Telehealth has rapidly transformed the healthcare landscape in the last few years, offering patients and providers an alternative means of delivering and receiving care. While it has improved access to healthcare, it has also brought unique challenges, particularly with regard to its billing and reimbursement. Healthcare providers and practice leaders across the United States have encountered various obstacles while navigating the telehealth billing process.
In this article, we’ll delve into the key telehealth billing challenges faced by healthcare providers and practice leaders in the US and provide comprehensive solutions to address these issues effectively.
1. Complex & Evolving Regulations
Telehealth billing presents a significant challenge due to the complexity and ever-changing nature of reimbursement regulations. The US healthcare system is subject to a multitude of federal and state laws, as well as payer-specific policies, which can be overwhelming to navigate. Providers must stay up-to-date with changing regulations to ensure proper billing and avoid potential penalties or denials.
Dedicated Compliance Teams
Healthcare practices should establish dedicated compliance teams or hire compliance officers who are well-versed in telehealth regulations. These experts can monitor and interpret the ever-changing landscape, ensuring the practice remains in compliance.
Regular Training & Education
Continuous training and education programs should be implemented for all staff members involved in billing, including remote team members like healthcare virtual assistants. Doing so will help the organization stay informed about regulatory changes and how to navigate the complexities of telehealth billing effectively.
Software & Technology Solutions
Practice leaders must invest in billing software and technology that can adapt to regulatory changes and automatically incorporate updates into the billing process. This approach will reduce the burden on staff members, allowing them to focus on more pressing tasks.
2. Credentialing & Provider Enrollment
Credentialing and provider enrollment processes can be intricate and time-consuming. Practice leaders often face delays when expanding telehealth services, as they encounter challenges in getting their providers credentialed and enrolled with payers. These delays can subsequently lead to billing challenges.
Healthcare providers and practice leaders can consider working with credentialing and enrollment experts or service providers to streamline the process. These professionals can help expedite the necessary paperwork and approvals.
Digital Credentialing Platforms
Another solution to these challenges is implementing digital credentialing platforms. This strategy can centralize provider data and streamline the enrollment process with multiple payers.
3. Eligibility Verification
Given the nature of billing, determining patient eligibility for telehealth services is critical. However, verifying eligibility for every patient with each payer manually can be a burdensome task, leading to billing errors and even potential administrative bottlenecks.
Real-Time Eligibility Verification
To expedite this process, practices can leverage real-time eligibility verification tools or services integrated into the practice’s electronic health record (EHR) system. These tools can instantly check patient eligibility with various payers before each telehealth visit.
Depending on their system, practice leaders can set up automated alerts within the EHR or billing system to notify staff if a patient’s eligibility status changes during the billing process. This approach will help the practice’s billers make the best course of action.
4. Inadequate Telehealth Billing Codes
In the realm of telehealth, the use of appropriate billing codes is crucial for reimbursement. However, the rapidly developing use of telehealth means there can be an inadequacy of specific telehealth billing codes, resulting in underbilling or claim denials.
Advocate for New Codes
To resolve this inadequacy, practice leaders can work with industry organizations and government agencies to advocate for the creation of specific telehealth billing codes that accurately reflect the services provided.
Besides supporting the addition of new telehealth billing codes, practice leaders must ensure that billing and coding staff receive specialized training in telehealth coding to accurately capture the complexity of telehealth visits.
5. Varying Payer Policies
Each payer may have its own set of policies and rules regarding telehealth billing, including which services are covered and under what circumstances. Managing these policies can be a challenge for providers as these can vary greatly from one payer to another.
Payer Policy Database
To streamline these variations, practice leaders can create and maintain a comprehensive database of payer policies related to telehealth billing. Regularly updating this database to reflect changes in policies will help ensure that providers will get paid.
Claims Scrubbing Software
Alternatively, practice leaders can also consider investing in claims scrubbing software that can automatically check claims against payer policies before submission. This approach will help reduce the likelihood of denials.
6. Documentation & Medical Necessity
Given the particular nature of billing, proper documentation of telehealth visits is essential to support claims and establish medical necessity. Inadequate documentation can lead to claim denials, ultimately affecting provider reimbursements.
Telehealth Documentation Templates
To effectively strengthen claims and medical necessity, practice leaders should develop specific documentation templates for telehealth visits that guide providers in capturing all important information, including medical history, examination findings, and treatment plans.
Clinical Decision Support Tools
Practice leaders can also implement clinical decision support tools within the EHR system that can prompt providers to input all relevant information during the telehealth encounter. This strategy will guide providers accordingly and ensure they don’t miss out any important detail.
Regular Audits & Feedback
Conduct regular audits of telehealth documentation and provide feedback to providers to ensure compliance with billing requirements.
7. Patient Education & Consent
To effectively maximize telehealth, patients must be well-informed about the remote care services they receive and provide informed consent. Failure to obtain proper consent can lead to billing disputes and potential legal issues.
Patient Education Materials
To strengthen patients’ understanding of telehealth and what it does, practice leaders can develop clear and concise patient education materials that explain the telehealth process, including billing and consent requirements.
Another strategy that can help resolve this challenge is implementing electronic consent forms within the telehealth platform that patients can review and sign electronically before the visit. When consent forms are in place, practice leaders can give patients a heads up on what they should expect.
8. Telehealth Technology Integration
Efficient billing relies on the seamless integration of telehealth technology with the practice’s existing billing and EHR systems. Compatibility issues can result in data entry errors, billing delays, and insufficient provider reimbursement.
Integrated Telehealth Platforms
Practice leaders have multiple telehealth system options at their disposal. However, they should choose one that can seamlessly integrate with their practice’s EHR and billing systems, allowing for the automatic transfer of relevant data.
Regular System Updates
To maintain smooth functionality, practice leaders should establish compatible telehealth and billing software. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure regular updates across all systems involved, preventing any potential integration issues from arising in the future.
9. Denial Management
Even with meticulous attention to detail, claim denials can still occur. Effective denial management is essential to address this issue and ensure that any telehealth service that the practice provides is reimbursed properly.
Denial Tracking System
To lessen the likelihood of claim denials, practice leaders can implement a robust tracking system that categorizes denials by type and payer. This system should allow for easy identification of recurring issues.
Denial Resolution Teams
Besides technical systems, practice leaders can create dedicated denial resolution teams with expertise in telehealth billing. These teams can work proactively to resolve denials and prevent future occurrences.
10. Telehealth Billing Audits
Regular audits of telehealth billing practices can help identify errors, fraud, and areas for improvement. However, conducting these audits can be time-consuming, especially if the practice’s existing staff are already burdened with excessive administrative tasks.
Outsourced Audit Services
Consider outsourcing telehealth billing audits to specialized firms with expertise in healthcare compliance and billing. These professionals can conduct comprehensive audits and provide practice leaders with actionable insights.
Audit Automation Tools
Practice leaders can also invest in audit automation tools that can analyze billing data for irregularities and anomalies. This ability flags potential issues for further review.
Telehealth has revolutionized the healthcare industry by providing a flexible and convenient means of delivering care to patients. However, navigating the complex landscape of telehealth billing presents numerous challenges for healthcare providers and practice leaders. By implementing the solutions outlined in this article, healthcare providers and practice leaders can mitigate telehealth billing challenges effectively.
As telehealth continues to play a significant role in the delivery of healthcare services, it is imperative that providers and practice leaders remain agile and proactive in addressing telehealth billing challenges. Through a combination of strategic planning, technological innovation, and a commitment to compliance, healthcare practices can successfully navigate the intricacies of telehealth billing and provide high-quality care to their patients while maintaining financial stability.