Telehealth Guidelines and Practical Tips For Healthcare Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the use of at-home medical access across healthcare systems with telehealth visits increasing by over 50 times the pre-pandemic baseline. Telehealth, using telecommunications technology to provide remote clinical health care, allows patients and providers to connect safely and efficiently. However, to reap the benefits of telehealth, including improved access to care and convenience for patients, providers must follow regulations and best practices when conducting virtual visits.

Providers who offer telehealth services must adhere to federal and state-level licensure, privacy regulations, reimbursement, and billing requirements. Additionally, optimizing the telehealth environment and visit flow is essential for building rapport with patients and providing quality care. Setting up the physical space intentionally, testing equipment beforehand, speaking clearly and listening actively, and structuring the appointment to mimic an in-person visit all enable successful virtual care.

Below, we will outline up-to-date regulations for telehealth appointments for healthcare professionals to establish and improve their telemedicine services

Telehealth Regulations

Following are regulations for telehealth appointments for providing telehealth services:

  • Providers must be licensed in the state where the patient is located during the telehealth visit.
  • Providers must follow all regular privacy and security regulations like HIPAA when delivering telehealth.
  • Reimbursement parity laws require that telehealth visits are covered by insurance at the same rate as in-person visits. Medicare and Medicaid also cover telehealth but have some limitations.

Getting Set Up for Telehealth Visits

Here are some tips for healthcare providers getting started with telehealth: 

  • Use a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform. Free consumer apps like Facetime or Skype generally don’t meet security regulations.
  • Make sure you have the video and audio equipment needed – a high-quality webcam and microphone at a minimum. A second screen can also be helpful to facilitate screensharing and display tests or notes to patients.
  • Set up a space that is quiet, private, and free from distractions and backlighting. Pay attention to the background visuals and ambient sounds to ensure a professional setting.
  • Test the technology ahead of visits with colleagues or telehealth platform tech support to troubleshoot any connection issues. Try to simulate an actual visit.
  • Create templated visit notes in your EHR system for efficient telehealth documentation. Have the normal instruments, screening tools, and educational materials you would use during an in-person visit close at hand.
  • Have a plan in place for how you will exchange documents or prescriptions with patients. Let patients know upfront the best pharmacy or email to send these through.
  • Outline full office procedures for your support staff to adeptly schedule visits, obtain consent, and navigate insurance questions around telehealth.

Best Practices for Telehealth Visits

When conducting the telehealth appointment, follow these best practices:

  • Confirm patient identity using two identifiers like name and date of birth.
  • Begin the visit the same way as an in-person one, explaining your role and establishing expectations.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Allow for delays due to connectivity issues.
  • Actively listen and look at the camera when the patient is talking to build rapport.
  • Summarize important details back to the patient to ensure understanding.
  • Close the visit by summarizing next steps and setting expectations for follow-up.

Adhering to telehealth regulations and tips can allow providers to effectively deliver convenient quality care to more patients via virtual visits. Reaching people in remote regions and reducing barriers to care access are major benefits of this technology when applied strategically.

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