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A new telehealth coverage policy set by Medicare could mean increased demand for telehealth services at your behavioral health practice.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in early November that Medicare will ease restrictions on telehealth coverage for mental health treatment. As of January 1, 2022, Medicare covers telehealth appointments that take place in the patient’s home, and is available to all Medicare beneficiaries regardless of geographical location. Previous regulations had required patients to take virtual calls in a designated clinical setting, and was only available to those who lived in rural areas. This shift in policy removes significant barriers to telehealth usage for Medicare beneficiaries.

Medicare’s decision will likely affect telehealth coverage from other insurance providers. The organization’s position as a giant in healthcare makes it influential in the development of industry standards. Behavioral Health Business reports that Medicare represented nearly a quarter of all healthcare payouts from any provider in 2019. “When Medicare makes moves, it matters,” the article affirms.

Behavioral Health Business note that state-run Medicaid programs, too, often model their policies after Medicare standards. Medicaid alone accounts for a large portion of mental health patients. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that Medicaid covered 21 percent of all U.S. adults who suffer a mental illness, and 26 percent of adults with a serious mental illness.

This new telehealth decision has effectively signaled the value of virtual treatment for behavioral health to payors across the nation.

What this means for your practice

Many more patients will be able to access telehealth care than ever before, and they will no longer be limited by geography. The ease of attending appointments from home may also mean that new and existing patients can schedule more frequent visits. This is especially true as work-from-home trends continue to hold strong.

Is your practice ready to meet the growing demand for telehealth? Do you have structural and workflow processes in place to handle an influx of these appointments?

Here are some practical ways to get your practice up-to-speed with telehealth.

Brush up on billing

Your billing team should be able to bill for telehealth visits as easily as in-person clinical encounters, and staff should be able to help patients understand their telehealth coverage.

If your practice hastily patched together a telehealth solution in response to the pandemic, you may not have had time to integrate telehealth with calendar and billing features on your EHR. Has your staff developed a process to create these telehealth bills efficiently, without bills falling through the cracks?

Connect your calendar

Similar to billing, you’ll need smooth processes for scheduling telehealth visits. Staff will also appreciate a calendar that helps them immediately identify which appointments are in-person versus online.

You should also talk with your providers about how they’ll choose to handle scheduling. Will they schedule a mix of telehealth and in-person visits throughout the workday, or set aside certain times for telehealth only or in-person only? What will be best for their patients?

Keep patient communication lines open

You want to make sure that patients stay in the loop about their treatment with minimal effort. Ideally, this would mean you can easily transfer documents and information between your telehealth platform and the patient portal. Additionally, connect your telehealth scheduling process to any automatic reminder features you send to patients, such as email or text reminders.

Tighten safety protocols

If you rushed into telehealth during the pandemic, now is the time to make sure that your telehealth solution meets the gold standard of security. It should be HIPAA compliant with features like strong encryption and multi-step verification.

Keep in mind that if your telehealth software does not communicate directly back-and-forth with your EHR, you carry inherent security risks due to providers having to download and transfer sensitive information between programs.

Set up convenient documentation

Save time and hassle for providers by finding a telehealth solution that allows them to access their clinical notes directly from the call, without jumping between the telehealth call and a separate EHR. Remember that providers may have to input information twice if your EHR is separate from telehealth.

Do you have the right tools?

To keep up with telehealth demand and deliver a positive patient and provider experience, you need a telehealth solution that is fully integrated or natively embedded in your EHR. This saves time and prevents slowdowns in your workflow.

A well-integrated telehealth solution should check all the boxes. It should allow providers to access patient notes during the call and talk directly to the calendar, your billing software, and the patient portal. It should come with robust security features, and offer patients a user-friendly interface.

Valant can help

Valant software makes telehealth a seamless part of your workflow. With Valant, information flows easily between your virtual appointments and everything else in the EHR.

  • Easily book virtual appointments to the calendar feature, which automatically generates a bill for the appointment.
  • When the appointment begins, document notes from within the call and create an interactive experience for patients with advanced features like whiteboarding.
  • Color-coded visual management helps you monitor any undocumented calls or unsubmitted bills.
  • Send bills for service with the click of a button.
  • Turn any appointment into a telehealth visit last-minute if the patient can’t come to your office.
  • Our software is HIPAA compliant with end-to-end encryption to keep your patient data safe.

With secure data, convenient documentation and billing, and breezy communication with patients and other staff, Valant’s embedded telehealth solution for behavioral health practices will fit your office for the world of virtual healthcare. Valant software was built from the ground up for the unique needs of the behavioral health industry, including its evolving digital needs.

Contact us today to see what Valant can do for you.