As a nutrition technology company, we get asked all the time about telehealth: what it means, benefits and challenges, regulations and reimbursement, you name it. Here we answer some FAQs when it comes to telehealth for dietitians.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is an umbrella term for the application of telecommunications and technology to healthcare. Telehealth encompasses any digital communication between a patient and practitioner, and most commonly (and particularly for dietitians) means providing client care virtually and remotely, as opposed to face-to-face in person.
Why is telehealth becoming increasingly popular?
Telehealth has actually been around for nearly a century – since the 1920s, organizations like NASA & AT&T have been experimenting with the use of telemedicine. It’s become so popular in recent years because of advancements in technology, like the widespread usage of apps and smartphones, which have made integrating Telehealth and technology easier and more of a reality for practitioners and patients. Telehealth was first used broadly by primary care physicians, dermatologists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals, though that’s now rapidly changing and expanding.
Telehealth and virtual care are becoming increasingly popular amongst dietitians as we realize that it’s an effective and flexible means to provide care to patients.
What are the benefits of telehealth?
- Flexibility and convenience: Work from home or wherever you’d like, and save your clients the time of traveling to / from appointments
- Savings on time and money: reduce the need for an office, cut down on travel time between office and home, and lessen rent expenses
- Build a closer relationship with clients: the beauty of technology is that it makes it easier to connect with clients – in addition to videoconferencing sessions, message with patients, share documents, and more, to build longer-term, effective relationships
I’m a registered dietitian just starting out in private practice. Am I ready to provide telehealth?
- YES! Absolutely – in fact, you are more ready to provide telehealth, because you can structure and build your practice around the fact that you’d like to provide virtual care. This has incredible implications for the amount of office space you need (if any) and the way you develop your website, intake forms and assessments, think about billing & forming client packages, and more!
Is telehealth reimbursable by insurance?
The short answer is, sometimes, and it depends on a few factors:
- Where do you live? 32 states have passed parity laws, which means that services that are reimbursable in-person are reimbursable through telehealth
- What liability insurance do you have? Make sure your personal coverage includes Telehealth, and check out our blog post for an overview of RD insurance liability plans that cover Telehealth
- Are you using a HIPAA-Compliant platform to conduct care? For insurance companies to reimburse your services, you must be using a HIPAA compliant platform. Unfortunately, Skype is not HIPAA compliant; that’s where tools like Healthie are awesome – provide care virtually, and get billing processed along the way (plus a lot more too)
- Are you licensed in the state where care is being received? If your state has licensure, make sure you’re following local guidelines.
All in all, the advent of telehealth is an amazing boon for dietitians – it means that care can be provided remotely, dietitians can build closer relationships with patients, and it makes practices run more efficiently. Sounds like a triple win!
We hope this was a helpful overview for you as you think about telehealth and other forms of nutrition technology available. We genuinely believe (and have seen) that incorporating telehealth into your practice can be game-changing, and it isn’t very difficult. Please do reach out to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) with ANY questions about Telehealth, nutrition technology, or if you want to learn more about Healthie’s HIPAA Compliant Telehealth platform. We love hearing from you!