Although optometrists have traditionally been apprehensive to adopt telemedicine or deliver remote diagnoses, the current shelter-in-place precautions due to COVID 19 call for healthcare providers to adapt. If you have established patients with red eyes or injuries during this time, how do you provide them the care they need?

Many ODs are setting up their at-home practice to provide remote care. However, beginning to administer patient care while you and your staff work from home takes planning and the right tools.

From billing codes to workflow changes, here are the steps to find if telehealth could be incorporated into your practice either for the short or long term.

1. Establish What You Can Do

Figure out which avenues of telemedicine you can provide. Telemedicine allows optometrists to talk to patients through phone calls, e-visits, virtual check-ins, and video chats. However, comprehensive telehealth involves at least a 2-way video call with the patient, prescreening tests or information from the patient, and any other patient information that can be sent through a digital patient portal that is HIPAA compliant. This implies that telehealth is only possible for practices with remote access to their data, an online patient portal, and patients with a reliable internet connection. Talk to your staff about reducing practice hours, sending out marketing messaging about telehealth, and encouraging established patients to schedule e-visits for emergencies.

2. Review New Billing Procedures

It’s important to note that servicing patients remotely means new HCPCS codes to enter during exams and new procedures for your staff. Make sure your staff is on board with a strong internet connection in their homes and that you have one person in your practice at all times to handle emergencies. We have created a quick reference guide with the correct codes and procedures to take during telehealth exams here that you can share with your staff. Although there might a learning curve while insurance payers establish procedures for processing these telehealth claims, it’s worth putting in the work now so that your practice can stay open as much as possible.

When in doubt, refer to the Medicare website for laws and protocols on telehealth originating sites and coding under the new relaxed wavier.

3. Future Plan

Teleoptometry does seem to have benefits for practices as an alternative for patient care during times of need and beyond. Not only does digital optometry reduce the need for paper records, but it also makes appointments and education accessible to any patient with an internet or phone connection. With telehealth, you can access patients in rural communities or those who can’t leave their homes. Switching to a cloud-based EHR and practice management software allows ODs to look at reports, conduct video conferencing, and communicate with patients through a portal remotely when necessary.

With the correct software, your workflow can run smoothly after the initial setup. If remote work would help the community you live in and the success of your practice, it’s worth creating a separate check-in to check-out process for these patients. 

Learn more about how Uprise EHR & PM Telehealth Essentials can help get your practice back in action. Download our quick reference PDF on telehealth billing or watch our informative webinar here.