A couple of years ago we chatted with Dr. Eric Anderson about telehealth and the neurologist told us then that “telehealth is not the future – it’s the present. If you aren’t using it now, you will be soon.”
We didn’t expect his thoughts on the growth of telehealth in neurology to become a reality quite so soon. But in the last month we’ve learned that COVID-19 will affect just about everything we do in the practice of medicine. So, it’s no wonder that telehealth has arrived front and center as a patient care solution during a global pandemic.
On March 17, the Trump administration eased the process of incorporating telehealth into medical care by agreeing to cease enforcement of HIPAA rules for secure technology and easing Medicare reimbursement restrictions for telemedicine. Some states now require insurance companies to waive copays for telehealth visits. In New York, the governor has asked those who are sick to seek in-person medical care only after being directed to in a telehealth consultation.
Because Telestroke is one of the more established uses of telehealth technology, neurologists are uniquely familiar with its risks and benefits. This puts them in the best position to lead the way as its implementation grows.
In response to these rapid changes, the American Academy of Neurology has set up a special Telemedicine and Remote Care site with resources for neurologists who need to add or increase the use of telehealth in their practice. The site is updated regularly as both the pandemic and the regulatory landscape are in flux.
One of the more valuable resources for neurologists (and frankly, physicians in any specialty) is the Telemedicine and COVID-19 Implementation Guide. This guide walks doctors through everything from technology to greeting the patient to using the proper E/M codes.
In addition, the Telemedicine and Remote Care site offers videos demonstrating teleneurology implementation, information on insurance carriers and individual state actions, and access to the AAN’s COVID-19 resource center.
These AAN resources are invaluable for those who need to get up and running fast, but often there is nothing better than hearing about the experience of colleagues who are trying new approaches. And during the coronavirus pandemic, there is no better place than social media to glean from their experience.
Twitter users are sharing what they have learned during telehealth encounters as everyone dives into this brave new world together. Check out the following hashtags on Twitter to see what they are up to:
Many physicians feel compelled to provide care via telemedicine because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was never part of their plan. But as Anderson stated, telehealth is not just the future, it’s the present.
While we all wish the circumstances were different, getting your teleneurology practice up and running now will be an effort that pays off long after the pandemic is a chapter in the history books.