By John Sharp, MSSA, PMP, FHIMSS, Director, Thought Advisory, Personal Connected Health Alliance; HIMSS
Telehealth visits are quickly becoming a mainstay of healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many health systems encourage patients to shift to telehealth as a first choice to discuss possible symptoms, rather than going to the hospital emergency room. Some states have ordered health systems and insurers to move all possible coronavirus-related visits to telehealth. But what is the best way for a patient or family caregiver to prepare for a video visit, especially the first time?
You may want to know if your insurance will cover a telemedicine visit. This depends on your insurance. While Medicare has expanded the coverage for telehealth visits, private insurers vary on this benefit. Some state orders require insurers to cover telehealth visits during this health emergency. Check the website of your state health department, your insurance carrier, or your employee benefits page from your employer. If telemedicine is not covered, a telehealth visit may cost around $50 to $80, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
You may also be concerned about the security of the health information you share on the call. Since you are talking to a healthcare provider, the information will be covered by HIPAA, meaning that it stays with the provider and can only be shared with your insurer, for instance, for the purpose of payment. The telehealth provider will likely record your information in an electronic health record, which is kept securely by the health system.
Finally, you may want to know if a telemedicine visit is as effective as an in-person appointment with a doctor. There are limitations to a telehealth visit – the doctor cannot touch your body or listen to your heart or lungs. However, you will be able to adequately describe many symptoms to help your doctor decide if you need to be in-person.
To take full advantage of your telehealth visit and to help the provider evaluate your condition, there are several steps you can take to prepare:
Also in preparation, make sure your technology is ready:
During the call:
Overall, a virtual visit is similar to visiting a doctor’s office, but in these unusual times, more meticulous preparation is helpful. You may or may not receive notes from your call through your patient portal. If you have a portal for this provider, check it after the call to review any recommendations.
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