Telemedicine Visits Surging During The Coronavirus Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on everything that surrounds us, the healthcare industry is no exception. However, one silver lining that can be seen is the acknowledgement of telehealth, which has been here since a while, but the adoption has significantly skyrocketed unlike ever before.
Contrary to a physical doctor’s checkup, telehealth eases the doctor’s checkup process by allowing for the patient and provider to have the appointment over a video or phone call, at the place of their comfort. Although, telehealth is not something entirely new, but the pandemic has made everyone realize how important it is.
According to the chief health officer of a renowned practice:
“It’s a technology and a service that was always there, but now we have a very important reason to learn how to use it. What any healthcare organization has to do is to learn and train its staff on how to conduct [a telemedicine] visit.”
The telemedicine Services providers have experienced a huge surge in demand, mostly due to the elimination of obstacles which were once there, such as the difficulty in reaching a good level of consumer awareness and the acceptance on part of care delivery personnel. Moreover, the change in policies regarding reimbursement and access have also added to the widespread adoption of this technology.
In addition, according to a patient who has used telemedicine twice:
“it’s very easy to use from the comfort of your home, and it makes check-up lesser of a hassle. Although, there are cons too, such as the inability to get a test done, but providers are still offering physical visits for those who must need them”
Here are a couple of ways that show how using the telehealth technology is aiding with the pandemic.

Balancing the supply of physicians smartly
As we all know that the supply of physicians is becoming inadequate everyday, as we continue to fight the virus. According to the CEO of a telehealth company:

“We are going to get to the point where the supply does not meet the demand,”

However, all the areas would not be affected equally, so what can be done is, by leveraging telehealth technology to areas that are facing a physician shortage, the equilibrium can be reached. These telehealth visits can be provided by many mediums ranging from tablets to telehealth carts, making it accessible for everyone, regardless of what hardware equipment one has.
As the major barriers to telehealth are removed, healthcare ventures should always make sure that the providers making use of telehealth are carrying the appropriate license to provide care in the particular state.

Letting quarantined physicians to provide care by utilizing telehealth

With the virus spreading at a rapid pace, the right kind of environment has been created for this medical approach. According to a report:
“As many as 100 health care workers at a single institution have to be quarantined at home because of exposure to COVID-19 have raised concern about workforce capacity. At institutions with [emergency department] tele-intake or direct-to-consumer care, quarantined physicians can cover those services, freeing up other physicians to perform in-person care”

Physicians can continue with the provision of care-delivery, by converting the already scheduled office visits into virtual visits. Not only would these visits be convenient, but also these would eliminate the chances of virus exposure for both the physicians and the patients.

Treating High-Risk Non COVID-19 Patients with Virtual Visits
There are many high risk patients, like the elders and seniors who are in dire need of care, but aren’t able to move to a care-delivery point because of their vulnerability to the virus. Virtual visits stand as the only viable option for them, making it easier for them to access care.
According to a physician in New York:
“We tend to forget that the virus actually does discriminate. The effect of this virus on the elder population is much worse than it is on everybody else. We tend to think of telehealth to treat patients that have the virus or who may have the virus. It also should be a strategy to protect at- risk patients from exposure and provide routine care.”
In line with the statement, if we start utilizing telehealth for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases other than the virus, not only would that help in flattening the curve, but also it would be a great aid for so many high-risk people who are in the line for medical attention, and are unable to get it.

Creating lean systems through AI and bots to handle customer load

As patients continue to create a surging demand for telehealth, this unprecedented demand has overburdened the telehealth systems, which were going underutilized since a long time.

This has led to extensive waiting periods due to the online queues, making it harder for the providers to provide adequate care.

The turnaround to this can be the creation of short questionnaires, interactive online waiting areas, chatbots that streamline patient prerequisites, and AI based technologies that make the entire process as seamless as possible.

Final Thoughts
Patients are going to pay for the virtual visits in the same way as physical visits. For the practices, many telehealth vendors are offering easily understandable guidelines on making use of the telehealth solutions that they are offering.

“From a recent survey we conducted of U.S. patients, we found that 84% are more likely to select a provider that offers telemedicine over one that doesn’t, so it’s clear this technology is something patients want”

This being said, it is the start of a new era, for not just the healthcare ventures, but for everybody. Telehealth has seen its first light, but there is still a long way down the road for it to become a viable option in the future, once we’re all done dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

billing company

International vs Domestic Coding Services – Myths, Pros and Cons


Outsourcing is one of the most significant strategic decisions that any firm has to undertake. It is seen as a way to reduce undue costs, improve growth, and put more focus on important things – hence enhancing the quality of service. For this reason, medical practices are adamant about outsourcing anything, which only puts unnecessary strain on their resources and affects their overall productivity.

