The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a premium on healthcare technology as providers have struggled to manage patients during an unprecedented period of lockdowns and distancing.  Connected health was already set to change the way healthcare is delivered, and hopefully bring new levels of efficiency and quality of care to an overburdened system.

This crisis, however, created a sense of urgency.  Health care providers needed a way to ensure healthcare accessibility for patients – especially those receiving treatment for chronic or behavioral health conditions – and financial stability for providers, all while following safety standards to prevent the spread of the virus.

Any technology initiative takes planning to ensure success, and healthcare providers must take care to deliver a product that works for not only their practices, but their patients as well.

There are several key steps they can take to help give their connected health services a better chance of success.

Identify Needs

Consider your practice, and determine which needs are most important to address, and which ones can be improved with connected health programs, such as revenue loss, continuity of care, low compliance, physician shortages, barriers to access, etc.  Think big but start small – you don’t need to address all needs immediately but starting with a strategic selection can provide a foundation for the future.

Connected Health Team

Create a team to help work on the project.  While the size of the team will vary based on the size of your organization, be sure to include representatives from each department to act as liaisons for their teams to provide a broad perspective for the project and ensure the two-way communication flows.  A diverse team can provide additional feedback and insights into how a connected health program will impact the organization and identify additional needs or potential obstacles.

Success Metrics ­–

Once your team is in place and has identified key opportunities, set short- and long-term goals and define metrics that will be used to measure report progress and success.  You should include criteria from the perspective of multiple stakeholders, including physicians, IT, management, patients, and any other groups that will play a role in the program’s success.

Vendor Selection

Look for a long-term partner, not a short-term band-aid.  By choosing a technology partner whose solution fits into your extended connected health vision, you can not only improve your chances of success, but reduce the chances of having to repeat the process to find new or additional vendors in the future.  Factors to consider include business stability, IT flexibility and integration, security, ease of implementation and use, service and support, and success record.  You should also lay out all expectations and agreements around support, communications, training, all costs, and any other factors that will be important to building a successful program.

Internal Support

Getting buy-in from your leadership team and other departments is important.  Without corporate- or practice-wide buy-in, success could be limited, and, in some cases, your project may never even get off the ground.  Sharing goals, timelines, resources, success metrics, and other elements will help others understand how it fits into broader corporate objectives and allow them to provide an additional layer of feedback to help further strengthen the program and secure funding.

Rethinking Workflows

Elements of a connected health program, like virtual visits and RPM, will most likely require adjustments to traditional workflows, scheduling, and even physical workspaces to create positive experiences and maximize benefits of both connected health programs and in-person visits.

Preparation

Bring care teams, administrative staff, and other participants up to speed early.  Ensuring their familiarity with the technology and processes, and their roles in the programs, can help negotiate a smooth transition and avoid poor patient experiences.

Patients as Partners

A major factor in the success of a connected health program is patient acceptance and interest.  Communicating with patients about new programs and their benefits can help drive growth.  Be prepared to answer questions about appropriate use, scheduling, technology, expectations, and costs.  The more familiar they are, the better the chances they will have positive experiences.

Implementation

Be sure to test not only your technology, but also your redesigned workflows.  Starting slowly, with a small, select group of patients can help work out any wrinkles in your processes and make it easier to optimize them as you scale.  Make sure your scheduling system functions as expected, have people ready to support physicians and patients initially, and verify any back-end integrations are accurate to avoid unnecessary delays or mistakes with billing, follow-ups, or other processes.

Evaluating Success

One of the reasons for defining success metrics early is to make it easier to evaluate where programs are achieving or falling short of goals.  In addition to looking at objective data, like the number of telehealth visits, reductions in no-shows, and clinical outcomes, patients and physicians can provide valuable feedback on their experiences.  Using surveys to collect feedback from both groups can help better understand experiences and opportunities to make adjustments.

Expanding the Program

Once initial programs have been launched successfully, look at ways to scale programs to include new applications, conditions, patient populations, or other defining characteristics that can allow building out your connected health programs. If you have multiple locations, that could also mean simply expanding to additional offices.  Many of these same processes around metrics, planning, and coordination can help make expansion easier.

There is no question new technologies are changing the way healthcare is delivered, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They can help generate new operational efficiencies and enable better access to care and can optimize physician time to hopefully reduce burnout.  But, the level of success connected health programs can achieve and the financial benefits they can deliver are dependent upon effective implementation strategies.

To learn more about how to implement connected health solutions, contact us today.

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