Is Telemedicine the Way to Move Forward in a Pandemic (and Beyond)?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen an unprecedented number of doctors and nurses turn to telemedicine for the first time. While in this case necessity is the mother of invention, the convenience and efficiency of telemedicine have made it truly invaluable to medical professionals around the globe in these unprecedented times. With people realizing how easy and often straightforward it is to telecommute in the medical field, its use will surely continue far into the post-COVID-19 era.

Many patients find the use of telemedicine to be convenient, as they get to avoid traveling long distances, or sitting in waiting rooms rather than in their favorite chair. This also helps homebound patients and those who can’t take significant time off work for an in-person appointment. In many cases, it’s also more effective for the medical professionals who care for patients.

Here are just some of the benefits being observed in recent months:

  • Triage for patients can be done virtually. Telemedicine offers a more efficient way to screen who needs to physically visit the office versus those who are able to teleconference into their physician's office. Waiting rooms can be used for the more critical patients who require in-person care. This instantly streamlines the entire intake process for any medical facility. Additionally, it requires fewer staff members to be on duty at any given time, simpler payroll, and simpler accounting across the board.
  • Once successfully implemented, telemedicine saves time. Virtual care can take less time for medical professionals and patients alike, so it can often be a fast and effective way to provide care. It also reduces the impact of no-show patients significantly. This allows professionals to treat more patients in a given day, which is good for any practice, along with the communities they serve.
  • The potential savings for medical practices are huge. For one, virtual care can have far less overhead than in-person care and potentially much less environmental impact. Billing can be done both automatically and virtually, with the click of a button. HIPAA-compliant billing and electronic data storage also reduce costs for providers. Telemedicine also provides savings opportunities for patients and insurance companies alike, as it could cut down on unnecessary emergency room visits and transportation costs, among other expenses.
  • Telemedicine increases the potential reach for patients.  In most places, rural patients experience longer wait times for appointments and longer commutes, both of which create a disparity in care that can even be life-threatening. The ability to serve rural communities remotely not only allows you to expand your patient base, but also provides an important service to those underserved communities.

Gilmore Jasion Mahler’s Healthcare Specialist Team assists many medical practices with their accounting needs, including practice management, outsourced accounting, and other advisory services, such as the rapid transition to telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. One such practice, Sylvan Lakes Family Physicians in Sylvania, had GJM in their corner as they moved quickly to adapt to the telemedicine environment during the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders in Ohio and Michigan. They knew patients weren’t going to be able to come to them, so telemedicine was a necessity.

“Our GJM team was right there with us giving suggestions and providing support, says Sylvan Lakes practice manager Sandy Johnson, MA. “GJM is not just our accountant, they’re more than that to us. In fact, probably the most critical role they played during this pandemic was getting our Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan secured. They did all the work to make it happen and we know they’re here to guide us through the entire process. It’s a great relationship.”   

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes. Working from home and the use of technology to stay connected, both personally and professionally, is now the norm. We may find that we’re not going back to the “old” way of doing things. Sometimes an in-person doctor’s appointment is appropriate, but we may find that moving forward telemedicine becomes the standard practice in many instances.  

Johnson says she can see that there’s a role for telemedicine, but she’s not sure every situation is appropriate for telehealth. For example, she says, caring for a diabetic patient via telemedicine would be difficult. It’s tough, she says, to replace that in-person contact. At Sylvan Lakes Family Physicians, she says their bottom line is important, as with any medical practice, but when it comes down to it, their mantra is: “Patients first, financial second.”

Learn more about GJM’s Healthcare Specialist Team and how they can help your medical practice grow. You can also sign up to receive GJM’s quarterly newsletter Practice Management Advisor to stay on top of issues impacting healthcare practices.

Established in 1996, Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD (GJM) is the largest public accounting firm in Northwest Ohio, with offices in Maumee and Findlay. Locally owned, GJM offers cloud-based accounting and provides comprehensive services including assurance, business advisory, tax, risk advisory, healthcare management and outsourced accounting. The Firm’s professionals specialize in industries including construction & real estate, healthcare, manufacturing & distribution and utilities.    

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