The healthcare industry was heavily impacted by the pandemic – forcing business leaders to redefine policies and practices to accommodate the changing landscape. As hospitals and healthcare organizations adapted and looked for ways to optimize care delivery, many facilities began exploring telehealth services.
Telehealth surged during the height of the pandemic and as we return to normalcy, the demand for virtual services continues to persist. Speaking with Becker’s Hospital Review, CMS administrator Seema Verma shared, “I think it’s fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”
When done correctly, telehealth offers an effective, efficient, and profitable solution for healthcare facilities. For those interesting in building and scaling a telehealth department, here’s how to set yourself up for success.
Develop & Implement Operational Guidelines
Business leaders, as well as key stakeholders and staff, will need to establish guidelines that include everything from the types of care you’ll offer via telehealth to clinical protocols and operational workflows. By doing so, you’ll develop a strong foundation and structure for the department to adhere to and, ultimately, scale.
Laying this groundwork will ensure efficient triaging of patient care, as well as consistent messaging across departments and visits. From determining when the patient should be seen and by whom to the appropriate care setting, the goal is to optimize care delivery and ensure a patient’s medical conditions and concerns are handled safely and effectively..
Implementing a solid triage strategy also provides your facility with the ability to enhance patient and resource management – ensuring care is delivered at the right time, place and setting. With standards documented, it’ll provide medical personnel with the guidance needed to maintain effective record keeping and continuity of care.
Establish Your Environment & Technology
Whether a patient is in-office or signing on remotely for a virtual appointment, privacy and comfort are of the utmost importance. As a healthcare organization, it’s integral to ensure your physicians or nurse practitioners utilize a workspace that’s both inviting and compliant during telehealth visits.
Provide clear directions for your staff to create an optimal patient experience during virtual visits. For instance, staff should be in an environment that is distraction-free (i.e. no unexpected interruptions from a pet or family member) and uses a backdrop that is neutral and appropriate. Patient confidentiality must be preserved, and to drive optimal outcomes, physicians must be fully present for the entire appointment.
Similarly, to ensure efficiency, care providers should be in an environment where electronic health records (EHRs) are easily accessible, as well as any pertinent resources or staff messages regarding the patient.
When considering the type of telehealth technology your practice will need, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- What technology do I already have? You may already have tools like videoconferencing, billing software, and digital patient intake forms
- How do I protect my patients’ information? Your electronic health record (EHR) system can be used to make your telehealth practice more efficient
- What services do my patients need? Your patients may have specific needs such as remote glucose monitoring
- What is my telehealth budget? This will vary based on the type and size of your practice
Deploying the right technology is vital for maintaining HIPAA compliance and avoiding miscommunication or erroneous record keeping. From your patient portal software and WiFi connection to headsets, microphones, and similar technologies, investing in the right resources from the get-go is key to building a thriving telehealth department.
Evaluate Your EHR and PMS Systems
You may discover that your practice management system (PMS) and EHR software are already configured to support telemedicine. If they don’t have the capacity for telehealth, there are other options you can integrate into your current tech stack that will accommodate virtual communications. For instance, Zoom Healthcare, Doxy.me, VSee and thera-LINK are all HIPAA-compliant platforms. Once in place, ensure these systems are set up with any new codes (like place-of-service or procedural codes), appointment types, and time slot templates.
Spread the Word
Communication is key. After all, to truly drive the success of your telehealth department, patients need to know you offer these services, right? Furnish patients with accessible, easy-to-digest information, like scheduling an appointment, what to expect during the visit, and other FAQs around connecting, what to have ready for the appointment, etc.
Your organization should update your website and answering services, as well as leverage social media and email marketing to help spread the word and avoid any confusion. Information should be clear, consistent, and disseminated across every potential touchpoint with patients.
Acquire the Right Healthcare Expertise
Establishing a powerful team of telehealth professionals is crucial for success. Not only will it impact the patient experience – vital for revenue growth and patient retention – but the right staff will ensure you’re providing comprehensive coverage and optimal outcomes.
Having a flexible staffing strategy in place will enable you to expertly navigate fluctuations in patient volume, as well as bridge staffing gaps. When care is divvied up among a capable team, it also provides an opportunity for your organization to address burnout and decrease staff turnover – a costly and disruptive problem for many facilities.
At Polaris Placement, we’re helping hospitals and healthcare organizations drive revenue and improve patient outcomes through flexible healthcare staffing solutions. At a time when healthcare workers are needed now more than ever, our team of recruitment experts can help your facility implement an innovative, flexible recruitment strategy. To learn more, contact the Polaris team today.