Boucher, MD.
Key Stat 5: You won’t get reimbursed for telehealth services.
Fact: There are several payment options depending on your state and payer mix.
Major state and federal legislation has been passed in response to demand.
50 states, plus Washington, DC, reimburse live video consultations in Medicaid fee-for-service.x
Commercial payers already reimburse for telehealth if your state has a telemedicine parity law.xi
Consider cash payments:
Many doctors charge a convenience fee of $35-$125 on top of or in place of payer reimbursement.
What Are the Benefits of Telehealth Therapy for Clients?
There’s a reason telehealth therapy services are becoming more popular: the approach to therapy has much upside from the client’s perspective.
It’s easier for clients to access telehealth counseling.
For starters, telehealth therapy enables clients to access the services they need from the comfort of their own homes. In many cases, booking telehealth appointments with therapists is easy; simply self-serve the available times and pick one that works with your schedule.
Additionally, since clients don’t have to commute to the therapist’s office and back again, they can save time and keep appointments even when they’re busy.
Clients can access therapy services from far away.
Not everyone is lucky enough to live close to the kind of therapist they need to see. For example, if someone is suffering from trauma and needs to see someone who specializes in a unique treatment, they may have difficulty finding a therapist who meets the bill. However, by booking telehealth counseling appointments, individuals can see the perfect therapist for their needs — even if that person lives on the other side of the country.
It enables clients to avoid infectious diseases.
It’s easier to have a family member involved in the process .
Many clients might prefer to have a family member nearby during therapy sessions for moral support and comfort. But what happens when the person you’d want to be there the most lives in another state? Using telehealth therapy, clients can rope their family members and friends into the process, making sessions more productive.
Quality of care improves.
Getting the best client outcomes starts with engagement. Since telehealth technology has earned high satisfaction scores from the folks who use it, practices that embrace telehealth therapy can deliver more effective treatment to clients.
What Are the Benefits of Telehealth Therapy for Practices?
Now that you have a better idea of some of the main benefits telehealth brings to clients let’s turn our attention to how the technology can benefit your therapy practice.
You can serve a larger geographical area.
If you run a practice in a suburban area and only offer in-person appointments, chances are the bulk of your clients will either live or work in that area. In other words, it’s unlikely that someone will commute three hours to see you, no matter how effective you are. By embracing telehealth therapy, it’s possible to cater to clients across the country — significantly expanding your total addressable market by flipping a single switch.
You can see more clients.
Telehealth appointments are much more efficient than in-person ones. For example, you don’t need to wait for someone stuck in traffic or for two clients to wrap up a conversation in the waiting room before moving on to the next appointment. As a result of this efficiency, you can see more clients simultaneously.
More vital revenue and a healthier bottom line .
During the pandemic, the government expanded the list of covered telehealth services for Medicare. As a result, practices can charge as much for a telehealth therapy session as they would for an in-person session. By embracing telehealth therapy, it’s possible to treat more clients over the course of the day, thereby strengthening your practice’s financial position. Plus, clients are less likely to cancel, which compounds those gains.
Improved work-life balance .
Telehealth enables clients to attend sessions from any connected device. The same holds for therapists. Instead of having to go to the office every single day, therapists can use telehealth therapy to break up the monotony of the week and conduct sessions from the comfort of their home office. This improves work-life balance and helps therapists avoid burnout.
Quality of care improves.
By treating clients who need your services across a larger geographical area engagingly and conveniently, you increase the chances that you give each client the care they need in a way that appeals to them the most. This, in turn, makes it much easier for you to accomplish your goal of helping your clients live their best lives.
How to Determine the Best Telehealth Therapy Approach for Your Private Practice
Survey clients : Ask existing clients what they think about online sessions versus in-office visits. Tabulate the results.
Leverage that feedback : Let those answers guide your decisions. If 80 percent of your clients say they prefer telehealth to in-office visits, you need to respond to those demands.
On the flip side, if everyone’s telling you they can’t wait to get back to an in-person setting, you need to figure out how to make that happen as soon as possible.
The Easiest Way to Do Therapy Online
Are you planning to see more clients in your office? Are you thinking about doubling down on your virtual visit efforts?
Perhaps you’re trying a little bit of each.
Whatever you decide, it’s probably worth your while to update your GoodTherapy profile accordingly.
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Telehealth: Insurance & Legal Considerations
Three concerns should be considered when evaluating whether telehealth services are covered by insurance. The requirements of individual states, insurance companies, professions, and claims vary widely. Thus, something that might cause one claim to be denied could be irrelevant to another claim’s approval. Knowing what questions to ask and what the answers mean for your practice’s procedures is essential.
Is it covered, and will I get paid?
First, determine whether your state legislature has enacted telehealth insurance parity laws. These laws typically require parity between the types of services covered or the reimbursement value of the services. For example, coverage parity requires that insurers cover telehealth-based services that they already cover when offered in the office. If a state also requires payment parity, insurers reimburse providers for telehealth services at the same rate as in-person encounters.
Many states have coverage parity laws, but achieving payment parity has been a more challenging battle for providers. CMS has already announced that some payment parity changes will be rolled back once the COVID emergency ends. Legislation is pending in several states to protect temporary payment parity changes, but even if passed, these laws will apply only on a state-by-state basis.
