Five FAQs About Telehealth Rehabilitation Services

Posted by Heidi Trivelpiece

| Telehealth

As our world continues to change around us, the way in which we provide therapy services has changed as well. During these difficult times, insurance companies have broadened access to telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their healthcare providers without having to travel to a healthcare facility.

Simply stated, telehealth is a visit with a healthcare provider that uses telecommunication systems between the patient and a therapist.  Surprisingly, telehealth has not been widely adopted by our healthcare system ... yet. This is largely due to two reasons:

  1. Insurance companies have been slow to identify it as an accepted means of medical care.
  2. Patients are unfamiliar, and in some cases, intimidated by the technology. 

We believe the events that are happening in our world today will change all of this. This pandemic demands that healthcare providers and payers reconsider how care is delivered to reduce the risk of further spread of infection. Access to telehealth has become of paramount importance to ensure the safety of patients and ensure the ability for all healthcare providers to care for their patients.

Our Response to COVID-19

To help you understand telehealth and its increasing significance within the world of healthcare, here are the answers to five frequently asked questions we receive from patients:

How does telehealth work (and what supplies do you need)?

Telehealth is the exchange of medical information between a provider and a patient in order to improve the patient's health and well-being. All you need is a smartphone, or a computer with a camera and access to the internet. The therapist will typically begin by reviewing your therapy goals as well as discussing how these have been addressed in the home thus far. For example, occupational therapists will be able to assess someone's home situation and determine if modifications need to be made to adapt the environment to your needs. Our physical therapists can watch you as you perform your home exercises and encourage you to continue your rehabilitation and provide advice to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly. The therapist will then review your progress with you and suggest any adjustments you need to make in your plan of care before your next visit.

Is telehealth secure and safe?

This depends on the telecommunications software used by your provider. We use Zoom which is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant with end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption. All this means is that it is safe and secure and complies with federal regulations for transmitting patient health information across the network.

Contact Us To Learn More

Are telehealth and telemedicine the same?

Telehealth is slightly different than telemedicine. While both offer the ability to access your therapist remotely, telehealth includes non-clinical services such as continuing medical education, patient education and training, and remote monitoring of patient health conditions whereas telemedicine only includes clinical services such as discussing your plan of care with your physicians, or reviewing your home exercises with your physical therapist.

What is the difference between telehealth and an e-visit?

Telehealth visits are longer, more in-depth visits between you and your therapist.  The interaction involves more education and assessment, and could look very similar to an appointment you would have with your therapist in a clinic. An e-visit is typically shorter (10-15 minutes) and is only for Medicare patients. Just think of it like a "virtual check-up" where your therapist sees how you are doing and addresses any problems or issues you are having with your overall health and well-being.

Are telehealth services covered by Medicare?

Medicare Part B covers telehealth services from certain providers. They do not yet cover telehealth services from a physical, occupational or speech therapist. That said, check back on our website landing page as we are working with Medicare to expand the use of telehealth for these patient populations. However, Medicare does currently pay for an e-visit. You would be responsible for the 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for your doctor or other health care provider’s services, and the Part B deductible applies. For most telehealth services, you'll pay the same amount that you would if you got the services in person.

We take seriously our responsibility to do what we can to continue to provide care to the patients who need it. Many of you have made great strides in your rehabilitation and we want to help you sustain these gains while you are at home. Telehealth or e-visits can be helpful for follow up and monitoring visits, chronic condition management, post-hospitalization rehab, home exercise modifications, and self-treatment strategies among other things. There is also research that suggests that telerehabilitation enhances the delivery of rehab services by allowing therapists to customize their treatment plan to be most successful within a home environment.

If you're interested in learning more about how telehealth can help you or a loved one, please contact us today. 

Author Bio:

Heidi has worked as a physical therapist practitioner for over two decades in a variety of clinical settings, including acute hospitals, orthopedic clinics, and occupational health and skilled nursing facilities. Heidi’s passion for outpatient orthopedic services is put to good use in her position as director of outpatient services where she oversees all clinical and operational aspects of our outpatient services in San Diego.