Last year, the American Telemedicine Association reported that nearly 9 in 10 respondents to its Executive Leadership Survey expected to invest in telehealth or related technologies within 12 months. It was a clear indication that telehealth remains a strategic focus as healthcare organizations look to increase patient satisfaction, expand their practices, and grow revenue. But, there are countless solutions on the market and making the right decision can be the difference between success and failure.
So, as you look to launch or expand your telehealth practice, what factors should be on your checklist?
What are your strategic priorities?
Improving patient experience is a top priority for any healthcare provider. But, what other goals does your organization have? Increased staff and physician productivity, improved health results, reducing costs, growing your general patient base, attracting a new patient demographic, increasing your geographic reach, or building your network of physicians can all be very reasonable targets that can be driven by telehealth capabilities. But, they each are best served by different telehealth technologies.
For instance, adding new doctors or specialists to your telehealth practice would benefit from store and forward technology. But, lowering costs by reducing re-admittances or follow-up visits might best be achieved with remote patient monitoring capabilities. Evaluate your goals how these or other solutions – like mobile health solutions, virtual care, or remote consultations – can help you achieve them.
Could your communications be improved?
Whether you are part of a small private practice or a large regional health system, there’s a good chance you face some communication challenges that can be overcome through telehealth services. For instance, does your staff have a need to frequently access patient information remotely? Secure mobile access, store and forward, or secure video conferencing might be your best options for enhanced capabilities.
Would your patients like to see more in the way of physician-patient communication? Are they asking for better scheduling, reminder, prescription, and account-related features? Or, do they simply want more information specifically related to their ailments or conditions? A more intuitive and feature-rich patient portal integrated with your EHR, scheduling, and other systems, can go a long way towards improving communications with patients.
What are your technology requirements?
Aside from the service-delivery technologies and features that are going to help meet your organizational goals, there are several other technology items you should consider when choosing your telehealth solution.
- HIPAA compliance– Make sure any solution you are considering complies with HIPAA and other regulations.
- Security– Aside from your corporate cyber security capabilities, make sure your solution has been proven to protect patient data and includes encryption for any data transfers
- Ease of use– It’s notoriously difficult to achieve widespread adoption of new technology. In addition to choosing a solution that has easily identified benefits for patients and staff, make sure they don’t have to go through two more years of school just to use it. The more intuitive your solution is, the better your results will be.
- Open system– Make sure your system allows for future expansion as your needs evolve, your practice grows, and you become ready to add new telehealth services to those you have decided to initially deploy. Don’t lock yourself into one hardware vendor – instead, give yourself as many options for future service deployments as possible. Also make sure your solution can integrate with your existing infrastructure, including your CRM and EHR systems.
- Operating systems– There are many mobile platforms and operating systems used by physicians, staff and patients (i.e., iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, Chrome, etc.). Your solution should provide compatible access and capabilities regardless of the operating system to ensure consistency of care and experience.
Taking these factors and questions into consideration will put you well on your way to making the right decision for your telehealth system. But, always be sure to do your due diligence on any vendor you’re considering. Ask for customer references; test the solution in a live environment, including voice, video and text-based communication to make sure it’s compatible with your network infrastructure. Last, but not least, we’re only at the tip of the telehealth iceberg, so as you plan your telehealth roadmap, make sure your chosen platform can grow with you well into the future.
To learn more about which telehealth solutions may be right for your organization, click here.