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POSTS BY TAG | Coronavirus

Physicians


You’ve made your way to the physician’s corner of the pMD blog, welcome! Here you’ll find information written for physicians, by physicians. 

This post is written by Richard E. Lehman, MD, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine.

Last year, the world was rocked in ways that no one could have predicted or even imagined. With 2020 and more than half of 2021 behind us, and as the world adapts to a new normal, what does this post-COVID environment look like for physicians, practices, and patients? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the good, the bad, and the interesting in relation to the impacts of the pandemic on medical practices and their patients, as well as what to expect moving forward.

THE GOOD


Prior to the start of the pandemic, the use of telemedicine was somewhat of a novelty. Some practices began tinkering with this technology for their chronically ill or remote patient populations. As the spread of the virus started gaining speed, practices soon found themselves deep in the throes of figuring out how to integrate video visits into their daily routine and how to help patients through one of the worst global medical crises in recent history. The increased use of telemedicine brought to light the benefits of incorporating technology into patient care, providing flexibility and accessibility to patients who need it most. It also showed us that its success and continued use are largely dependent on an appropriate reimbursement model. Without it, practices may be less incentivized to adopt telemedicine or are likely to face financial challenges. I would hope to see and anticipate seeing some practices adapt to a hybrid model that incorporates both telehealth and in-person visits, barring any reimbursement policy changes. There are still some aspects of medicine that require face-to-face care with a provider but for those less complex scenarios, why not give the patient (and practice) a choice?

THE BAD


In an era where data is more accessible than ever, misinformation is simultaneously on the rise and finding its way into the general public. As a result, we saw more and more hesitation around believing the data and science presented about COVID-19 and mitigating its spread. People tend to forget that science evolves and adjusts as more data is collected. However, the public is constantly being bombarded with quick one-liners and sensational headlines in the media, many of which are inaccurate statements. This mistrust permeated throughout the country and, in my opinion, has been devastating to the medical community. With the rapid vaccine deployment, it's understandable that patients have questions regarding the effectiveness and potential unknown side effects. Over time, with more data, we’ll be able to paint a better and more clear picture to patients surrounding the vaccine. It's our job as physicians to answer questions and help them make informed decisions based on their medical history. 

So, what does this mean for health care moving forward? It means that medicine is now even more having to compete with the media and navigate that influence on their patients. Providers are not only health care professionals but are also now having to manage public health and society concerns. However, while we all have differing opinions about what to do and how to cope in certain situations, I believe providers need to elevate their approach towards a more open and transparent environment with patients, allowing for more engagement and helping prevent patients from finding other, less reliable sources of information surrounding their care. We should embrace the questions and not shut people down when questioning what they believe to be fact. The COVID crisis is under the microscope, so being open to conversation and providing thoughtful explanations can provide a stable foundation with patients. 

Health care is changing as rapidly as the world and we should take away from this recent pandemic lessons in not only handling future outbreaks but also handling patient trust where trust has been lost. The bottom line is that how we collect data and release that information needs to improve. For example, how many people test positive for COVID-19 doesn’t tell the same story as to how many of those patients are severely ill, hospitalized, and/or need a ventilator. The foreseeable future holds residual pandemic effects, and providers will be expected to work even harder to regain patient trust.

THE INTERESTING


While many of the impacts of the pandemic are fairly obvious or have been discussed at length for the past year and a half, there are also plenty of areas of medicine that have seen a ripple effect and are likely to change moving forward. As a pediatric physician, an interesting event that resulted from 2020’s lockdowns was the decrease in child immunizations. According to a recent article in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, infants and toddlers up to age 2 years in Michigan have been falling behind on their immunizations, showing a decline in January 2020 through April 2020 compared to 2018 and 2019. Only the hepatitis B vaccine dose given at birth, typically in the hospital, did not decrease. This is just one example of the many impacts a pandemic can have on ancillary health care, which is just as important to recognize. Since many ancillary services in health care require in-person visits and render telehealth a suboptimal solution, providers are looking towards new strategies to maintain essential services.

It’s hard to imagine that the first half of 2021 sped by so quickly, considering everything we’d been through in 2020. As we navigate the good, the bad, and the interesting in relation to this pandemic, we can’t forget that COVID-19 will still continue to have a presence moving forward. A practice’s ability to adapt in the face of sudden change is essential for successful patient care and its survival as a business. We should continue to learn from one another and work through challenges together despite our differences in hopes to quickly combat any future outbreaks. 

