Organizations and businesses of all kinds are turning to virtual environments to interact with their customers. This is a sure-fire method to generate more revenue, keep costs down, maintain customer loyalty, and offer the kind of service that keep patients comfortable in their own homes. For medical practices, they turn to telemedicine technologies that are already available in the market today.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have “…great potential to address some of challenges faced by both developed and developing countries in providing accessible, cost-effective high-quality care services. Telemedicine uses ICTs to overcome geographical barriers, and increase access to health care services.”
Telemedicine only needs small capital investments, with easy options for deployment. It may seem overwhelming to start one, but there are painless ways to get staff and patients on board with the technology. To avoid making mistakes while aiming for success when establishing a telehealth program, here are some tips and best practices.
Establish Clear Goals
It is important to first sit down and think about the long-term goals that one wants to achieve by using a telemedicine program. Establish core goals to find the right mindset when interacting with both staff and patients. Consider how the program will impact aspects such as revenue, customer satisfaction, wait times, cancellations, staff efficiency, new patients, and other important measurements you need.
Get the Staff On-Board
Get physicians and staff comfortable with the technology. Start using video calls regularly throughout the organization, host regular meetings for test-runs. Learn to get comfortable when starting and ending calls, adjusting audio and video settings, and invite others to dot the same. Learn the limits of the video app and be confident when using it so communication with clients will go smoothly.
Consider assembling a task force for the providers who will use telemedicine, and people who will be scheduling appointments, those who have available technical resources, and people with business functions who can help. Staff should be involved when shaping the program so they feel that they are vital to its success.
Be Aware of the Telemedicine Laws
Each state has different state laws and payer policies about telemedicine reimbursement. Most states are becoming more progressive and embracing telehealth tools as important in meeting the healthcare needs of the public. Some states have “parity” laws that require reimbursement for remote video visits.
Certain states also require to “establish a patient-provider relationship” in-person before a program can see them via telemedicine. An informed consent form is also required in 26 states. However, there is no consistent overall approach, so be familiar with the regulations in your area.
Have the Right Equipment
Make sure the team has the equipment they need, such as webcams, microphones, and speakers. Look for good quality equipment and recommend what kinds to buy. It will also be convenient to appoint telemedicine tech guides who are comfortable with the technology and can teach others on the do’s and don’ts.
Be aware of video limitations that can be dependent on factors such as internet connection and the power of the device. Programs such as firewalls, antivirus, and crowded Wi-Fi connections may burden an old computer or mobile device.
Find the Right Technology Partner
With all the variety of technologies available, one should look for solutions that are easy for patients and staff to use and is safe and compliant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). It should be equipped with a method for verifying patient eligibility for reimbursement, and it should also be integrated with your Electronic Health Records (EHR) software.
For keeping data and online transactions secure, consider hiring a third-party Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) to handle your cybersecurity monitoring and management. They provide services such as virus and spam blocking, intrusion detection, and firewalls management.
Patient files and other documents should be kept safe and away from the public. Since MSSPs provide constant monitoring, customized solutions, and cost savings, cybersecurity will be another concern checked off the list when establishing a telemedicine program.
Discover the Ideal Telemedicine Practice System
A telemedicine practice should be tailored according to the approach that meets the unique need of their practice. Blocking off certain times during the week for remote visits or deciding to do video visits outside of traditional office hours are choices they are free to make. One way to increase utilization and revenue is by conducting follow-up phone calls instead of doing it by video. Video encounters may be reimbursable, but telephone calls are not.
Overall, the ideal telemedicine system should tie together the following:
1. A full EMR with scheduling, notes, billing, ePrescription, and flexible search.
2. Healthcare or wellness device integration. Patients can have the choice to automatically upload data from devices that are available to them such as a blood pressure cuff, FitBit, glucose meter, and others.
3. An efficient virtual waiting room for triage, workflow, and follow-up visits.
A telemedicine program will need a special web developer to have a deeper level of integration – identify the problems that need to be solved using telemedicine, and take notes of the processes already present that need to be refined. Choose a provider that communicates well and fits the organization’s work style. Start simple, and discover and refine things along the way.
Discover the Ideal Telemedicine Practice System
Make sure the patients know that video visits are an option for them – post signs in the office, send an email, or mention it during in-person visits. Patients may not immediately embrace the new approach, but it may keep them loyal during such rapidly changing times for the way health clinics interact with their patients.
When they do embrace it, ask for feedback from both staff and patients. Getting insight from both groups helps refine and integrate new ideas into the program.
Check in with The Program Goals
Once the program is running efficiently, check the goals to see if it is going according to what was planned. The program may be in need of some tweaking from time to time, but it is also important to recognize and reward the team when the goals are met or exceeded.
Telemedicine is the best answer to the harsh times that the world is facing today; it has the potential to change the health practice for the better in many ways. It is important to introduce it to the community in a smart and thoughtful way, and we hope these tips and practices have helped answer some questions.