The Growth Of Teletherapy And The Changes That Need To Come



While it’s clear the explosive growth of teletherapy presented unique challenges for healthcare, therapy, and skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic, Century Rehabilitation CEO Tammy Tuminaro and other industry leaders are highlighting the need for regulatory changes that ensure teletherapy can deliver outstanding patient care in a cost-effective manner.

“When the thought of telehealth first came out, really early in the pandemic, I think the first thought for some providers was: This is going to be a great tool, because it’ll actually be less costly. We will be able to provide care more efficiently, from a financial and logistical standpoint,” Tuminaro said in a recent conversation with Skilled Nursing News. “However, we’ve now found that in many cases, it’s more costly since telehealth options often require therapists on both ends of the conversation where as before it may only have required one.”

Highly regarded for her thought leadership in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, skilled nursing, and long-term care, Tuminaro contends that while telehealth is a valuable tool for overall care, the rules regarding reimbursement for teletherapy require additional clarification for skilled nursing facilities and therapy companies like Century Rehabilitation.

“I think first and foremost, we need some well-established guidelines and protocols as an industry,” Tuminaro said in the Skilled Nursing News article. “I know that some of the professional organizations have been very helpful when it comes to telehealth, and very involved in lobbying and being proactive in trying to get their members access to teletherapy, as well as keeping them informed.”

The challenge facing teletherapy in a Skilled Nursing or Long-Term Care setting is that many patients require hands-on assistance to operate a phone, tablet, or computer.  As a result, online teletherapy often requires a therapist or assistant on each end.  Today, insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid don’t cover the use of multiple therapists to deliver teletherapy.

“Our commitment to providing next-level patient care has never wavered,” Tuminaro said, “but the pandemic presented some unprecedented challenges. For the first time ever, patients and therapists were restricted from movement, and we had to find a way through that. We provided teletherapy because if we hadn’t, many patients wouldn’t have had any care at all. But when a tool like telehealth unfairly impinges on the flexibility, convenience, and cost of our care, that’s something that has to be addressed.”

“Until adjustments are made in CMS reimbursement, Century will continue to push for change,” Tuminaro said. “We will always fight for what’s in the best interest of our patients.”

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