Soar to Success with Telemedicine and Telehealth at Your Facility
Technology is improving at lightning speed, delivering groundbreaking utilities that change our lives seemingly on a daily basis. Has your facility or medical practice kept pace? Are you onboard with the latest and greatest?
Telehealth service aren’t new, but it’s surprising how few organizations have taken the leap in this direction.
According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), 52% of hospitals were using telehealth services in 2013, with an additional 10% indicating their intentions implement them in the future. As of 2016, 75% of hospitals were either using or planning to implement telehealth services. The numbers for other agencies is far less.
Don’t be Left in the Dark
With the increasing number of facilities using telehealth to improve their patient care and outcomes, you don’t want to be left behind. To grow your practice or facility and keep up with the changing needs of your consumers—both practitioners and patients—you need to develop your telehealth plan, or review your plan to ensure you stay current.
The following steps will help you to implement and/or improve your telehealth services:
- Establish goals and objectives—Before you purchase telehealth equipment, define what you’d like to accomplish. Would you like to monitor certain patient’s vital statistics? Would you like to offer your patients video calls with their physician? Brainstorm as a group about which services you’d like to offer and then trim your list to a few reasonable items that will serve as a pilot program.
- Identify your clients—Identify the main type of patient in your care, and then think of how to best serve these patients with telehealth services. Be aware that the technology you offer to younger patients will differ from what you offer to an older patient population. For example, you might use video game apps to engage children with asthma, and rely on large fonts and volume enhancements for senior patients.
- Designate a physician mentor or champion—Find a provider at your facility who’s excited about telemedicine and recruit him or her into the development and implementation of your telehealth services. This person will be a key liaison for getting other providers to “buy-in.” Allow this physician time to research new technologies and bring ideas back to you and your team.
- Assess your current technology—Perform an inventory of the equipment you have. Check your software and hardware. Is it new? Outdated? Capable of handling the services you’d like to implement? Work with a dedicated Information Technology (IT) staff to perform this assessment.
- Determine the technology you need—Your IT staff will be able to identify the equipment you need for the bandwidth and Internet connectivity your facility has in place. It’s up to you to choose the specs you want. Will your new equipment will be stationary or will be mobile? Do you want it to integrate with your electronic health record (EHR), etc.?
- Assess your physical space—You will need a private, dedicated area to perform telemedicine services. You may need two spaces: one space for a physician to consult with other physicians and/or patients and another that patients can go into for a telehealth exam. When selecting your space, you will also need to provide good lighting and acoustics that eliminate echo.
- Implement a change management program—Remember to take it slowly when implementing new technology. Start by running a change management program to inform staff of the telemedicine services your practice or facility will be offering. This will ease any worries that providers and staff may have. Explain the rationale and the cost savings behind this implementation.
- Provide support—It is initially important to provide on-call support to help new users navigate the telemedicine hardware and software. This is key for “buy-in” to the new technology and will help solidify your program.
- Assign a dedicated RN mentor or champion—Along with the physician mentor, you need an individual who will be the go-to person for training and assistance for all other nurses and ancillary staff on the use of the telemedicine technology and services.
- Establish policies and procedures—Make sure that part of the implementation of your telemedicine services plan includes written policies and procedures. Address who can use the equipment, when it can be used, and how it should be used. You should also provide a form that documents the various users and intended equipment uses.
- Assess and reassess your telemedicine program—Shortly after implementation, sit down with staff and discuss the pros and cons of your telemedicine program. What aspects of the program have been working well? What is not going as you had hoped? Modify the program as needed to streamline the process.
- Educate and engage patients—Speak to your patients about your new telemedicine services. Ask them if they would like to try these new services. If a patient has been in the hospital and will return home with monitoring equipment, train him on the use of the equipment. Bring the equipment into his room and ensure that he and his caregivers are comfortable with the equipment before discharge.
Are you optimizing your telemedicine options?
Bank on TCI to set you on the path to ethical reimbursement with The Telemedicine & Telehealth Handbook for Medical Practices. This invaluable resource will get you up to speed on telehealth billing, coding, denials, and everything between. Capitalize on advice and guidance regarding new telehealth options from CMS, POS codes, how to ace your E/M telemedicine services, when to use modifier 95 to capture synchronous telemedicine services, and so much more!