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Build a Telemedicine Program: The SimpleVisit Formula
Telemedicine has moved beyond intriguing to imperative in a short amount of time. Medical groups across the country are faced with the challenge to build and maintain a successful telemedicine program simply to retain their existing patient base.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted health inequities, and the shift to a broader acceptance of telemedicine is an opportunity to improve health care in the United States, Stewart said. She would like to see telemedicine continue, along with the technology infrastructure to ensure that health care is equitable. (Source)
Uscher-Pines said that it may be difficult to return to the pre-pandemic status quo, with its focus on office visits, because providers and patients are now familiar with and appreciate the convenience of telemedicine.
SimpleVisit has developed the following guidelines to help launch a successful telemedicine program using our experience connecting tens of thousands of user-friendly video visits over the past few years. As a managed service, SimpleVisit relieves medical practices across the country with full-service telemedicine technology solutions – live telemedicine receptionists, proactive support, and single-step connectivity.
Use the information below as a general guide for launching or measuring the success of your telemedicine offering. Certainly, each practice has its own unique needs and workflow. Read these steps as guiding principles to be applied to your situation. If you would like to have a free consultation, contact a member of our team or complete the telemedicine buyers guide for more specific suggestions.
We want you to be informed and confident enough to execute your telemedicine program with success. Let us know however we can help.
Launching a Telemedicine Program
Where do I start?
One of the great misconceptions regarding telemedicine is that it is a technology project for technical staff to produce and lead. When telemedicine is treated as primarily a technical responsibility, the result can seem like fitting a square peg into a round hole. The solution may technically work, but is not necessarily the most efficient or user-friendly. It is critical to start with the patient use case first, then include representation for all stakeholders (not just IT) to map out the ideal workflow that will inform your technology selection.
There are countless telemedicine tech innovations available today – from robots to consumer-grade peripheral devices to specialized mobile applications. It is almost impossible to adequately research all of the possibilities as a basis for building your telemedicine program. You should not begin your strategy based on technology, but rather the use case that you are solving for.
Not every clinical use case can be sufficiently addressed remotely. Although it is estimated that about 80% of billable items of a typical in-person appointment can be accomplished using telemedicine.
Start here: Reference a list of the appointment types you offer and then identify which can be confidently accomplished remotely, possibly accomplished remotely, and which must be in-person. This list will be the basis for the discussion for the following step: Assembling the right Stakeholders.
Limiting the telemedicine strategy to an executive or IT perspective can inhibit buy-in and utilization from the key stakeholders that will be actively using the tool. An effective telemedicine program is built when representatives from the following categories are included in the launch process:
- Executive – these stakeholders are interested in the business impact or financial impact of a telemedicine program.
- IT – they are interested in the function and security of the technology.
- Administrative – this all-important group will be interested in how a new telemedicine program affects the office workflow: staff, scheduling protocols, and communication.
- Clinical – these stakeholders will be interested to know the options or limitations in caring for their patients over telemedicine.
Workflow & Technology
The primary reason for assembling the stakeholders is to map out an administrative and clinical workflow for your telemedicine program. There may be more than one that needs to be considered. For example, the workflow demand is different if the patient has the option to schedule an appointment themselves versus referral; or whether the appointment is a triage, consult, or follow up.
The workflow scenarios are based on use case. Map it out in a document and be sure to include who is involved (i.e. patient, staff, assistant, provider) and any feature needs (i.e. patient-facing webpage, EMR integration, text/photo sharing).
That workflow and feature information will inform your technology selection. It is not advised to settle on a telemedicine vendor before you settle on the use case, stakeholders, workflow and feature needs.
Here is a snapshot of how you can view telemedicine vendors:
- Video Conferencing – browser or desktop applications typically used for virtual meetings.
- Telemedicine Applications – software solution with patient account management options.
- Telemedicine Platforms – all-encompassing telemedicine solutions from hardware to EMR to alternative providers.
- Telemedicine Service – support partner that manages your telemedicine program by leveraging existing tools (your current EMR and video options).
To our knowledge, SimpleVisit is the ONLY managed telemedicine service provider on the market. While this service approach may not fit every use case, it is important to know this type of partnership is an option for your practice. SimpleVisit relieves medical groups from cumbersome, complicated telemedicine programs by becoming a partner and resource to ensure a user-friendly experience for all parties on every visit.
Pilot / Feedback
It is advised that you begin with a pilot period to give time to adjust your processes and capture feedback. Once you find a vendor or vendors that you know you want to work with, avoid committing to long-term contracts. While 30 days may only be good to test the technology, 3-6 months would give enough activity to provide a determination.
Before you launch, have your stakeholders agree on what data points need to be captured during this pilot period (at least) to determine the success of your program. This may not be the same for every practice. A few examples could be;
- patient satisfaction,
- percentage of remote visits,
- video platform preference (SimpleVisit metric),
- number of technical support tickets,
- missed appointments,
- and revenue generated.
It is then advised to arrange review meetings throughout the pilot period to review the numbers and how they are scheduled.
The key to ensuring your telemedicine program has a strong launch is patient engagement. Your patient population has to know that it is an option as well as realize it is something they should utilize. Promotion of your telemedicine offering should get special attention during this period.
Use quotes from the stakeholders and patients to generate press releases. It is very possible to generate some earned media attention because of your new telemedicine program. Additionally, you can leverage your existing contacts and community to get the word out. Capture success stories and give clear calls to action by way of email blasts, website content and/or social media.
The more you saturate your community with awareness and inspiration to use telemedicine, the stronger your patient engagement will be. SimpleVisit offers free marketing graphics and consultation as part of your subscription plan.
The final step to a successful launch is to “turn tele-health into just health”. Normalize the use of telemedicine as a mode of care. Patients are coming to expect a video visit option when it is possible; and it has never been easier for healthcare providers to adequately offer remote care.
This normalization needs to come from the inside out – first the stakeholders, then the staff and then the patients. Get all hands on deck. Everyone needs to know how telemedicine works for your practice. Offer scripts or resources to help control the conversation. One of easiest ways to kill a successful launch is to fail to have buy-in from everyone involved. SimpleVisit offers staff training and other resources to help ensure that your admin and clinical staff are on the same page.
This proven method for successfully launching your telemedicine practice can serve as a guideline for your endeavor. SimpleVisit.com is full of free resources for you to utilize. When you’re ready, schedule a demo or consultation with a SimpleVisit sales representative. We are happy to help your medical group with our managed services approach to telemedicine.
by Rob Warlick, Founding Partner & Managing Director, SimpleVisit
April 15, 2021
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