In our first post on choosing and implementing telemedicine successully, we looked at how you can use telemedicine and choose the right solution. As the series continues, we'll dive into what you need to do to implement telemedicine successfully in your hospital or health system.
With any technology, the main reasons for failure are often poor planning and inadequate training. This can be compounded by lack of goals or unrealistic or poorly defined expectations. These can be addressed with the following best practices:
- Clearly document the goals and intentions of the use of telehealth. There should be a set of well-defined goals that have been agreed upon by the key stakeholders. If that goal is simply, “We need to see patients during the pandemic,” that is ok, but know what you are doing and why. The best-case scenario is that you have a set of success metrics you are working towards.
- Document the workflows for the telehealth process.
- How will appointments be scheduled? By phone, online scheduling, and/or text? And are the correct appointment types set up in your practice management system to ensure appropriate coding, billing, and tracking of telehealth and virtual visits? The appointment type may be one of the most important things to ensure everyone knows what type of visits and therefore what the workflow is and help ensure you get paid.
- How will you gather intake forms and complete registration for appointments? Can you send electronic forms? Do you have a process for a staff person to collect details and vitals before the provider does the visit for video or telephone encounters?
- How will you get details to patients about their appointment? Links, instructions, how to get help if there is a problem, etc.?
- How will you collect payments from patients? Do you have a virtual billing process or will you need to send statements? Removing paper processes is critical during this pandemic and may make sense as a long-term solution to reduce costs, improve accuracy, and support different visit workflows.
- Can you send out surveys to follow up on the appointment and the new virtual workflow and assess patient experience?
- Do you have the knowledge to correctly code and bill these visits.
- Engage all impacted staff in ensuring everything has been covered in the goals and workflows. Getting buy-in is critical to success and buy-in is much easier to get when everyone feels their needs have been considered.
- Once you know that workflow, make sure all staff are fully trained on any changes to the way they do things in the face-to-face visit environment. This may require additional training from vendors or training materials for the various audiences affected by telemedicine, including, but not limited to schedulers, medical billing staff, MAs & RNs, and providers. Training may need to cover processes as well as clinical guidelines, coding and billing processes, etiquette, and much more.
- Make sure you have tested your workflow and your technology with your staff before your first visit.
- Have a contingency plan in place in the event of connectivity issues or user error. How will you quickly switch gears to fix the issue, move to another modality, or reschedule with minimal impact to patient care and experience?
- If you are going to do video visits then you have to consider bandwidth. Verify that your internet connectivity can support this. Also, consider your patients and where they live. They may not have access to high-speed internet. Be ready to offer an alternative to them if needed.
- You may need to get additional malpractice coverage for telehealth services. While some malpractice insurance will cover virtual visits, they don’t all offer the same coverage. Contact your malpractice insurance carrier to verify coverage and purchase additional coverage as needed.
For more ways to ensure a successful telemedicine implementation, download this complete guide.