As vital as they are to workflow efficiency and care quality, telehealth expansion and collaboration solutions have been limited and sporadically adopted. Because virtual care platforms are widespread across an organization, there generally isn’t one department that owns this type of technology, as opposed to how a nurse call or lab system might have clear departmental ownership.
Like most things, that changed when COVID-19 arrived, causing a rapid shift toward virtual care technologies like telehealth for the safety of all. Organizations are now committed to telehealth expansion and virtual care tools in order to provide patient check-ins, reduce PPE consumption, and create a path to billable consults.
Understandably, in the rush to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, most organizations, from large health systems to physician practices, adopted some form of a stop-gap telehealth solution.
As these vendor contracts come up for renewal, we’re here to help you adopt a seamless, more deliberate telehealth strategy, so we’ve compiled some recommendations and best practices for successful expansion.
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While the initial telehealth surge may be winding down, virtual care has established itself as a viable, permanent channel of preferred care. To play the long-term game, however, organizations will want to gravitate toward broader telehealth solutions, offering multiple channels like video, voice, and secure text on a single platform.
Plenty of research goes into selecting the best telehealth solution and with 70 solutions and growing, this is no small task. A thorough, fully-developed list of requirements is a great place to start. Pair that with a plan for broad adoption and you’ll give your organization the best chance to strengthen patient relationships and capture incremental revenue.
Select a Platform That’s Easy for Patients to Access
As solutions become more advanced and complex, maintaining a simple interface becomes critical. According to our Current State of Patient Engagement survey, 24% of clinicians cited difficulty for patients as a key hurdle for telehealth. Other reasons for not acquiring telehealth were directly related to complexity (19% citing set-up complexity, and 15% citing patient complexity). Requiring users to download apps or manage invites sent via email is an obvious barrier for less tech-enabled users.
The survey also revealed that 31% of older patients prefer in-person visits, likely due to the learning curve that comes with new technology. Any hope of convincing this audience to embrace telehealth will hinge on making the experience easy and rewarding.
Focus on Functionality
When researching telehealth solutions, it’s easy to get excited about all the features, but more isn’t always better. Focusing on the right features for your needs drives higher adoption, retention, and satisfaction.
The best features are the ones your users are already looking for, whether it be voice, video, or text. Keep your clinician needs in mind and opt for streamlined solutions that include role-based messaging, scheduling integration, group chats, and more.
Educate and Inform
Even as the number of telehealth-friendly organizations grows, many patients remain in the dark when it comes to the virtual care solutions available to them. Evangelization by both patients and staff will help ensure key audiences embrace telehealth and drive success.
Solutions that remove complex technology hurdles and simplify remote access stand the best chance of long-term adoption. Think about the varying needs that exist among a diverse patient base: access to technology, technical savvy, visual impairments, and a support network to help them set up calls should all be considered.
Finally, for any healthcare IT project, the cost can be a concern, and telehealth is no exception. Use these tips to keep a lid on spending:
Consolidate vendors: Fewer vendors, fewer headaches. Narrow your list to vendors that can reliably provide the broadest virtual care collaboration capabilities like video, voice, secure text, EHR integration, billing, and more.
Go to the cloud: Scalability and speed of deployment are two compelling reasons to focus on cloud-native vendors, not to mention rapid iteration and economies of scale simply not possible with on-premise solutions.
EHR integration: Because access to patient lists and data is a critical requirement for telehealth scalability, vendors who offer plug-and-play integrations with your EHR will incur lower IT costs and require few or no costly customization resources.
Keep it simple: Solutions that deliver a clean, easy-to-use experience tend to win over more feature-rich but poorly designed apps. Usability is key for both patients as well as clinical staff.
High adoption of a solution can translate into many cost-effective benefits. More billable consults among providers and fewer missed appointments for patients reduce costs and offer better care accountability, not to mention greater loyalty and future billing opportunities.
Adding a new communication solution can bring about concerns for budget, cost of equipment, training, and overhead. However, implementing telehealth will save time, reduce costs, and manage undue stress for patients and providers, both in the present and in the long run.
Will O’Connor, M.D. is the Chief Medical Information Officer at TigerConnect. As a physician executive with more than 20 years of healthcare experience, Will is a passionate advocate for rapid advancement across the healthcare industry.