Coding is crucial for the well-being of a practice – and any errors committed in coding can bring in losses and denied claims. Therefore, practices usually prefer outsourcing this arduous task to accredited coding services. However, selecting which service to opt for is the real question.

Here, we will discuss the myths that people, in general, have regarding coding services. We will also enlist the pros and cons of domestic coding services and international coding services.

The myths – debunked

  1. Data Security:

It is commonly believed that international coding services may not implement the requisite protocols of security, something which seasoned domestic coding services do. However, that is not true. Reputed international coding services also deploy the same SOPs of data safety, which are mandated by the US Government and honor all state and federal compliances.

  1. Proficiency:bill

Another misconception that people have is that international coding services are not proficient at coding and they may not fulfil the practice needs aptly. In fact, international coding services have a more comprehensive portfolio than that of domestic coding services and are more than capable of meeting the precise demands.

  1. Language Barrier:

Language barrier has always been an issue between native English speakers and those who use English as their second language. However, most international coding services deploy only those personnel who can effectively communicate in English. In this way, international coding services have effectively eliminated issues pertaining to the language barrier.

  1. Training Costs

People also feel that international coding services incur hefty costs while training their employees regarding domestic coding needs. That is not entirely true. In fact, domestic coding services can face higher training costs because of high employee payrolls. Overall, training costs are more or less the same for both coding services.

Pros of International Coding Services

  1. Serve a bigger audience:

International coding services serve customers from around the world and have more experience than domestic coding services. They have a broader understanding of the needs of clinical providers and can offer smarter and tailored solutions as per the specific requirements of the practice.

  1. Reasonably priced:

International coding services are usually better priced as compared to the domestic coding services. This is because international coding services are usually based in countries where pay scales are comparatively lower than that in the US. This reduces the overall cost of providing coding services.

Cons of International Coding Services

  1. No physical presence

The biggest drawback of international coding services is that many of them do not have any regional office in the US. This becomes a problem if a client wants to meet the representatives from that particular coding service in person.

  1. US laws may not apply on them

In general, international coding services take the utmost care when it comes to data safety. However, in the event of an unfortunate data breach, US laws may not be fully applicable to the responsible international coding service. A data breach caused by any domestic coding service may result in fines as high as $1.5 million per violation.[1] This might not be the case if the coding service is international. In fact, the provider will probably have no way to get compensated for the theft and misuse of protected health information (PHI).

  1. Issue of Time Zone Differences

International coding services are usually in an altogether different time zone and observe their own local holidays. In this way, a typical working day in US may be a local holiday in the native country of the international coding service. This can be a little problematic, especially if the provider has a serious coding problem, and he promptly needs to speak to the representative of the billing company.

  1. Implementation may take time

Due to geographical differences, international coding services may take time to implement their services. This is because they have to do everything virtually, from setting up their system to training their clients, which naturally takes more time as compared to doing things physically.

Pros of Domestic Coding Services

  1. Physically Present

Domestic coding services are physically present in the US. They have their regional offices where one-to-one meetings can also take place. Being physically present in the US, domestic coding services enjoy greater faith of the providers.

  1. Understand US Litigations Better

Domestic coding services usually understand the US litigations better than international coding services. Being physically in the country, they have a better view of their surroundings and usually respond to coding changes faster than their international counterparts.

  1. Faster Implementation

Domestic coding services usually offer fast-track implementation. This is because they specialize in only US coding and all their resources are focused on a single geographical domain. Being physically present allows such services to effectively interact with their clients, and understand their needs better, resulting in faster implementations.

  1. Follows Local Timings

Domestic coding services follow the US local time and observe only the US Holidays. Their representatives are available during the US working hours.

Cons of Domestic Coding Services

  1. Costlier

Domestic coding services are usually costlier. This is because the pay scales in the US are comparatively higher as compared to the developing countries, where the majority of international coding services thrive.

  1. Not geographically diverse

Domestic coding services do not serve practices outside the geographical barriers of the US. Such coding services are a little short on the overall experience of handling intricate coding problems, as compared to international coding services.

International vs Domestic Coding Services – In a nutshell

Parameter Domestic Coding Service International Coding Service
Understands US laws and jurisdictions better  Yes Sometimes
More Economical No Yes
More Geographical Experience No Yes
Faster implementation Yes No
Same time zone Yes No
Physical presence Yes Sometimes

Conclusion

Outsourcing medical billing company can be a tricky decision to take. If a provider is looking for a cost-effective solution, they can opt for an international coding service. On the other hand, if a provider wants to consider a coding service that only specializes in the US market, then they may go with the domestic coding services. In any case, it is always advisable to compare alternatives from both categories of coding services and then make an informed decision, with regards to the needs of the practice.

