On one hand, payers are always looking to control healthcare utilization and cost. On the other, physical therapists (and other healthcare providers) would like to improve outcomes for patients. The former has led to a drive toward increased productivity in many PT practices that has reduced the amount of face time that patients get with their therapists, which in turn has negatively impacted the latter as in patient outcomes.
All the while, the cost of treating musculoskeletal disorders in the US has been inordinately high. As the study
points out, low back and neck pain was on top of a list of healthcare spend items, costing an estimated $134.5 billion.
The answer to this conundrum seems to lie in expanded access to telehealth/virtual physical therapy. Telehealth is in line with the ongoing shift to value based care
where the goal is to provide the best outcomes to patients through the most efficient interventions and strategies. In recent times, investors have routed hundreds of millions of dollars
into the virtual physical therapy space.
Telehealth is clearly here to stay. However, it is unlikely to ever replace in-person care. Striking the right balance
between telehealth and in-person care would likely be the way to go.
EMR Integration For Telehealth Delivery
The next step would be to optimize the telehealth delivery model. Physical therapy EMR integration would play a crucial role by helping to raise provider efficiency and quality of care.
Driven By Single Patient Record
When the EMR and telehealth software are seamlessly integrated, a bidirectional workflow would enable the physician to utilize a single platform to conduct the visit, document the telehealth session, and access patient records — with no duplication of processes or data. When a virtual patient visit occurs via the telehealth platform, visit data flows into the EMR, ensuring a single patient record underpins both telehealth and EMR. The integration closes the gap between telehealth session data and the patient record itself.
Synchronized Patient Insurance Information
As more payers cover telehealth services, keeping track of telehealth eligibility and authorizations can be a challenge if clinicians lack access to patients? insurance information at the time of the visit. With an integrated telehealth and EMR platform, clinicians can verify patient eligibility before inviting them to join a telehealth session. This helps stay clear of reimbursement issues and payment delays and denials.
Streamlined Clinician and Patient Telehealth Experience
Launching audio/video consultations directly from the EMR creates seamless, simplified telehealth workflows that reflect almost the same authenticity as in-person provider/patient encounters. On completion of the visit, patients can see a summary of the visit along with other details, providing context for any new information.
Simplified Telehealth Billing Process
Billing is also fast and efficient as charge capture is automated within documentation of the telehealth session, driving claims creation and routing without additional errors. When generating charges, from the flowsheet or from SOAP notes, payer-specific settings would automatically kick in so that charges are added with the appropriate modifiers and codes.
The result of integrated EMR and Telehealth is up to date patient records, accurate data, fewer errors, and faster claims. With the streamlined virtual workflow, therapists can also see more patients in a day thus helping to achieve better outcomes while meeting higher efficiency and productivity goals.
Future of Telehealth Physical Therapy
To sum up, telehealth holds significant promise for physical therapy in that it augments care, increases the number of patient touch points, and provides a means of patient guidance and education. But telehealth will likely continue to play a secondary role (in the near term) with in-person physical therapy being the primary mode of delivering care. The near future will undoubtedly comprise a mix of traditional physical therapy in tandem with telehealth services, which should lead to better plan of care adherence and healthier, happier patients.