Healthcare providers of all types and sizes quickly embrace telemedicine as a means of increasing revenue, reducing costs, protecting against competitive threats and meeting modern patient needs. Today’s technology makes all of this and more easy to achieve with little upfront investment and simple deployment options. There are, however, a few important steps you can take to make your program a success and avoid some common pitfalls. Here are some of the best practices for the telemedicine program:
Some best practices
The most important thing, like any other venture worth doing, is just to start. Here are some best practices to lower barriers to taking the first step and scaling up your telehealth programs.
Have Clear Goals
Talking about the goals for your telemedicine system right at the outset is really helpful. You want quantitative metrics to identify specific objectives. You might consider how you want your telemedicine program to have an impact on things like revenue, customer satisfaction, waiting times, no-shows and cancellations, staff efficiency, patient retention, new patients and any other measurements that are important to your practice.
Identify the largest areas of resource constraints, with the largest live video consult proponents. Application areas can involve video rounds for travelling physicians or remote consultants, rural hospital visits, skilled nursing care, quick second opinions in ICU or ED, interpreter services, medical training, tele-sitting, or pediatric long-stay. Start off small. Choose one area where you can make the biggest difference and then draw on your experience to expand the practice into other areas.
Involve your Staff
Telemedicine can have an effect on many works within the practice, so it’s a good idea to include a variety of stakeholders in the roll-out of the system. Consider setting up a task force involving telemedicine providers, persons making appointments, any available logistical resources and persons from other business functions who could help. If people get interested early and have the chance to help shape the curriculum, they will feel more confident in their success.
Identify Critical Features
Telehealth solutions range from something as basic as the FaceTime iPhone to cumbersome, expensive telepresence devices. Seek out a simple and affordable solution that provides physicians with the ability to move, zoom in, and snap photos that can then be uploaded to a patient’s health record. Some telepresence solutions also include a USB port for high-performance auxiliary cameras for remote dermatological or wound care consultations. This approach would also allow a physician to log in to receive the call without needing a resource at the other end, so as to eliminate the need for an additional person to plan the device’s usage or handle its logistics.
Decide how to use telemedicine in your practice
There is no universal technique for use of telemedicine. You should customize an approach that meets the practice’s particular needs. Blocking off some times during the week for remote visits may make sense, or you can want to make video visits available during periods the office is usually closed. One solution to that utilization and revenue is to carry out the follow-up phone calls you’ve already made via video. Usually, telephone calls are not reimbursable while video interactions can be really pleasant.
Minimize reliance on your IT staff
We know this is a time of proliferation of hospital IT systems, that placing great strain on IT departments. Reduce the workload for your employees using an encrypted solution that simply connects over pre-existing Wi-Fi networks.
Ask for Feedback
Whenever you introduce your staff and patients to something new, it’s important to collect their feedback. Think of the best way to get all groups input and incorporate their best ideas into the program.
Turn clinical early adopters into solution champions
Look to your early adopter physicians and clinicians and turn them into promoters. The key here is to make sure the solution is easy to learn, easy to use and an agnostic device. However, once those features are obtained, those doctors on your staff who are already using telehealth technology will be your best partners and advocates in scaling up your department-wide telehealth program.
Find the Right Technology Partner
There are a variety of telemedicine technologies available. Any solution you consider should be:
- Easy for patients and staff to use
- Secure and HIPAA compliant
- Equipped with a method of verifying patient eligibility for reimbursement
- Integrated with your EHR solution
Make good on reimbursements
Many states have restrictions on telehealth reimbursement policies, for example, patient setting or site of origin, type of technology, geography and type of provider. Begin with a small application that is definitely protected by reimbursements, and then use that application’s reimbursement to scale up and buy additional devices or licenses. And do not forget about patient satisfaction.