The Department of Diagnostic and Health Sciences in the UTHSC College of Health Professions hosted a webinar Tuesday titled “Telemedicine in the time of COVID-19.”
The webinar drew more than 200 participants from across the state. Moderated by Hassan Aziz, PhD, associate dean for Academic, Faculty and Students Affairs in the College of Health Professions, the webinar featured a panel of experts who specialize in the field of telemedicine and presented on the rapid implementation and ever-evolving processes of telehealth.
Telemedicine has been one of the primary means of providing patient care during the coronavirus pandemic as part of the social distancing measures in place in hospitals and clinics across the country that are dealing with COVID-19 cases.
“In response to the current coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine implementation and utilization has increased across all health care specialties,” said Sajeesh Kumar, PhD, associate professor of Health Informatics & Information Management. He presented on COVID-19-related regulations impacting telemedicine practice during the webinar.
Studies continue to show that telemedicine saves time, money, and lives, since telemedicine allows patients to speak to a provider by phone, tablet, or a computer, anywhere at any time. According to Dr. Kumar, a telehealth visit costs less than a typical face-to-face office visit.
With rapid utilization, comes best practices that providers must follow, including reading the fine print before practicing across state lines, due to individual states waiving certain licensing requirements. And utilizing non-public-facing video communication applications while adhering to regulations and complying with HIPAA rules.
“Many practices immediately transitioned from in-person office visits almost exclusively to not having patients in the office, as everyone is trying to practice social distancing,” said Rebecca Reynolds, EdD, RHIA, CHPS, FAHIMA, professor and program director of Health Informatics & Information Management, who presented on the documentation requirements for telemedicine services.
For telehealth visits, patients must verbally give consent to each visit and this should be documented, and patients must be informed they will be billed for the services provided. Providers are now also able to see new patients with new waivers in place, whereas before, telehealth visits were used to treat established patients. Other key issues highlighted were changes to previous restrictions in prescribing controlled substances, locum tenens licensing requirements, medical waivers, and regulations in place for licensing requirements when practicing across state lines.
“One of the things to realize is that some of these things have been made as a response to the pandemic,” said Dr. Reynolds. “This is all really fluid as we’re moving forward in kind of uncharted territory with a lot of restrictions being temporarily lifted.”
Tammy Danford, MSN, RN, CGRN, nurse manager for Telehealth at the Memphis VA Medical Center, presented on practicing telemedicine in COVID-19 times. She presented on HIPAA compliant virtual medical rooms, which include Virtual Care Manager, Doxy.me, or Apple FaceTime.
“We’re telling patients that they can receive the same care with modification that they could receive in a face-to-face visit,” she said. “Through telemedicine, there is no wasted time to travel, no money spent on parking or gas, no waiting time to see the provider, and of course, decreased risk to any kind of communicable diseases.
A recording of the webinar can be viewed at: https://mediaserver.uthsc.edu/uthscms/Play/3e87c66f490c401b80ec97ecac8a7fea1d
Drs. Kumar and Reynolds teach in the Health Informatics and Information Management program at UTHSC. For more information about the program visit: www.uthsc.edu/him