Telehealth – i.e., the electronic distribution of health-related services and information – allows long-distance/remote patient and clinician contact, care, monitoring, education and intervention. While it’s gained traction among primary healthcare providers and home health agencies over the past several years, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted greatly increased usage across the healthcare spectrum.
Your home health agency may utilize telehealth for a variety of care needs. But understand: telehealth visits currently are not reimbursable (with the exception of physician visits), so agencies that use them excessively to the detriment of on-site visits may not receive full reimbursement for a 30-day episode of care.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use telehealth visits. But best practice is to use them in support of the actual care plan. For example, telehealth can be used as an additional visit to monitor a patient’s condition or as a supervisory visit for a home health aide when a home health nurse cannot physically deliver service at the patient’s place of residence. If you do utilize telehealth, document visits accurately and thoroughly. Again, they are not currently reimbursable; but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Additionally, documentation is critical because these visits are included in the care plan—specifically, listed among the total number of visits and subject to review during an audit.
Best Practices Around Telehealth for Home Health Agencies:
Pre-screen referrals to identify potential issues regarding in-house visits
Do not use a telehealth visit for a start of care
Contact the physician to discuss any patient concerns, and if appropriate for telehealth, obtain a verbal order for the telehealth visit
Visits must be included on the home health plan of care. This entails:
Including a description of how the use of technology will help to achieve the goals outlined in the plan of care
Making sure non-reimbursable visits are documented with information of substance
Use telehealth visits as a supplement to in-house visits
Monitor the utilization of non-reimbursable visits to prevent LUPAs and unbillable episodes