Business of Medicine

By Michele Hollow
Thursday, May 14, 2020

Practices and Telemedicine

With more people owning cellphones and personal computers, telehealth has become a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional, office-based medicine. According to the American Medical Association, a national study reported a 53% growth in patients using telehealth services from 2016 to 2017, and myriad more adopted it during the COVID-19 pandemic isolation period.

According to a report from the American College of Physicians, telemedicine improves results of older patients with diabetes who have limited access to care, enhances outcomes of patients with chronic illnesses and provides access for rural patients where physician services are limited. Telemedicine also has an almost equal level of patient satisfaction as in-person appointments, and results in cost savings for patients, physicians and hospitals.

Regarding reimbursements and licensing, which vary by state, laws and regulations were in place before the introduction of telehealth. The ACP report notes, “A state-by-state evaluation of telemedicine policies found nearly 50 combinations of requirements, standards and licensure policies.”

Physicians who wish to implement telemedicine into their practice may benefit from consultation with the AMA or the American Telemedicine Association.

Fixing Broken Costs

Is lack of cost transparency killing your practice’s finances?

Not knowing the price of a medical procedure and trying to decipher insurance claims can boggle any cerebrum — patients and physicians alike are familiar with unpredictable cost structures and confusing explanations of benefits. A report from Intrado found 56% of patients are late paying their medical bills, and 75% of patients have no idea how much they owe until they receive a bill. This lack of transparency results in higher profit risks, larger write-offs, higher costs to collect and longer revenue collection cycles.

Being transparent by disclosing costs upfront and utilizing revenue cycle technology may help empower your patients to pay in a timely manner. Expanding your circle by joining an independent physician association may also benefit your practice in negotiating with payers, leveraging billing companies so notifications of payment are accurate and timely, and receiving bulk costs on malpractice insurance.

Can Ancillary Services Boost Your Practice’s Revenue?

The possibilities are sizable. Finding the right ancillary services may expand your practice.

“It’s not at all surprising to me that a lot of practices are providing a more comprehensive set of services within their own practices,” says Ann Greiner, President and CEO of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative to Medical Economics. “There are positives and negatives, and it depends on the practice and the population served whether it makes sense.”

One of the most popular ancillary services, according to a Medical Economics report, are electrocardiograms, provided by 84% of family medicine practices and 73% of internal medicine practices. The second most popular ancillary service was lab services.

Other recommendations for ancillary services from Revele, a provider of healthcare revenue cycle and EHR services, include med spa services, physical therapy, radiography and weight-loss services.