By now, most organizations across healthcare have realized that telehealth (or telemedicine) is here to stay – both as a means of providing extended and enhanced care for patients and as a tool for practice and revenue growth. Once seen as somewhat of an optional feature, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed telehealth to front- and center-stage, making it imperative that practices who have not already done so set up a telehealth program and that practices who have telehealth established continue to refine the integration of telehealth into their workflows – as regulations and patient preferences continue to shift.
Of course, as with many healthcare solutions, this can seem easier said than done at first. Luckily, there are best practices that healthcare organizations of all sizes and specialties can follow, regardless of their level of familiarity with telehealth. From understanding telehealth equipment requirements, selecting a vendor, and developing a set of policies and workflows that work for your practice, your organization can set up its telehealth solution in no time.
Understanding Telehealth Equipment Requirements — and Challenges
Ascertaining what technology is required to set up or improve your telehealth solution is an essential first step. Essentially, the three most significant needs are a computer, a secure internet connection, and an app or video portal to communicate with patients. A fourth component to consider is IT telehealth support.
Of course, setting up this technology isn’t always snag-free. Many practices have encountered challenges when it comes to the implementation of telehealth technology – two of the biggest being the quality of the internet connection, and login issues for patients. To address these challenges, make sure your practice’s internet connection is robust, and that the telehealth solution chosen makes the patient login experience as intuitive as possible.
Further, in addition to telemedicine’s equipment and technological requirements, there are coding requirements to consider as well. Although billing solutions for telehealth have increased dramatically over the past year or so, it will still pay dividends to look into what billing codes your payer network requires for telehealth. This research will help triage visits between in-person and telehealth modalities to reduce the burden and increase revenue.
Lastly, specific regulatory requirements exist for telehealth as well. HIPAA and patient privacy considerations are paramount anytime health information is being transmitted virtually, without the security of an in-person meeting, so be sure to get yourself up to speed on state and national laws which may affect your practice in this space.
Selecting a Telehealth Solution
While virtually all healthcare organizations will have access to computers and internet connections, those setting up a telemedicine program for the first time (or those looking to switch to a new, better solution) will have a range of options to choose from in the way of telehealth vendors.
There is no shortage of telehealth vendors in today’s market, so take your time when choosing. The most important things to consider are the video app portal itself, which will be used to communicate with patients, the level of IT support the vendor offers, and the ease of integration with EHR systems to prevent burnout – more on that later. In addition, it’s crucial to ensure that your telemedicine provider offers mobile app solutions for patients and providers – a necessity in today’s smartphone world.
Consider the stakeholders affected by this decision – your staff and administration will appreciate a telehealth vendor that is intuitive and has good interoperability with EHRs and other In-Practice databases to prevent dual documentation. Meanwhile, your patients will likely benefit from a telehealth program that is straightforward, easy-to-use and allows easy access to their information – while also a way to communicate privately with their physicians. Lastly, remember that ongoing support is critical. This is something you will want to discuss during the vetting process.
Integrating Telehealth with Practice Workflows
When appropriately integrated with practice workflows, telehealth operations have a third benefit beyond improving patient care quality and maintaining revenues: reducing administrative burden.
“[When it comes to integrating telehealth with practice workflows,] it’s not enough to just offer a telephone number or link. It’s about training and support for everyone involved. Everything from triage to ‘webside manner’ is completely different in telehealth, and you have to be trained properly – from the front office to the clinical team,” said Medical Advantage Chad Anguilm, vice president of in-practice technology services, in a recent interview in Medical Economics.
Consider telehealth as another tool enabling your practice to reach patients who might not need a face-to-face visit or can’t get to the office due to other challenges. Triage resources and get the most out of your practice’s capabilities. Further, your telehealth operations can even become a source of practice growth and patient acquisition, potentially even into areas outside of your practice’s traditional geographic reach.
Medical Advantage Can Help
Are you overwhelmed by the equipment requirements for telehealth, looking for guidance setting up your telemedicine program, or simply in need of consulting support to get the most out of your existing solution?
Medical Advantage’s expert telehealth consultants have experience launching and fine-tuning telehealth programs that engage patients and simplify virtual visits. Contact one of our consultants today to learn how our training and consulting services can help you increase your medical practice revenue, grow your practice, and keep your organization viable as telehealth continues to change healthcare landscape.