Dr. Rick Lehman is a veteran critical care physician, providing care to pediatric patients across the country. He’s “grown-up” with the changes in health care over the last 20 years related software and has been directly involved with implementing new EMR systems at multiple hospitals, often transitioning them from paper to digital systems. His frustrations surrounding inefficient EMRs while managing his critical care patients have driven his passion for changing these health care systems to create better provider workflows.

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To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrybilling servicestelehealthsecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.

The year 2020 has had no shortage of culture-impacting events—that is for certain.  We’ve had heartbreaking celebrity deaths, devastating natural disasters, polarizing political happenings, monumental social justice movements, and of course—COVID-19.  So impactful the events of the first half of 2020 have been, that one could say that we have entered a whole new era, and in many ways, we definitely have.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Era


The impact of this new era is readily visible in our health care system.  In addition to dealing with the strain of caring for an influx of COVID-19 diagnosed patients, care must be provided for patients battling a plethora of other diagnoses but under severely restrictive safety protocols and operations. More than just adequately treating patients, it’s also ensuring safety for health professionals and also supporting the emotional needs of the patient families. All in all, perhaps more than anything, this era we’ve entered into has challenged the human connections and relationships that are essential to treating patients and saving lives.

When Telehealth Becomes a Necessity


Another impact of the COVID-19 era is that some conveniences became essential necessities.  Take telehealth, for example.  Over the past several years, organizations had been incorporating telehealth to some extent at an increasing but by no means blazing rate. In 2020, telehealth has become an absolute necessity—in some scenarios being the only way to continue seeing patients.  And given the volatility of this pandemic, telehealth will play a significant role in the foreseeable future.  The CMS regulations are changing, insurance reimbursements are adapting, and health care organizations are creating new workflows to provide care in this new era.  But a question worth keeping in mind through it all is how does a telehealth platform impact the human connections and relationships between health care teams, patients, and their loved ones.

Prioritizing the Human Connection


As part of my work here at pMD, almost daily I assist patients in getting oriented on our platform for their telehealth encounters on pMD. Most patients don’t need any assistance and never reach out to us, but often it’s the patients most in need of care who are the least tech-savvy, or who are very apprehensive about having their first video visit.  I have had personal phone calls with hundreds of elderly patients who have never downloaded an app before and just need a patient-caring presence to walk them through the process. I have had more calls than I can remember where I’ve conducted test video sessions with family members who ultimately were just really anxious about their loved one being set up properly to have their scheduled doctor visit.  The joy and appreciation that these people express when their concerns and anxieties about their telehealth software have been put at ease are very rewarding.  It’s also been quite entertaining at times, especially that moment when the video connects and we “celebrate” our success and put faces to our voices.

These moments I’ve shared with patients are because pMD’s commitment to providing the best customer support is not just for the health care organizations we partner with, it also extends to their patients.  The fact is, some people just need more technical support than others, and in this COVID era where telehealth is sometimes the only option, we continue to give our best toward helping every patient have a delightful telehealth experience with their health care providers.

Partnering with pMD


We here at pMD understand that adopting a patient-facing technology, such as a telehealth platform, inherently incorporates supporting those patients who need more technical support than others.  More importantly, we understand that a health organization implementing technology to facilitate patient care does not magically acquire the in-house capability to provide the premium technical support that some of the most in-need patients require. And in many cases, I’ve noticed that patients don’t seem to distinguish their experience with me from their experience with their doctor’s office as a whole. So accordingly, I value the interaction and treat it as such.  The takeaway being that choosing a technology platform is sometimes more than just choosing product features—it is engaging in a partnership that impacts the overall experience of all those involved. This is why we not only provide round-the-clock personal customer support, we continue to evolve our products and release new features with the delight of both providers and patients at the forefront.  

A telehealth platform that offers round-the-clock personal customer support, video/voice/text communication, availability on iOS/Android/Web, and many other features, does indeed check a lot of the boxes on a typical product requirements list.  But in my experience, it’s how all of the parts come together to create the greater whole of fostering human connections, and the partnership between health care organization and technology vendor, that is most invaluable in defining a telehealth platform.  And in an era where telehealth adoption has become an essential necessity, and quality human connections in health care are needed more than ever, I’m proud to be part of a team that prioritizes real partnership and continues to create offerings that put people first.

