Telehealth Allows Therapists to Continue Treating Now and Beyond
The ability to adapt to change will continue to be the mantra for all situations when dealing with a health crisis like COVID-19. RehabVisions’ ability to change practice patterns and include telehealth/telerehab as a viable treatment venue has been no different. Telehealth has become a way for our therapists to continue serving their patients in the midst of a pandemic, and we’re proud of how quickly we were able to make it happen for them.
“Information was coming out rapid-fire,” Brenda Kemling, PT reflected on the first few weeks of April. She said it was particularly impressive that we have therapists in all settings and were able to set them up to treat patients. “Not only were we monitoring these rapidly coming regulations, we were able to do it in a fashion that continued to protect our patients’ privacy.”
Securing a platform that was HIPPA compliant, easy to use, and compatible with rural web capabilities was of course important. Brenda, compliance manager, created an informed consent document for patients and wrote a telehealth policy, making sure to cover all applicable state regulations. Additionally, she provided guidance on the nuances of billing insurance companies, including which CPT codes and modifiers to use.
On the SNF side some of our therapists transitioned to virtual visits with their iPads. Billed like an in-person visit, it allowed us to continue to provide services but not expose residents. Jennifer Flanagan, SLP said, “It’s a careful balance between helping to reduce the decline and keeping residents safe from the virus.”
In talking about what’s next for telehealth, Brenda said there have already been one to two commercial payors develop permanent provisions for telehealth therapy services, and federal legislation was introduced by the House that would give therapists permanent telehealth allowance through Medicare.
Telehealth will continue to be a value-added service for patients who don’t feel comfortable being seen in person for whatever reason. “Maybe somebody has a sick child or is too busy to come in, we could provide telehealth in those situations,” Brenda said. But there are bigger issues telehealth could solve. “Telehealth is not about replacing in-person therapy sessions but about reaching out to populations that may not otherwise have access to therapy,” she said.
Telehealth could allow us to serve the most vulnerable populations in our communities. “Maybe it’s on a reservation, maybe we’re collaborating with community centers and churches and coordinating certain days to provide telehealth therapy,” Brenda said. “It’s about leveraging these new provisions to reach more people, especially those who might not receive any care otherwise.”