Telerehab Bumps Elbows with COVID-19

A new wave of treatment
is on the horizon...

              In the midst of the current outbreak of COVID-19, many providers are looking to develop contingency plans to keep their patients and staff safe. While we all practice social distancing and many are beginning to quarantine, physical therapists are left in a challenging position: how best do we protect our health without interrupting our practices? Many providers are looking to telehealth to provide an answer.

              Telehealth has been around in a limited capacity for decades, but really didn’t hit its stride until the passage of the ACA in 2010, when insurance companies began to cover small slivers of telemedicine. However, the rehabilitation industry—and physical therapy in particular—has been largely ignored and telerehab has generally been considered a non-covered service by most insurers.

              However, given the current global pandemic, many providers are looking to this moment as the one which could change everything for the rehabilitation industry.

              According to the APTA, Medicare does not authorize physical therapy performed via telehealth as payable services. By contrast, since commercial payers make their own regulations, there is variation not only from payer to payer, but even from state to state. However, as of November 2019, 16 state practice acts “explicitly state that telerehab is within the physical therapist’s scope of practice.” Additionally, 32 states have parity laws which put the onus on insurance companies to match reimbursement for digital services and in-person care when telemedicine is considered within the scope of practice. So, there may be some hope for providers looking to bill for telerehab now and in the near future as legislation covering telerehab expands. Currently, the official recommendation of the APTA is to contact your MAC and individual commercial payers for specific advice and seek prior approval before seeking reimbursement for telerehab. If the payer does not reimburse for telerehab services, consider discussing the possibility of an ABN and offering these visits as non-covered services. 

              Once you have made a billing determination with your individual payers, the next step to offering telerehab is finding a platform. There are many telehealth providers on the market which are both affordable and which offer useful features, such as Doxy.

              To introduce a telerehab platform to your TheraOffice, you will:

  1. Create an appointment type on your schedule for Telehealth.
  2. Link that appointment type to the document type you would like to use.
  3. Perform the telehealth session via a product like Doxy.
  4. Fill out your document in TheraOffice as you normally would.
  5. If you have determined it is possible, bill through TheraOffice.

              Whether your clinic decides to explore telerehab services or not, here at Hands on Technology, we hope you, your practice, and your patients are all staying well. Wash your hands!

References

Advisory: PTs, Telehealth, and the Coronavirus. (2020, March 9). Retrieved from http://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2020/03/09/CoronaAdvisoryTelehealth/

American Physical Therapy Association. (2020, November 22). Telehealth: Legislation and Regulation. Retrieved from http://www.apta.org/Telehealth/LegislationRegulation/

American Telemedicine Association, Telemedicine in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Washington, DC: ATA, 2010).

Services, B. on H. C. (2012, November 20). The Evolution of Telehealth: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207141/

Yang, Y. T. (2016, August 15). Telehealth Parity Laws. Retrieved from https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20160815.244795/full/

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