Ever since the pandemic and quarantines, telehealth has become a vital part of health practices.
Between moving your practice virtual, taking care of your family, and continuing to offer the best care to your patients, we know you’re insanely busy! According to a survey completed by the American College of Physicians, 42% of physicians found that incorporating telehealth into their practice was difficult due to challenges with integration issues in their practice.
We know it can be overwhelming and easy to overthink, so let’s go over the simplest and fastest way you can transition your practice to telehealth in literally 24 hours - seriously!
Read this, and by tomorrow, you can be seeing and helping patients virtually.
Telehealth offers practitioners the ability to reach more patients or clients and has become an important aspect of delivering care ever since the pandemic. Practitioners can connect with their patients virtually, opening their scope of practice and, at the same time, providing their patients with more flexibility in scheduling options. With telehealth, you can monitor patients and complete consultations remotely. Providing virtual visits can also decrease your overhead expenses, improve health outcomes, and enhance satisfaction for patients.
There are two primary types of telehealth services: one-on-one consultations and education-based. One-on-one consultations are typically the easiest and quickest way to transition your practice as you are just providing the exact same type of consultations that you would be providing during an in-person visit, but remotely.
Education-based telehealth, on the other hand, is where you would provide online courses as part of their health program. This type of virtual practice takes time off your hands while improving patient care through education. Within education-based telehealth, you can also offer your patients a resource library, an onboarding system, and labs that can all be automated.
Here are two excellent sources to help you get set up with your education-based telehealth practice:
This resource provides an overview of all the benefits of creating courses for your telehealth practice.
This resource provides you with an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to setting up your online courses and incorporating automated lab ordering for your patients.
Depending on your state, license, and type of practitioner you are, there are some legal and regulatory considerations for incorporating a telehealth practice. There is still a lot of gray area in this matter, so please consult with your state license governing board on your specific regulations and a lawyer for your specific business needs. We will provide more details in the section below in regard to compliance.
Overall, telehealth practices can save you time and money while offering your patients more resources, education, and quality care.
If you are a practitioner who is just starting out, here is a guide to help you start your functional medicine practice:
Market Research and Planning
In order to market your telehealth practice, there are a few key components that need to be incorporated. They include defining your audience and specialties, evaluating your market, and conducting a competitive analysis. Start by identifying your ideal patients and healthcare specialties. Understand who your program is designed for and what healthcare needs it addresses. After identifying your ideal patient, you will evaluate the local market’s demand for telehealth services. Gauge the interest and need for remote healthcare solutions. Then, conduct a competitive analysis to identify what similar programs or practice types are being offered. By following these steps, you’ll develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to promote your telehealth practice effectively.
Here is a link for some free resources on marketing that the SBA (Small Business Association) offers:
An 8-Step Guide To Start Your Telehealth Practice In 24-Hours Or Less:
Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way!
1. Call Your Malpractice Insurance
Check to see if telehealth is included in your policy. If not, have it added! It generally shouldn’t affect your rates, and if it does, it’s normally a small amount. If you are considering cross-border telehealth, there are some additional malpractice risk assessments, and this should be discussed with your carrier as this may not be accepted by malpractice.
Legal and Regulatory Compliance
It’s important to note that this is not legal advice and is general information on telehealth practices from a broad scope. Therefore, it’s essential that you consult with a business lawyer for your specific business and licensure needs.
When it comes to licensure requirements for telehealth practitioners, the general rule of thumb is that you are able to see patients within the state that you are licensed in. If you are considering seeing patients across state lines, regulatory compliance is all dependent upon the type of practitioner you are and your licensing board. For instance, licensed allopathic medical doctors have special waivers and endorsements allowing them to practice across state lines. In the case of licensed integrative practitioners, those waivers do not apply to them. For integrative practitioners looking to work across state lines, they may look into offering services as health consultants for clients instead of patients. In this case, these integrative practitioners will need to ensure that those clients also have a primary care physician (PCP) and that intake documents and verbiage reflect this regulatory change.
This practitioner variation also holds true for medical insurance reimbursements, as allopathic doctors may get reimbursed, whereas integrative practitioners may not and may need to practice as a cash-pay practice. Privacy laws and patient confidentiality, such as HIPPA, are still required for all licensed practitioners, and compliance should be maintained. These laws may not be required for unlicensed practitioners but should still be adhered to for optimal service to your clients.
Another regulatory consideration in telehealth is business licensing. You will need to register your business within the state that your business is in. The licenses and permits you require for your business depend on your activities and location. Remember that some licenses and permits have expiration dates, so be aware of those renewal deadlines. To identify the specific permits and licenses you need, research your state, county, and city regulations. Industry requirements often differ by state. Visit your state’s website for guidance on necessary permits and licenses.
2. Pick Your Platform
The next step is to determine which platform you want to use for virtual visits. Zoom & Doxy both have HIPAA-compliant packages.
The most popular functional medicine Electronic Health Records (EHRs, also called Electronic Medical Records or EMRs) also have telehealth platforms integrated. Charm, Cerbo, Power2Practice, Practice Better, Healthie, and Elation are the top EMRs we see. Selecting the correct telehealth platform and EMR system to complete your virtual visits is crucial to remain compliant with HIPPA policies, data security, and privacy regulations.
