The medical industry is often slow to adapt and change—but not when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic and the adoption of telehealth. Thanks to changes at the federal and state level encouraging telehealth, as well as private insurers agreeing to pay for telehealth, the use of telehealth has surged in 2020. By April 2020, almost half of all Medicare primary care visits were conducted through telehealth platforms. To put that into perspective, in February 2020 just before the coronavirus pandemic started, that number was one-tenth of 1 percent.
Whether or not this surge lasts depends on payors’ willingness to keep reimbursing for tele-visits. In terms of compensation, private insurers tend to follow the federal lead, and it’s unknown if Medicare’s increased support of eligible telehealth services will remain intact after the coronavirus recedes. The Center for Medicare Service increased the range of reimbursable services in March 2020, but the language of the order was vague, noting only that these increased services would be available for the duration of the pandemic. If CMS pulls back on telehealth in fall 2020, it’s likely that major insurers including UnitedHealthcare and Anthem, will also end reimbursing for expanded telehealth.
Many healthcare experts, however, believe that at least some of the gains made by telehealth will outlast coronavirus, and at least one major insurer (BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee) has announced it will continue to reimburse telehealth at current levels even after the pandemic ends. Patient surveys are also showing broad support for telehealth, even if patients are still frequently confused about how it works or worry that it’s only appropriate for minor conditions.
With telehealth likely to continue in some form, now is a good time to evaluate how telehealth can support patient education initiatives. Similar to the shift toward online classes, switching to telehealth involves some fundamental changes in the delivery of patient education to all-digital systems. Instead of printouts, critical education needs to be delivered either as PDF documents or by video. The Wellness Networks digital content delivery makes integration of best in class, clinically accurate, and medically reviewed patient, health and wellness education available to patients with the click of a button.
Additional advantages to adapting education to a telehealth environment include:
Seamless access. Whether accessed through a patient portal or app, individuals can view the education at their own pace and access as needed. This turns patient and health education into a durable resource, as opposed to messaging that may be forgotten after an office visit or consultation.
Consistency. The education received at every stage of a patient’s healthcare journey will be consistent, making it easier for them to understand and take action.
Documentation and Assessment. Depending on the telehealth platform, it’s possible to see if patients are engaging with education. Additionally, when leveraging our comprehension questions, which are part of our metadata delivery, clinicians can better gauge the level of a patient’s understanding.
Individualized Learning. Robust metadata including keywords, descriptions, and medical codes makes it easy for providers to quickly locate and assign education tailored to individual needs.