[1] https://compliancy-group.com/hipaa-fines-directory-year/

The Productivity Element


The Productivity aspect of exemplary patient care focuses on the services you offer to the marketplace, your patients. In healthcare, we provide our patient’s services. First, let’s examine what the service is. Service is combining together various materials, equipment, people, a fund of knowledge, and technology to create benefits for your customers or patients. These services include not only the benefits of what you do for them but the feelings your customer experience as they receive your services.

The Two Parts of Any Service

Any service can be thought to possess two separate parts – the outcome and the experience. The Productivity element concerns itself with the experience of the patient. The Performance element focuses on the outcomes of the service rendered to the customer.

With the Productivity part, there are a few things to consider as you develop your service. The first step is to know and understand the mission and purpose of your organization. What you do and why you do it will help guide you as you develop services for your customers. Once you understand the nature of your organizations work, your people and customer can they understand and appreciate what you provide.

Be Efficient

It doesn’t matter what service industry you’re participating in, your customers will spend time waiting. In healthcare, it’s simply part of the patient experience. Time spent waiting could be considered time wasted by your patients. The most common patient complaint about many of the physicians I’ve worked with is the perceived value the physician places on the patient’s time. In fact, I would argue many of us don’t value time as much as we should. Therefore, we should make the best use of our time and that time of our patients. Focusing on efficiency is how we will do that.

Read More: Key EHR Innovations to Improve Patient Experience

To be efficient requires you to understand the entirety of your process fully. You will need to understand each step, why it is there, and the purpose it serves. You will need to understand the order of the steps in the process. You will need to know where the chokepoints are and if they are flexible. Minimizing your patient’s wait time is the an excellent way to delight your patients.

Delight Your Patient

The patient experience is an essential part of the service you offer. It is important to design your services around the emotional response you want your patient to leave the clinic with. Spend some time thinking about how each phase of the process affects the emotional state of your patient. What emotions does each step invoke in your patient as they move through your processes? What emotional responses do you want them to experience? Once you’ve identified the desired emotions, you can design your processes to invoke those specific emotional responses.

Perhaps the most important facet of delighting your patients is their expectations of the experience. Their expectations help define the experience of your practice. Just as in a nice fancy restaurant or a movie, you walk into that business with expectations. Your patient does the same thing with your business.

You will want to help establish expectations for your patient. These expectations are set in part by sharing your mission and purpose with them. What you do and why you do it should be readily perceived by the patient from the moment they enter your practice as well as throughout the entire visit. Your people’s words, actions, behaviors, and attitudes should remind your patients of your mission and purpose. Furthermore, each step of the process of the patient experience has an objective that supports the mission and purpose.

There’s a big difference between delighting the patient and sucking up to them. Delighting the patient means you’ve met and exceeded the expectations you’ve helped establish at the beginning of the process. Sucking up to them is when you are just doing whatever the patient wants without regard to the benefit it provides the patient. It becomes easier to say no to a patient’s request when it does align with your mission and purpose if you’ve displayed your mission and purpose consistently throughout their visit. Saying no to a request that doesn’t support the mission and purpose will be easy and should come as no shock to the patient.

For More Information: Should Medical Billing Be Outsourced?

Make It Easy on Your People

As you design processes, make the processes as easy as possible for your people. If steps in the process need to be rearranged, then do that. Frustrated employees are more apt to share their negative attitude with the patients, whether they know it or not. Everyone and everything should be united in the attitude and image of your organization’s projects.

Involve your people in the design of the processes as well. Most people want to do great work and if a step in the process hinders that, listen to them. If you’re hired great people, then you should have a plethora of good ideas. Avoid thinking they are merely trying to get out of work as they make suggestions. Remember they are attempting to be as efficient and productive as possible. If you know what you’re doing and understand the nature of your work, it will be easy to let your customers and your people understand this as well. Doing this is a huge step towards providing exemplary patient care.

The iBlueButton experience – Part I


During the course of the past few weeks, there has been some commotion and excitement in the healthcare community over the successful introduction of the mobile Blue Button. Many individuals within the industry are familiar with the concept of the Blue Button, however, since half of the clinician populace across the nation has not opted for EHRs, a large percentage of physicians are still oblivious to this common health IT terminology. Essentially, Blue Button is a tool which allows users of electronic medical records to obtain their personal health information via downloading it in various formats on their computers. It was initially designed as a platform to allow American Veterans easy access to their personal health information.

