How COVID-19 is transforming the healthcare system with telehealth
What is Telehealth?
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), defines telehealth as the use of electronic and telecommunications technologies to provide both clinical and nonclinical care “at a distance”. Telerehab is one branch of telehealth. The regulations and reimbursement for telehealth vary by state. Up to 80% of family physicians surveyed agreed that telehealth improves access to care. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 80% of US hospitals in the have some sort of telehealth service in place.
How Does Telehealth Work?
Healthcare providers connect with their patients via email, videoconferencing, chat, or telephone. They can respond to patients in real time or by directing their patients to online answers to their questions. Doctors can also fill prescriptions through your pharmacy with a telehealth visit.
How can Telehealth Assist in Fighting the Virus?
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching medical resources thin, telehealth serves an even more important purpose. It can keep symptomatic patients at home while freeing up important healthcare resources, including providers and personal protective equipment. As a result, demand for virtual appointments is surging.
"As telehealth becomes an important solution for ‘flattening the curve’ of the coronavirus, the ATA and our members are well-positioned to deliver on the promise of virtual care technologies." – Joe Kvedar, MD, President-elect, American Telemedicine Association
Telerehab in Action:
A case study
In a study of workman’s compensation patients presented at the American Physical Therapy Association/ Combined Sections Meeting (APTA/CSM) conference in 2019, rotator cuff injury patients receiving telerehab had better outcomes than those receiving traditional PT alone.
The study demonstrated:
Expedited return to work
Medical authorization approval delays often result in treatment delays, causing patients to have greater pain and stiffness. By accessing their rehabilitation program independently, these patients were motivated to improve their health outcomes.
Many mental health professionals have also been providing remote services as the number of people experiencing anxiety and other symptoms has spiked as a result of the pandemic.
The Advantages of Telerehab
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is an advocate for telerehab. They believe it can help to overcome healthcare access barriers by:
- Providing faster screening, assessment and referrals
- Observing patients perform exercises while providing verbal and visual instructions to correct form
- Allowing for consultative services with other therapists and healthcare providers for care coordination purposes
APTA also supports the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 4932/S. 2741). This legislation would expand the use of telehealth services and ease restrictions on telehealth coverage under the Medicare program.
Musculoskeletal Workplace Injuries are Frequent and Hard to Recover From:
- Musculoskeletal disorders, including sprains and strains, made up 31% of the total cases
- Workers with musculoskeletal injuries are out of work 44% longer
- The median number of days away from work for musculoskeletal injuries was 13 days versus only 9 days for all other workplace injuries
(source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015)
What about HIPAA?
The Department of Health and Human Services is temporarily relaxing enforcement of some Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) rules so that providers may access technologies necessary for telehealth appointments.
“Under this Notice, covered health care providers may use popular applications that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype, to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules related to the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. Providers are encouraged to notify patients that these third-party applications potentially introduce privacy risks, and providers should enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using such applications.”
The MTI advantage
Our telerehab technology platform makes it easy for the worker, therapists, and appropriate stakeholders to participate in the session. Up to 6 people may be present during in each session, allowing for greater clinical collaboration and continuity of care.
MTI Telerehab Programs Offer:
- User-friendly video therapy sessions
- Personalized physical therapy program
- Engagement that helps to ensure intended outcomes and compliance
- Real-time text messaging between the injured worker and therapist
- HIPAA compliant with encrypted end-to-end security and privacy
- Video remote interpretation for non-English speaking workers
While it is being heavily utilized in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the future of telehealth is likely to expand and become a more mainstream way of obtaining medical services long after the Coronavirus subsides. This can be especially helpful for individuals with difficulty getting to in office appointments due to disability or transportation issues.
To learn more about Telerehbilitation visit: mtiamerica.com/telerehab
Get started now by submitting your telerehab referral to firstname.lastname@example.org.