The sudden arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 caught many telemedicine programs off-guard. Which is understandable, after all, consumer adoption of telemedicine skyrocketed from 11% in 2019 to 46% in 2020, with some providers seeing nearly 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telemedicine than they did before. 2020 may be behind us, but the shift to virtual care is not – which is why it’s time to prepare your telemedicine program for success in 2021.
To help your program succeed in 2021, we’ve put together a telemedicine checklist for success. Below is helpful advice to make your program even more successful and efficient in the new year.
1. Stay up to date with the telemedicine laws and regulations
Telemedicine regulations and laws were in flux throughout 2020. With a new administration entering office, there are likely to be even more changes throughout the year that impact telemedicine. Staying on top of the local and federal legislative changes can help ensure your program is compliant and taking advantage of any changes to the law.
Here is a useful resource to help you stay informed about telemedicine-related laws: https://www.cchpca.org/.
2. Identify any inefficiencies impacting workflows and make adjustments
In the scramble to implement virtual care options in response to the pandemic there are inevitably going to be inefficiencies that impact processes and the quality of patient care. Fortunately, there is time to identify these issues and correct them. The best place to start is by looking at the data.
Analyzing consultation data, patient survey responses, and other key performance indicators can help uncover key insights to improve your program. For example, were patients consistenly reporting long wait times for the virtual provider to appear on the screen? Establish a metric for response time. Did the lack of a standardized way to record notes in the EMR hinder consultation times? Put uniform standards in place now to improve metrics moving forward.
Additionally, scheduling monthly check-in meetings with the telemedicine stakeholders in your organization to evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and correct issues as they arise is an excellent way to prevent minor issues from developing into major concerns over time.
3. Check in with your team of virtual physicians
The pandemic left many physicians suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar virtual environment. In fact, the number of physicians now using telemedicine in response to the pandemic is at 50%, up from 18% in 2018. Although many of them adapted to the new setting, some are still adjusting to the transition.
Scheduling time to check in with your team of virtual physicians can help address any areas to help improve their practice; whether it’s access to training, new equipment, or the need for additional clinicians to address coverage shortages. Collecting feedback by meeting directly or through anonymous surveys are additional avenues to learn how to better support your team.
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4. Ensure you’re offering the service lines your patients need
From cardiology to radiology, psychiatry to neurology, there isn’t a specialty that can’t utilize telemedicine. However, the patients visiting your healthcare facility can only take advantage of these types of service lines if you offer them. Otherwise, patients will choose a healthcare facility that does, or your facility will need to transfer them if it’s an inpatient situation.
Start by using patient transfer data to identify any specialty areas your healthcare facility lacks. For example, if patients recovering from a stroke are consistently transferred to neighboring facilities, it might be time to offer inpatient, outpatient, and general teleneurology, as well as stroke coverage. Identifying which specialty your patients need will help your healthcare facility maximize revenue by reducing patient transfers.
5. Forecast patient volumes to prepare for coverage needs
Patient volumes wax and wane like the tide, and forecasting for these changes can keep your program anchored. After all, if coverage needs are consistently not matching patient demands and impacting the quality of care, then patients will avoid using your healthcare facility’s telemedicine services in the future.
If previous patient volume data suggests your current overnight or weekend coverage isn’t enough, then adding additional coverage during those shifts would address the issue. Similarly, with nearly 20% of COVID-19 patients receiving a psychiatric diagnosis, preparing for additional telepsychiatry coverage will help with any upcoming psychiatric patient surges and minimize avoidable bed days, long wait-times, and transfers.
6. Promote your telemedicine program
The most successful telemedicine programs are ones that patients use. If patients didn’t know your healthcare facility offered telemedicine services in 2020, then let 2021 be the year they find out. Develop a marketing strategy and start promoting your program now.
Need marketing ideas? We have 6 strategies to promote your telemedicine program here.
7. Start planning beyond 2021 with a telemedicine partner
Telemedicine is here to stay. In fact, the global market for telemedicine is expected to reach $185.5B by the year 2026, a 5x increase from where it was in 2018. In order to have a long-term successful telemedicine program, it’s important to have an experienced telemedicine partner that can help you plan, adjust, and grow your program beyond 2021.
VirtualMed Staff can custom build your telemedicine program. Let’s get started preparing for the future, today.