We’re witnessing an unprecedented situation in the world, as COVID-19 continues to spread, now having passed the 1 million confirmed infections mark. It’s putting an even greater burden on an already strained healthcare system. While testing for and treatment of the virus have become a priority, other patients continue to have needs as well.
Current conditions present an opportunity for healthcare providers to move forward with technology initiatives that have otherwise been slow to evolve, like increasing or launching the use of telehealth and other connected health services. Connected health can help providers manage many patient needs effectively and efficiently, while maintaining compliance with federal, state, and local mandates during the pandemic.
In addition to being able to continue to treat patients while promoting safe social distancing practices, physicians can use virtual care services to provide key instructions to infected patients to help them get appropriate treatment without putting others at risk.
In order to make the most of connected health technologies, here are several tips for providers to consider when implementing or expanding their telehealth services.
Assess Your Patient Population
Determine how your patients would fit into a connected health program. Which patients are most likely to adapt new care alternatives and which ones can benefit most? Which services are likely going to be in high demand?
Consider Your Needs
Take a look at your capacity, your staffing situation, and how implementing new connected health services might impact them. Also consider how telehealth can enable physicians and staff to work from home, at least part of the time.
Understand Your Opportunities
Look at where your greatest opportunities are based on your patient population and their needs, your staffing, and your existing services and technology. Trying to implement too much may be a difficult adjustment and could create poor experiences for patients and staff. But, adding services that address your most critical needs can benefit your practice and patients.
What technology do you already have that can be leveraged to introduce or expand connected health services? For instance, tablets, smartphones, and laptops can all be used to support virtual visits from almost anywhere. What technology can you acquire and set up quickly to help you bring new services online? If you are just starting with connected health, make sure you pick a platform that makes sense for your current and future needs.
Identify specific team members who can act as evangelists. They can be a resource for both internal teams as well as patients who have questions or need help using the technology. Having clearly defined go-to resources can help reduce friction with connected health engagements. Create a communication plan for them to bring staff on board with your new services and technologies.
Practice Make Perfect
Making sure your staff is familiar with your connected health tools can help increase success. Before introducing them to patients, have your staff complete test virtual visits with each other, and if you’re using remote patient monitoring tools or other solutions, make sure they are familiar with how they all enable effective remote care.
As you make changes to your services, inform your patients. Let them know what your policies are during the COVID-19 outbreak, what they should do if they need to see a doctor for “normal” concerns, and what procedures they should follow if they think they have been exposed to or contracted the virus. And make sure they are aware of your new telehealth services.
Prepare easy-to-understand documentation to send patients to help them use your digital services. Let them know what their technology requirements are, how to schedule appointments, how to prepare for and log in for their sessions, what to expect, and who to contact if they are having problems with the tools. Perhaps most importantly, let patients know why you are using these services and how they will benefit.
After visits, check in with your patients to understand their experiences, how you can improve your service, what they like, and where they may have had difficulties. Do the same with your physicians and staff. The more feedback you collect, the more you will be able to adjust your services and procedures to win benefits for your patients and practice.
Make sure you are keeping records of all your digital interactions. Ideally, your telehealth system will be connected to patient EHRs, so information can be automatically appended. But, if you haven’t gotten that far, make sure your physicians and staff are putting notes into patient records. This will help manage their conditions and ongoing health and will make sure your billing and recordkeeping stay accurate.
This is a challenging time for everyone, especially healthcare providers who have to manage this crisis as well as existing patient conditions. Following these tips for implementing connected health technologies may help ease the burden now but can drive efficiencies in practices in the long run as well.
To learn more about using telehealth to deliver positive outcomes for patients, visit us here.