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Dispelling the Myths About Telemedicine

By March 4, 2019No Comments
Sick baby in hooded jacket

By Mick Connors, M.D., Founder and CEO

There are a number of myths and misconceptions about telehealth. Here are the ones we hear most frequently when visiting with pediatricians and pediatric practice leaders – along with some alternative perspectives.

Myth #1: I can’t effectively assess a patient. Why not? Pediatricians have long provided consultation via telephone – basing medical guidance on the parent’s account of the situation, with no face-to-face interaction at all. Telehealth takes traditional phone triage to the next level by allowing you to see the parent, the patient, and the care environment – and they get to see you! It’s ideal for addressing after-hours needs, and for those busy times of year when a video visit may help your clinical team better determine who needs to be squeezed in (vs. who can be treated at home without an office visit).

Myth #2: I can’t order tests. Why not? During a virtual visit, if you determine a test, x-ray or other imaging service is needed, you can order these through your preferred local hospital. Alternately, you can have the family come to your office during regular office hours, if appropriate.

Myth #3: I can’t be sure of the diagnosis. Why not? Telemedicine is ideal for diagnosing a number of conditions, like allergies, colds, cuts and abrasions, pink eye, and skin rashes, because so much can be gleaned from seeing the parent’s face and the child’s face. So much can be learned about the clinical and emotional state through body language. The key is for providers and parents alike to recognize the limitations of virtual care. It’s not for emergency needs and, just like in the office, sometimes you need to refer to a higher level of care.

Myth #4: I can’t work anymore than I do now.  I understand, so why not work smarter, rather than working more? Telemedicine technology can help you triage, prioritize, and see patients more efficiently – saving precious time for both you and your families. (And telemedicine tech is simple, not an EHR headache. Trust me.)

Myth #5: I can’t bill for telemedicine services. Why not? Most states are now allowing for “at home” reimbursement; if your state isn’t one of them, you can bill as a non-covered service. Families, especially those with high-deductible health plans, will often pay much more to go to an urgent care or ED – receiving less specialized care than you can offer virtually. Why not let them decide?  Stay up-to-date on progress in telemedicine reimbursement in your state through the Center for Connected Health Policy. 

Myth #6: I can’t charge if I don’t make a diagnosis. Why not?  Why do pediatricians feel like they have to do or diagnose something to bill? There is incredible value in advice that reassures and guides a parent in how to care for their child from home. Solid advice based on your expertise and training is valuable, and most patients won’t question the expectation that they pay for it.

Myth #7: I shouldn’t charge for what I’ve always offered for free. Offering telemedicine doesn’t mean you have to stop providing free phone support (although some practices have). It simply means you can offer a higher level of care when it makes sense for your practice (after hours or during high-traffic times of year) and your patients (when hopping in a car or heading to the ER just don’t make sense).

Myth #8: My patients will still bypass the medical home seeking alternative care.They won’t if they can access the trusted care you provide in a way that is convenient and accessible for them. Of course, if you are hard to reach or frequently refer them when they call, then they likely will bypass you. Technology can help. 

Myth #9: I see all my patients already. They don’t go elsewhere. While this sounds nice, it’s likely not true. Research shows that 76% of patients prioritize access to care over the need for an in-person visit with their provider, and 45.8% of patients who use telehealth say they would otherwise go to urgent care; 5.6% would go to the ER. Still not convinced? Check with your insurance network to see what percentage of patients are being seen elsewhere.

Want to learn more about telemedicine and how Anytime Pediatrics can connect you and your patients in a new way, connect with us and request a demo.