Perhaps the most dramatically impacted area of healthcare as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is telehealth. Previously, the conditions were not in favor of virtual clinics because face-to-face visits were the norm. Now, however, the situation has changed. When other clinicians are making use of telemedicine, PTs and PTAs are, definitely, not far behind.
On March 17, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) allowed PTs to conduct e-visits after which they can reach patients at homes keeping them away from the contagious virus. But it wasn’t easy, to say the least – It took a lot of effort.
It was not until April 30, 2020 – after rigorous advocacy by APTA – that CMS decided to include PTs and PTAs among providers eligible to bill for telehealth services. Such services include virtual visits contrary to real-time, face-to-face meetings.
In other words, COVID-19 persuades the government to make PTs and PTAs eligible for remote patient management, which results in a rapid increase in telehealthcare.
Increase in Video Consults via Live Sessions
Before the pandemic, 98% of physical therapists questioned did not do live video sessions with their patients. Furthermore, out of 2% who did, 69% of them saw only one patient per week on average. As a result of this awful virus, we saw 50% of PTs adopting live video sessions as an outlet to see their patients. In a matter of months, most of the physical therapy switched from real-time visits to remote visits.
Generally speaking, medical billing services, under the new world order, have to readjust keeping in view the regulatory and federal guidelines specifically for e-visits.
One of the PTs said, and I am paraphrasing it: Some of the aspects of video visits are a revelation – seeing positions of patients while they sit and watch TV or examining their postures of sleep. They would like to continue with live video sessions as part of their treatment even after the pandemic.
Uncertainty with Telehealth Billing Returns
The survey by APTA brought vital information to the limelight. Of those PTs who participated in this survey, 25% of them were sure their telehealth payments were consistent with in-person visits, while 53% were not sure of it. Similar, uncertainty was there when it came to patient satisfaction with telehealthcare.
As much as there is uncertainty to life, there is vagueness to practicing medicine online because we are all new to it. However, for consistent revenue cycle management, we must adhere to local and federal instructions for telehealth as we follow the HIPAA code of conduct in terms of PHI safety.
Zoom to Meet and Treat
The survey showed Zoom as the most popular platform for video consults, according to 43% of the participating PTs. APTA’s June 2020 report covers the impact of COVID-19 on physical therapy. We deduce these results from it. The rest of the practitioners among the participants reported using more than a dozen other platforms for video care.
The graph below shows the usage of virtual platforms since the pandemic spread in the US.
Technology Is Both A Blessing and Burden
Technology, on one side, is the facilitator, but on the other, an obstacle. 31% of practitioners said their patients were not technologically ready for an e-visit, while 21% of the PTs said their facility lacked the technology to facilitate patients during the pandemic.
Another common barrier faced by PTs and PTAs was the lack of payments for telehealth services. Telehealth billing services by P3Care supports physical therapists to get them higher reimbursements, fewer accounts receivable, and responsive customer support. Besides, we apply tools and techniques to take our clients up the road of virtual visits resulting in better collections.
Below, you’ll see a graph of what obstacles our PTs face against technology, courtesy APTA’s June 2020 report.
PTs and PTAs are part of the frontline workers of the COVID-19 emergency response that have been crucial to the healthcare teams, providing care in private clinics, facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals nationwide. Moreover, it is due to their constant support that the patients in local community settings not affected by COVID-19 receive continuous care.
Mobility, strength, consistency, and patience are fundamental elements of physical therapy in any setting. PTs and PTAs help patients get well sooner with their expertise in musculoskeletal conditioning. Unquestionably, the role of PTs is vital to see us through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: At all times, the CDC recommends PPE for the safety of patients and therapists alike.
A Guide to MIPS 2019 Reporting for Physical Therapists is where you can find MIPS consulting essentials for the previous year leading to the year 2020.