So you want to talk about Telehealth?
This has been a piping hot topic for months, but in light of the constant change and uncertainty in the physical therapy field (as in most others) we thought it was worth addressing its ins and outs with a fresh perspective.
Here’s probably the #1 thing that you should know: The APTA SUPPORTS TELEHEALTH. You will find this very clearly on their website.
Here are some reasons why:
- It inspires physical therapy inclusion into the Telehealth industry
- It helps handle the need to reduce healthcare costs
- It helps with the physical therapy shortage in this country
Yet, as with all things, you are liable for what you don’t know. Be sure to do your research: private practice owners need to consult their state laws surrounding Telehealth, as there are 22 states that cover it clearly and 4 that allow it more generally. If your state is one of the silent ones on the topic of Telehealth, be sure to reach out to your state board to ensure that there are no restrictions on you practicing Telehealth.
Another way Physical Therapy owners need to protect themselves is by contacting their malpractice and liability insurance to make sure that they are covered for Telehealth. It is important to shop carriers, and as physical therapists we need to provide the following company options: CMFgroup Liability company, VGM insurance company and www.pt1insurance.com. (These links will redirect you to VGM, they are the parent company that handles all PT1 clients – therapists generally know it as PT1 but the company is actually called VGM)
Next, Private Practice Owners need to understand what consent really means – it’s much more than just a signature on a page. Full consent must include patient understanding, them knowing that they have the right of refusal, and that the recommendation for treatment comes from clinical judgement. Stay ethical and straightforward with your clients.
All Telehealth services need to be HIPAA compliant, just like any in-office care. You MUST maintain the necessary security standards, but what is important to know is that some states have more stringent guidelines than what HIPAA has put forth. Be aware of this, and again, do your research.
Another thought: keep in mind that, in addition to therapy services at home, the future of Telehealth should allow the physical therapy profession to expand more into remote coaching services in the area of fitness and wellness as well. Due to COVID, the profession will likely look very different than it did prior to the pandemic.
Telehealth also allows for more functional application of treatment in the patient’s home environment, using the objects and equipment within their home for real life workouts and Activities of Daily Living training. This provides a degree of comfortability and consistency.
Lastly, here are some tips on how to help your staff get comfortable with performing Telehealth services clinically:
- Demonstrate the high-quality care the Telehealth can provide when compared to the usual hands-on care (you can refer them to referenced journals & studies on the topic)
- Have them get creative with how they treat the patient in their home – perhaps using household items that they have on hand
- Talk to your payers so you know clearly what you are getting in terms of Billing
- Have them promote the convenience of treating from home!
- Remind them that many Telehealth platforms are HIPAA compliant
There you have it. Telehealth has been deemed a vetted and safe solution, and it will likely change the landscape of our entire profession… so better to get on board now! Do your research, ask your questions, and expect to do well!