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2020 has been a challenging year for healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed hospitals and clinics to change the way they operate to ensure the safety of their staff and patients, as well as changes among primary care providers and small practices.
Reduced office visits due to safety concerns in the early onset of the pandemic forced many offices to quickly consider telehealth to continue caring for and monitoring patients who choose to avoid waiting rooms.
Is the jump to telehealth the answer to saving a practice during these unprecedented times?
Telehealth is implemented in a number of different ways, including setups that focus on facilitating audio and video calls between the patient and care provider, as well as ones that go as far as supporting remote monitoring of a patient's vitals in real time. These have proved to be the most desirable options during the pandemic as they enable patients to stay home and interact with their care team without the risk of travel and exposure to the virus.
However, rolling out telehealth services is no simple task considering the implications and potential risks it can pose to both the practice and the patient. To help ensure implementing telehealth is a success, clinics should consider the following five best practices as they begin their telehealth journey.
1. Identify its feasibility and risk factors
One of the first steps to implementing telehealth is to identify the viability and potential risk factors associated with a service or offering. This is a crucial step to determine which services can be delivered via telehealth and whether the reimbursements available are financially feasible to sustain the service and its costs. Many still see reimbursement as a huge issue for physicians as they don't provide adequate funding to support costs related to the software and other telehealth costs incurred by the practices.
Once that is determined, the next step is identifying the different workflows and processes needed to implement the telehealth initiative.
2. Evaluate the features of each offering
The tech marketplace has several options for healthcare clinics and doctors' offices to choose from, including services and products that are as easy to use as FaceTime and others with more comprehensive capabilities that can track billing, scheduling and content sharing.
Some features that are currently available are:
- support for remote monitoring of vitals;
- integration with electronic medical devices;
- audio and video support;
- self-service for patient scheduling;
- mobile app support;
- clinical documentation support; and
- custom patient intake forms and registration.
3. Start with a pilot as a test drive
Once an offering is selected, one of the best ways to identify how it would fit the medical practice is to test the platform with a patient group and resolve any issues or concerns the group may experience such as poor connectivity, scheduling conflicts and billing or reimbursement issues.
4. Communicate with your patients
Telehealth is seen by many patients as a more convenient option and an opportunity for medical practices to add value to the services they provide to patients.
In order to ensure it is beneficial for everyone, it's important to communicate with the patients regularly and document the feedback. This can be done through signage, email campaigns, post cards or phone calls.
5. Track KPIs to ensure implementation is successful
Once a healthcare practice implements a telehealth offering, they must monitor the key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure its success, including:
- patient satisfaction scores;
- telehealth reimbursements and revenues;
- provider productivity; and
- scheduling statistics.