Blue Button has already been used extensively by hospitals throughout the country. Numerous federal agencies such as HHS (Health and Human Services), DOD (Department of Defense) and VA (Veterans Affairs) have applied Blue Button to facilitate their beneficiaries. The most basic format in which Blue Button allows the user to download their personal health information is a text file. By default the file downloaded from this technology is ASCII which is machine readable, meaning that the file may be downloaded in a variety of formats as required, such as text, PDF etc. As mentioned earlier, a Blue Button ASCII file is machine readable, which essentially means it can be parsed (broken down and analyzed) with a straightforward program on any basic computer. The downloaded text file may be accessed on any mobile device or computer without the need for any specific program. These files provide an effortless medium for transmitting health information amongst an assortment of members within the healthcare continuum.

Now, there is a new development in the world of health IT with regards to Blue Button, which is the iBlueButton mobile application. Humetrix is the health IT vendor which is responsible for shaking up the entire industry by introducing this revolutionary technology. Humetrix, a California based organization, revealed its iBlueButton 3.6 physician and consumer apps last October and won the national Blue Button ‘Mash Up’ Challenge. According to Todd Stein, the official spokesperson for Humetrix, thus far no one has been successful in making an application which makes a patient’s complete medical record accessible on their mobile device directly from their provider being solely under the patient’s control. As a result of this remarkable modernization, millions of military veterans and 37 million Medicare patients may now download their Blue Button medical record via their iPad or iPhone.

During a summit convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington DC, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Dr. Farzad Mostashari was full of praise for the iBlueButton and its implication within the healthcare community. To quote, Dr Mostashari while sharing a personal story exclaimed that the iBlueButton “opened my eyes”. During a medical emergency pertaining to his father, Dr. Mostashari downloaded his father’s full medical record using the iBlueButton application. Upon obtaining the record, Dr. Mostashari shared it electronically with his father’s doctor who was astonished to see it, as this was unprecedented for him. Pleased with the resourcefulness of this app, Dr. Mostashari comments, “This is patient engagement at its best. This is the future of healthcare. I’m a doctor myself and when I first saw this, it was a real eye opener. I had first tried to download my father’s file from CMS’s Blue Button but it was everything I kind of feared – long, not pretty, it’s got all these codes that you don’t understand, the name of the provider is a number.”

Medical Device Interoperability


Medical devices are of paramount importance to patient care and well being such as the equipment used for clinical measurement, for instance x-ray imaging, temperature, blood pressure and critical life support. Although we depend heavily on modern medical equipment to treat patients, the devices used in practice are usually not interoperable and cannot connect with other devices. This inadvertently causes accidents which may easily be prevented through an interoperable network of devices.

In a traditional intensive care unit, patients are given treatment with the help of numerous devices such as ventilators, electrocardiographs and vital sign monitors. Most of the time, the manufacturers are different for each of these devices, which makes it harder for these devices to be integrated accordingly.

According to a report by the World Health Organization, there are approximately 1.5 million various medical devices in more than 10,000 different types of device groups available globally. These devices are instrumental for effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of diseases, and can be used in different settings such as clinics, hospitals and homes by patients, individuals and healthcare workers. They can also be integrated to a cloud Electronic Medical Records network which can make it easier for healthcare providers to record and monitor the performance of these devices.

Peter Pronovost, MD, Medical Director for the Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care at John Hopkins University sheds some light on the reasons we need interconnected medical devices. “Medical devices need to share data, so that they can better inform clinicians and help patients,” said Mr. Pronovost. “By doing so, we can both improve quality and reduce costs.”

Similarly, a report by Deloitte states that 61% consumers are interested in using a medical device for checking their condition and electronically share that information with their healthcare providers through the use of technologies such as the EMR or Patient Portal.

Through the use of medical devices integrated with Electronic Medical Records, precious lives can be saved. For example, surgery procedures require surgical instruments and radiotherapy units are required to treat cancer patients. In the example of a cancer patient, an infusion pump giving pain medication to the patient can share and exchange data with the vital signs monitor to ensure that the patient is not being given a higher dose.

Joseph M. Smith, MD, Chief Medical and Science Officer of San Diego-based WHI said, “We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much needed transformation in healthcare delivery.” He further added, “Today’s hospitals are filled with medical devices that are unable to share critical data, creating potential dangers to patients, as well as inefficiencies that put a tremendous financial burden on our healthcare system.”