We believe telemedicine is the answer to the Iron Triangle of healthcare—improving cost, quality, and access. As effective and efficient as telemedicine is, however, it’s still a relatively recent development in the world of healthcare delivery and as such can be an intimidating unknown to many potential beneficiaries. With this in mind, we’ve developed the following FAQ resource to help inform and guide the discussion on the many benefits telemedicine offers.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is simply the delivery of health services (like consultations or check-ups) via communication technology (like video conferencing). In some cases, electronic tools like a digital stethoscope may be used as well.
How do I communicate with my doctor in a telemedicine appointment?
In a hospital setting, a Beam specialist may see you via a telemedicine robot or iPad, from which they’ll be able to observe, examine, and communicate with you right at your bedside.
In a clinic or outpatient setting, you would see a Beam specialist via secure, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing on an iPad. The visit would be scheduled at your clinic just like a traditional appointment.
How do I know the doctor can still understand and assess my symptoms or ailments if they aren’t physically with me in the room?
Whether telemedicine or a traditional visit, a provider’s most important tool is communication with the patient. In a telemedicine setting, this communication just happens to be over video — it’s a normal conversation, like a video chat with family members of friends. Additionally, a nurse or medical staff member will be by your side throughout the visit to assist the telemedicine specialist in performing a physical exam and to help answer any remaining questions.
What happens after my visit – will I ever see a specialist in-person?
In an inpatient or hospital setting, after the telemedicine physician has seen you, they’ll write up their plans and recommendations and discuss with the hospital’s primary physician. The telemedicine physician will also be available to discuss and address your immediate concerns and needs with your nurse.
In an outpatient or clinical setting, our team will make sure the resulting orders and recommendations are entered in your electronic health record following your visit. We’ll help carry out those recommendations so when it’s time for your primary care physician to follow-up your care plan is set.
Will my insurance cover a telemedicine appointment? What about Medicare and Medicaid? Will I be billed any differently than an in-person visit?
In light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicaid and Medicare are allowing telemedicine appointments to be billed the same as an in-person visit, with most commercial insurance companies following suit. Additionally, many providers are able to reduce or remove the co-pay for telemedicine visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before the current health crisis, however, more and more insurance companies were moving toward covering telemedicine services. To be sure if your telemedicine visit will be covered or not, consider reaching out to your provider for details regarding your specific plan.
Who will have access to my data? Will my visit be recorded?
Information relevant to your appointment and treatment plan is recorded to your clinic or hospital’s electronic health record, but not the video footage from your visit.
What if I am not very comfortable using technology?
Clinic and hospital staff will be responsible for the telehealth technology is working appropriately. It can be a scary idea for some people, but in reality it is nothing more than a secure conversation with a healthcare provider who has your best interest in mind.
Is telemedicine legal in my state? Will my facility be able to bill insurance companies for the service? (How much can we expect for reimbursement? What about private payer reimbursement?)
If your facility is in the state of Wisconsin, SB 380 (passed in 2019) made telemedicine legal and required Medicaid to offer this benefit to beneficiaries. For facilities in all other states, you can check your coverage through the Center for Connected Health Policy.
If telemedicine is legal in your state, all teleconsultations with providers are reimbursed by Medicaid and Medicare just like an in-person appointment would be. (Providers include physicians, PAs, nurse practitioners, case managers, and more). Most commercial insurance companies are following suit. Some facilities can also be reimbursed for originating site fees and transmission fees, and while relatively small (around $10-40 per visit), every little bit helps.
Will hiring a telepsecialist cost less than hiring an on-site specialist?
Absolutely. In an ideal world, facilities would exclusively employ onsite physicians, but that’s not always possible for a number of reasons — small, rural facilities do not have the demand to warrant this or the funds to pay for it, there’s a general shortage of providers in the U.S., etc. Telemedicine is an excellent solution to address these challenges and keep costs low.
What are some reasons my facility should use telemedicine? What types of visits should we use it for?
The answer to this depends on your facility’s specific needs, but Beam’s goal is to reduce unnecessary transfers by providing in-patient hospitalist care and specialty consults, and ensure the care of patients remains in their community.
Will our facility’s patients be ok with seeing a specialist over video conference? Has telemedicine been well-received at other facilities?
While we cannot predict future patients’ preferences or attitudes, what we can say is that in our experience thus far patient response has been overwhelmingly positive. As long as patients and clinicians are able to have genuine, trust-based communication the experience is positive for all involved.
Will my facility be sacrificing quality for convenience if we use telemedicine?
Absolutely not. Beam is a Joint Commision accredited company with a care model relying solely on full or part-time employee providers committed to evidence-based medicine and improving quality of care. We do not use temp staffing agencies, nor are we a middle-man for external companies to provide care. Quality and continuity of care are of utmost importance to us.
What are the advantages for our patients?
Our driving metric is achievement of the Iron Triangle of healthcare — improving cost, access, and quality. We do this by enhancing access to care locally (i.e. delivering speciality care in a patient’s local clinic or hospital), consistently providing first-in-class care and saving both facilities and patients money throughout the entire process.
Will the role of my on-site staff members change? What should they expect?
This depends largely on the time of coverage, but a good telemedicine inpatient/outpatient program provides the ability for providers (Beam’s and those belonging to your facility) to care for complicated patients as a team. Telemedicine relieves onsite providers of some responsibilities and ensures the workload and decision-making burdens are shared.
What equipment will my facility need?
We wanted to make it as easy and cost-inclusive as possible for facilities to partner with us. In light of that, our zero-fee software works on any laptop or iPad with good audio and a camera — if your facility has those items, you’re all set.
For hospital settings, self-driving robots and other hardware options are occasionally requested. In that case, we’re happy to introduce you to our hardware partners (with whom we have no financial incentive).