“The COVID-19 pandemic has kind of forced our hand to accelerate the use of telehealth, or ‘telederm’ as we nickname it in dermatology,” Dawn Marie R. Davis, MD, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said. “It’s a dyad, and both parties, the provider or organization and the patients, have to be comfortable with using telehealth platforms.”
A majority of those surveyed had tried and liked it…
A July survey from Harmony Healthcare of more than 2,000 Americans found the majority to believe telehealth provides not only safety in this time of a global medical crisis, but also convenience for those seeking care.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they had used telehealth before COVID-19, with 67% using it since COVID-19.
The top reason for using telehealth was convenience, cited by 63% of respondents. Safety and avoiding virus exposure were cited by 59% and flexibility by 46%.
But the way to move forward is in policy, not medicine not even technology at this point…
Billing telemedicine visits has historically been a major obstacle. Previously there were few reimbursement codes for most forms of telehealth, but in March, when the pandemic shut down many practices, exceptions were made to allow for it.
CMS broadened access to telehealth with a temporary emergency waiver allowing payment for services conducted electronically during the pandemic, and many insurance companies have followed suit.
“The limitation with telemedicine wasn’t that we didn’t know how to use it or that it wasn’t part of our lexicon. The limitation was that we couldn’t do it because it wasn’t reimbursable,” Friedman said. “When the federal waivers went into effect and all of a sudden we have a handy little modifier on our billing, we could now do telemedicine for pretty much everyone.”
The American Academy of Dermatology has since released guidelines on telemedicine that explain the CMS guidance and inform dermatologists of the best ways to proceed with telehealth in their practices. The academy’s teledermatology toolkit includes a downloadable flowchart to keep track of the correct codes, as well as a downloadable coding guide.
While the waivers have been extended to the end of 2020, it is still a question if telehealth coding will be as easily accessible as the pandemic becomes less severe.
“The biggest issues are, ‘Will these visits be reimbursed? Will we lose money doing telehealth?’ and we just don’t know yet,” Friedman asked.
The continuation of telehealth codes and reimbursement will be the only way to provide the option for patients.