Understanding the difference between telehealth/ telemedicine services

Many medical insurances, Medicare and Medicaid plans included, are now recognizing the need for Telehealth services.  This is due to varying reasons including medical provider and patient convenience and even cost efficiencies for the insurance companies.  Medical insurances are now paying for this service to accommodate both the medical practice and patient needs.

Why should I be billing for these services?

Providers are already taking calls on the phone from patients both on and off hours and now can get paid for these services easily.  Basically you may already be doing this work and now you can also be paid for it.  This can even help providers expand their service delivery hours and service types while reducing costs.  It also allows for patients in remote areas that don’t have locally needed specialists to have access they may not otherwise get as well as to those who are too ill, too elderly, or disabled to travel.  There is also a growing need for both psychiatry and psychology services in the market today. 

What is the difference between Telemedicine and Telehealth? 

Telemedicine is the use of electronic technologies to improve the patient’s health by connecting the patient with a health care provider who is not in the same location.  This visit may take place via phone calls, video chats or emails, on tablets, smart phones, and other wireless devices. 

Telehealth is a broader term which may also involve a nurse, pharmacist, or any health professional.  There is also mobile health, which is the use of the consumer grade wireless devices and cell phones used for telemedicine services for clinical care technology allowing for greater provider and patient flexibility.

The terms Telemedicine and Telehealth are commonly used interchangeably. Telehealth in this article will encompass all health services and health providers, the use of which varies by state and payer.

To completely embrace the virtual world in healthcare you must identify the value of telemedicine or telehealth for your medical practice, your insurance companies, and to your patients.

Allowable providers include Physicians, Nurse practitioners (NPs), Physician Assistants (Pas), Nurse-midwives, Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs),  Certified registered nurse anesthetists, Clinical psychologists (CPs), Clinical social workers (LCSWs), Registered dieticians, and Nutrition professionals.

Information included in this article has been obtained through resources provided by the American Academy of Professional Coders.

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