Do I need to change how I file claims?
The second insurance-related consideration requires that the provider bill the services using the correct codes, including any modifiers. Most mental health providers are already familiar with the “95” CPT code modifier for telehealth services.
During COVID, however, CMS reminded providers that claims should include “DR” (disaster-related) and “CR” (catastrophe-related) modifiers as needed to ensure payment. DR/CR modifiers aren’t generally required for outpatient mental health services, and they were used more by those whose underlying roles shifted during the pandemic.
For example, an ambulance company could seek reimbursement for responding to a 911 call and rendering paramedic services, even if they didn’t transport the patient back to the hospital, because COVID requirements didn’t allow them to follow that protocol. When filing their claim with Medicare, the company would add a DR/CR code to identify COVID as the reason they didn’t take the patient to the hospital.
Does it matter where I’m licensed?
The provider’s license matters to insurance companies. They use it to determine if the provider is eligible to provide services in the state where the client received them. They verify it during the paneling or credentialing process before allowing that provider to be in their network. A “place of service” code and office address on a claim form could also reveal that the provider is out of state.
Licensing for Telehealth Care
Traditionally, providers were licensed in the state where they lived and offered care. The client’s state of residence was generally irrelevant because clients saw their clinicians at a physical location.
The emergence of telehealth in recent years was accompanied by an all-too-common expansion of technology at a faster pace than legal developments. Most clients continued seeing their providers in person, and coverage parity laws became the norm shortly before COVID began. When the pandemic forced providers to suspend in-person care, they faced a new and existential question: whom can I treat?
If I’m only using telehealth, am I restrained by my state license?
Under the framework in most states, the law considers a telehealth visit to take place where the client is located during the encounter. This means that the provider must be licensed in the state where the client is located — a requirement that theoretically ensures that the provider is regulated by the client’s state and is aware of that state’s practice requirements, such as:
- scope of practice
- standards of care
- informed consent requirements
- state medical privacy rules
An excellent therapist in Illinois is likely also an excellent therapist in California. Technology now allows them to bridge that geographic divide — if only the law followed suit.
For example, say that you’re licensed in New York, live in New York, and have always seen clients at your New York office. During COVID, some of your clients permanently moved out of the city and into suburbs in New Jersey and Connecticut. The law prohibits you from treating your NJ and CT clients via telehealth unless New York has a border-state exception. Some dense geographic areas, like the DC-VA-MD metro area, have recognized the challenges of regulating certain professionals individually and have implemented border-state licenses or waivers,
Some of these requirements arise from the expectation that providers and clients reside in the same place. Proximity may even be clinically necessary — if a provider determines that a client’s care necessitates an in-person visit, they could schedule that appointment promptly. This is mainly a consideration in psychiatry or therapists working with youth or those with significant mental illness.
If providers and clients are in different locations, an in-person visit would be impractical or impossible — even if the standard of care required it. COVID, however, upended some of these norms. Providers were forced to ask whether a client was “safer” receiving teletherapy from home or risking COVID infection by entering their office. Providers also had to consider their health and how in-person encounters could impact their families, staff, and other clients. Telehealth rapidly became the norm, and emergency orders allowed providers to continue treating their clients even if people had moved around a bit in response to the pandemic.
My profession has an interstate licensure compact. Does that change things?
The Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT) coordinates the practice of telepsychology across state lines, giving licensed psychologists more flexibility. Currently, over one-third of U.S. states have effective PSYPACT legislation, and by the end of 2021, that number will jump to half of the states.
Under PSYPACT, psychologists must be located within a compact state in which they are licensed. Meanwhile, the client must also be located within a participating state. The authorization does not come automatically, however. To practice telepsychology under the authority of PSYPACT, psychologists must obtain an Authority to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology (APIT) and possess an active ASPPB E.Passport.
The pace of new PSYPACT legislation suggests that lawmakers recognize the value and the demand for teletherapy services that reach across state lines. Nonetheless, the laws still lag behind the technology. Therefore, therapists who wish to set up an interstate practice must understand the laws that apply to their situation.
Figuring out precisely what is required of you and what path makes sense for your practice isn’t something you have to do alone. Law firms like Jackson LLP Healthcare Attorneys specialize in providing counsel to mental health providers to help you get it right in your psychotherapy practice.
[This section article is for educational purposes and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any particular person. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between Jackson LLP Healthcare Attorneys and the reader. It should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.]
Getting Started with Telehealth Therapy
By now, you probably think that telehealth therapy sounds excellent. But you might be wondering how you can get started with the technology.
Luckily, there are several proven solutions on the market designed specifically for the telehealth use case, including:
Enables therapists to host video sessions over a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform. The solution lets you communicate with your patients via secure texting and SMS, keeping them engaged.
iSalus AnywhereCare is an easy-to-use telehealth solution for individual providers that regularly integrates with your practice’s other tools. In addition to supporting telehealth therapy, AnywhereCare enables you to easily bill clients for telehealth visits in just a few clicks.
If you’re looking to add to or grow your telehealth therapy options to increase client reach and improve business and client outcomes, EverCommerce can help. Learn more about whether Updox or iSalus is right for you.
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