To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrysecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.
Helping practices and patients navigate telehealth



When we speak about pMD’s history in the medical industry, we always note that we’ve been around since the late 90’s and have focused on helping providers capture their charges. Despite our longevity in the industry, pMD is always looking towards the future. With the more recent events in health care, we continue to learn how best to support our customers.

pMD Quickly Deploys Telehealth Using Clinical Communication Tool


Beyond mobile charge capture, we have developed a comprehensive clinical communication tool. As our customers scrambled to change their delivery model for care, we were able to quickly deploy telehealth and improve clinical communication for many of our clients. 

Our customers needed a way to continue to provide care to their patients in a time of uncertainty. Our customers rely on us to help them communicate seamlessly with their patients. Our relationship-based approach allowed pMD to provide collaborative and consultative support to our customers and swiftly implement telehealth into their workflows.

The need for telehealth not only strengthened our connection to our practices but also provided pMD an opportunity to support our customers and their patients in a new way and help them navigate a challenging time. We pride ourselves in providing our customers with full 24/7 in-house support that extends directly to their patients. 

We’ve been able to help our providers complete tens of thousands of video calls and onboarded 108K+ patients since the onset of the pandemic. We at pMD feel honored to continue to support the changes in the health care industry, especially those related to telemedicine and clinical communication. pMD is proud to have a direct and positive impact through this pandemic.


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Balancing the New Normal: Support for Practices & Patients During COVID-19
pMD, the Most Valuable Player in Telehealth Platforms
Supporting Telehealth Patients Amid COVID-19, One Video Call at a Time

To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrysecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.





Telehealth is not a new concept, but amid the recent public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, it has catapulted to the top of most practices’ priority list. During this pandemic, it is essential to stay informed and know what free resources are available to your practice to help slow the spread of the virus while continuing to provide patients with a high level of care and reassurance. “The use of telemedicine is going to be critical for management of this pandemic,” said Dr. Stephen Parodi, an infectious disease specialist and executive with The Permanente Medical Group, the doctors’ group associated with Kaiser Permanente. 

Telemedicine a Good, Safe Option for COVID-19 Screening & Patient Care

When possible, using virtual visits provides a safe option for care, while helping contain the spread of the infection at hospitals, clinics, and medical offices. Implementing or expanding an existing telehealth strategy will enable health care organizations to safely screen and treat patients for coronavirus. If patients can receive virtual guidance to help know when they need to be seen or tested, we can limit the number of people who show up unannounced at the emergency room or doctor’s office as well as avoid crowded waiting rooms and potential infection. Good communication with patients is key to keeping the worried as calm as possible and away from clinical care so that practices can steer the most at risk to the proper treatment.

Updates To Telehealth Billing for Services During Pandemic

As part of an $8.3 billion emergency funding measure, the government has granted the Department of Human Health and Services (HHS) the ability to loosen restrictions on the use of telemedicine by broadening the originating requirements and providing a nationwide waiver during this emergency. CMS, state Medicaid agencies, and commercial insurers are taking steps to expand telehealth coverage and reimbursement. To improve access to care, CMS announced that during this crisis, Medicare will pay for telehealth services (conducted via video) regardless of the originating site. Private health insurers, including Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and United Healthcare, have also agreed to cover telehealth visits for the next 90 days in some states. Reimbursement policies vary from state to state, so practices are encouraged to confirm local guidelines. 

For more information, please see CMS’s frequently asked questions for health care providers and fact sheet for telehealth services. You can also find additional information regarding new telehealth rules and procedure codes for testing on the American Academy of Family Physicians website. 

pMD’s Free Telehealth Tools

pMD® Secure Messaging™ provides a secure, HIPAA compliant free telemedicine platform solution that allows practices to connect, triage, and follow up with patients through secure, HIPAA-compliant text, video, and voice calling. You can easily invite patients to download the application at no cost to facilitate timely communication when it matters most:

          * provide health safety guidelines and recommendations
          * share important practice updates and announcements
          * outreach to your most vulnerable patient population
          * perform telehealth visits with patients advised not to leave their homes

For help setting up patient communication or to contact pMD customer support, please give us a call at 800-587-4989 x1 or email support@pmd.com. 

Stay safe, everyone!


To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrysecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.