Healthcare providers and networks continue to make investments in telehealth solutions, and interest from patients is on the rise. Often, however, there’s a gap between patient demand and physicians’ interest in delivering telehealth, reducing the positive impacts and growth of your service. How can you ensure internal buy-in and adoption of your telehealth services? What can you do to ensure your doctors and staff want to help build your telehealth business?
Here are few tips for increasing internal acceptance and use as a way of driving the growth of your telehealth practice.
Why are you investing in telehealth?
There has been much media attention and discussion around the growth of telehealth services and their benefits. But, to make sure your physicians and staff are on board and ready to help drive adoption of your services, you must explain the benefits specifically as they apply to your network or practice. General benefits are a great start, but by speaking specifically about your practice, using real examples, the benefits will resonate much better with your staff. Also explain the benefits as they apply to patients and how telehealth will enable them to provide better and more efficient care more easily to more patients. Remember, it’s not just about the cost savings – your staff will react positively to understanding how their patients will receive better care, especially if it’s also easier to deliver.
Education and Training
In addition to making sure they understand why you’re building a telehealth practice, set up training programs for your staff. Telehealth relies on a new set of technologies and, too often, systems are installed and handed over to teams without proper training leading to low adoption rates. While many of the elements may be familiar, the end-to-end solution requires guidance. Properly implemented, telehealth systems will integrate with other existing systems, which will require process adjustments. Doctors and staff will need to understand the capabilities of your telehealth solution, how to use them, how your systems are integrated, and what processes are impacted. Whether it’s patient records, video consultations, store and forward information sharing, remote patient monitoring and data collection, follow-up scheduling, or any other parts of your practice, ensuring your staff understands how they are connected and how to use them effectively is critical to their acceptance and use.
Ease of Use
Regardless of how much training they receive or how well you define the value proposition, your telehealth solution must be easy to use. If the technology is too complicated or there are too many steps involved in using it, your adoption rate will be low and your ROI will be limited. This is where choosing the right telehealth solution is crucial to your program’s success. Make sure it is designed to achieve your current objectives, is scalable and expandable to accommodate program growth, and ensure the system itself and integration with your other systems is simple for your users.
Standards and Metrics
The American Telemedicine Association has created standards and guidelines for telehealth practices, both generally across the healthcare industry and for specific types of practices. They are designed to facilitate uniformity in care and ensure systems conform to industry requirements and regulations.
In addition to following those standards, setting goals and tracking progress across metrics that apply to your practice will help you and your physicians see how well your telehealth practice is meeting expectations. Cost savings is one factor to consider, but there are many other metrics to consider as you examine how well your system is working on an ongoing basis.
- Have you grown your patient base?
- Are you seeing a reduction in readmissions or repeat visits?
- Are you seeing a drop-in time per visit?
- Is the quality of care you’re able to deliver increasing?
- Is your patient satisfaction increasing?
- Is your staff satisfaction increasing?
- Have you been able to add new practitioners to your network?
Regardless of your objectives, tracking them will help understand performance and what you need to adjust if your progress isn’t in line with goals. Positive trends will provide incentive to staff to increase their use of your telehealth system.
Workload and Compensation
Doctors and staff are like anyone else – they don’t want to have to do more work for the same compensation. Telehealth services are inherently designed to make it easier for them to deliver care, but you want to make sure they aren’t seeing it as an added burden. In fact, the ideal scenario is just the opposite – you want them to see in-office visits as the added workload so they are incentivized to transition appropriate patients to telehealth.
Treat telehealth experiences as you would in-office visits, as opposed to adding them to physicians’ wokloads. In addition to proper training and education, make sure appropriate support staff is available to assist – again, just as they are for in-office visits.
If your physicians are salaried, you may want to consider designing a reward program for transitioning patients to telehealth, or for bringing in new telehealth patients – assuming your results support the value proposition. Physicians who are on a FFS (fee-for-service) compensation model should be paid accordingly when they deliver services through telehealth.
Ultimately, the success of your telehealth service depends on adoption. Investing in the solution is the first step, but to truly make it a successful, revenue generating part of your practice, you have to create a culture around telehealth, moving from understanding to acceptance to adoption to growth. The other key is patient adoption, which we’ll address in our next post.
To learn more about how to increase adoption of telehealth services, click here.