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For providers

Getting started with telehealth

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the federal government is encouraging health care providers to use telehealth to see patients via virtual appointments.

Types of telehealth

Telehealth includes video visits, phone calls, online communication, and storing patient data. Your practice may provide telehealth services using email or sharing lab results in a secure patient portal. Potential uses of telehealth extend beyond COVID-19 services.

Asynchronous telehealth is communication between providers, patients, and caregivers stored for future reference or response. Examples include:

  • E-mail or text messages with follow-up instructions or confirmations
  • Images for evaluation
  • Lab results or vital statistics

Synchronous care is a ‘real-time’ interaction for patient health communication. Patients can have caregivers or in-home nursing present to assist the remote physician. Examples include:

  • Video calls to share progress or check on healing
  • Audio only calls to confirm instructions
  • Text messaging to answer patient questions

Remote patient monitoring consists of transmitting and storing patient data and clinical measurements from in-home devices to patient portals. This data transmission may be either asynchronous or support synchronous provider visits. Examples include data from:

  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Pacemakers
  • Glucose meters
  • Oximeters

Leveraging Remote Patient Monitoring in Your Practice (PDF) — Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

mHealth is an evolving area where digital applications on smartphones can support patients between provider visits. Smartphones and third-party apps can assist with:

  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Push notifications reminding patients to follow treatment plans
  • Storing detailed instructions or education materials

Telehealth for Providers: What You Need to Know (PDF) — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

2022 National Telehealth Conference

Telehealth experts gathered for the National Telehealth Conference to discuss best practices and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the session recordings exit disclaimer icon  and read the summary report (PDF).

Integrating telehealth practices

There are several guides to help you start providing telehealth and telemedicine services — or to help you fine-tune if you’ve already started. For example:

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds regional resource centers to support organizations that provide — or would like to provide — telehealth. These resource centers are an excellent resource for assistance, education, and information about telehealth. Find your regional telehealth resource center exit disclaimer icon .

Understanding telehealth technology options

If you have a phone or a device with the internet, you already have everything you need to provide telehealth.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, health care providers may use any non-public facing application to communicate with patients without risking any federal penalties — even if the application isn’t in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Read more about this in FAQs on Telehealth and HIPAA during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. Health care providers that seek additional privacy protections should provide such services through technology vendors that are HIPAA compliant and will enter into HIPAA business associate agreements in connection with the provision of their video communication products. Read more about policy changes during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Have a question?

Contact the staff at the regional telehealth resource center exit disclaimer icon  that’s closest to you for help with your telehealth program.

Finding a telehealth vendor

You have a number of options for telehealth delivery. The first step is to identify any technology that you have access to already. For example, your patient portal may have some types of telehealth functionality built in.

Once you’ve identified what technology you already have, here are some questions to assist in researching additional options:

  • How does the vendor protect personal health information?
  • Is a contract required?
  • Does it require any special equipment?
  • Is there a waiting room feature?
  • Can staff or patients schedule visits through the platform?
  • Can patients provide consent to receive telehealth on the platform itself?
  • Will your patients need to download an application to have a telehealth visit?

For guidance on selecting a vendor:

Resources on telehealth vendors and providers

Telemedicine & Telehealth Service Provider Directory exit disclaimer icon  — from the Arizona Telemedicine Program and Southwest Telehealth Resource Center, funded by HRSA. This directory lists companies providing telehealth for medical specialty services (such as radiology, rheumatology, neurology, psychiatry) and ancillary services (such as patient education and language interpretation).

Tip: Learn more about implementing telehealth, directly from health care providers, via this CDC webinar on COVID-19 & Telehealth Implementation: Stories from the Field.

Last updated: August 26, 2022

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