NOTE: The OCR announced that it would exercise its enforcement discretion and will waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations against healthcare providers that serve patients through everyday communications technologies during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. This means that for the time being, you can even use Google Hangouts, Skype, or Facetime. Even though it looks as if this waiver is still in place, it’s recommended to start with a HIPPA-compliant platform, as this may change soon. Read more about emergency telehealth regulation changes here.
3. Take Any Prior Physical Processes Virtual
Do an audit of your practice. What things were physical or in person? What needs to be moved virtually? Here are some common areas that need a modern upgrade.
Do you have a separate office phone line or a physical landline in your clinic? Get a new phone line that can be routed to your cell or home. The fastest, cheapest way is getting a Google Voice number. Later, you can route this back to your office line.
Do you physically store test kits and hand them to patients? Go virtual. Use Rupa to handle all of your lab work, drop-ship kits to patients, and create a professional lab experience for your patients! :) Rupa offers many resources for practitioners, such as shipping kits directly to your patients with the estimated time frames to efficiently manage your labs in a timely manner. Lab results can also be sent directly to your patients via a HIPPA-compliant system to protect their privacy. There’s also an abundance of training videos so you know exactly how to order the labs for your patients and figure out which specialty labs are best for them. Rupa resources walks you through the process in a simplified step-by-step guide. You can even see what the patient experience is like when they order labs so you can set the proper expectations with them.
If you don’t already use a virtual dispensary, you can create accounts with Fullscript to send supplement orders to patients that are drop-shipped directly to them.
If you have physical documents, it can be overwhelming to try to go virtual immediately (getting an EMR, virtual charting, etc.). Instead of overhauling this one, just bring your charts home. This is one area you don’t need to go virtual immediately. After a couple of weeks, when you get into a new rhythm, you can start to innovate here!
This is a tough one. Moving virtual, you might not need all your staff. With all of the economic uncertainty, many companies are downsizing their teams right now. Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to make a thoughtful decision as fast as possible and communicate it clearly. Show your team respect by being direct. Let them know exactly what is going on. e.g. “We are moving virtual for at least the next month, and then it is TBD. We will be paying 1/2 time salary during this time.” This can be painful in the short term but better in the long run and builds trust amongst your team.
As overwhelming as it might be, this is an excellent time to actually take stock of your processes and modernize your business. Take it as an opportunity to streamline and improve your business!
4. Set Up an Easy Scheduling System
Selecting the correct EMR system is not only essential for HIPPA compliance, but it can also provide extra benefits such as scheduling. Many EMR systems now have built-in telehealth scheduling. They may also offer easy integrations so that patients can schedule directly on your website to help you automate this system and offer patients an easier process to schedule all their visits. The EMR systems will also send them reminders of the appointments with options to reschedule in a timely manner.
If you have another system that you’ve used in the past, continue with that! Just be sure to send patients details of how to join your appointment virtually after they book.
5. Set Up Your Virtual Office Space
Position your desk across from a window, clear clutter from your desk, and have your headphones nearby. Position your computer so that it is straight in front of your face. Check your lighting ahead of time! Make your virtual office look inviting and clean. Making sure you’re not backlit and sitting across and facing a window is the best lighting for video calls.
6. Marketing and Promotion
Developing a branding and marketing strategy for the telehealth business will help you expand your patient or client base. One of the first steps in marketing and promotions is to create a user-friendly telehealth website and online presence. Begin with organic marketing strategies such as social media and email marketing. Use these channels to engage your target audience and create awareness about your practice. Implementing this digital marketing tactic will help you attract new patients or clients. When you execute your marketing strategies, ensure that you announce that you are seeing patients virtually. The next step will be to incrementally introduce paid advertising as part of your marketing initiative, although this may not need to be done right away. Focus on optimizing your online presence first. However, if you choose to incorporate paid advertising, you can use major platforms like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Google Ads, and YouTube. Target your ideal clients and generate interest in your practice through strategic ad campaigns.
7. Be Clear About the Hours You’re Available
It can be tempting to be available 24/7 to patients when you’re practicing virtually. However, resist this temptation! Instead, let patients know exactly what days and hours you will be available, what forms of communication are open (phone, text, email, portal, etc.), and the time frame in which they can expect to receive a response from you (within 24 hours, etc.).
8. Bill and Follow-Up as Usual!
Many functional medicine practitioners opt to have a cash-pay practice, in which they do not accept insurance for their services. If you are a cash-pay practice, setting up a secure payment system will be key in ensuring a smooth process for your patients. Most payment processing systems, such as Square and Stripe, will offer reliable, secure options to take payments. However, if you plan to accept insurance, you will want to check with the insurance carriers if they cover your specific telehealth services. Understanding how those carriers reimburse will be essential in ensuring timely payments to your business. It’s also important to determine your telehealth pricing model and fee structures as they may need to be adapted for telehealth. The demand for functional medicine has soared, so you should be charging appropriately for your services. Read more about the average price of functional medicine visits here.
You got this! Don’t let yourself get in your way of best serving your patients - the world needs you!
Practitioners are increasingly pivoting to telehealth services to help their patients or clients on their wellness journeys. This guide highlights how simple it can be to transition into a telehealth practice. By following these steps, you will be all set up to see your patients virtually, expand your patient or client base, manage your business time more efficiently, and ultimately serve more people.
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