As hospitals and medical centers navigate healthcare changes, many are determining how to best deliver patient care, support providers, and remain profitable. Fortunately, technology has enabled various innovative solutions to stay atop this changing healthcare landscape, and among the most critical is telemedicine.
How does telemedicine work?
Telemedicine enables remote physicians to see patients virtually whenever and wherever it’s needed. With video or audio equipment, medical professionals can meet with patients to diagnose, treat, and perform follow-up care just as any traditional medical visit, but in a virtual setting. The impact and applications for telemedicine with hospitals, providers, and patients continues to increase as all parties continue to adapt to receiving and delivering care in this modern healthcare setting.
As with any innovation, the road to successful execution begins with clearly defined goals and objectives. In order to do this, you first need to assess what this means for your medical facility, your patients, and your providers. To get you started, we’ve outlined four potential (and effective) goals to have in place that will ensure your telemedicine program is successful and makes the greatest impact on your medical facility, patients, and physicians.
1. Improve patient outcomes
The primary goal of telemedicine should be to enhance overall patient outcomes. Whether that is driven by improved accessibility, consistent follow-up care, or simply a relaxed and focused conversation, better patient outcomes can be achieved in several ways through telemedicine, including improved access to care.
Take, for example, patients in rural areas. According to the National Rural Health Association, the primary care physician ratio in rural districts is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, contrasted to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. There is even more of a discrepancy among specialists, with 263 physicians per 100,000 people in urban areas compared to only 30 physicians per 100,000 rural neighborhoods. Instead of driving miles to see a primary doctor or specialist, telemedicine offers patients more convenient access closer to home.
Even in larger cities, those with chronic conditions may find it challenging to travel even small distances to see a physician. Telemedicine can relieve this strain by being readily available. Follow-up visits, medication management, and diagnostic review are just a few of the ways this technology is making the patient experience better. What’s more, telemedicine can offer higher quality time as virtual visits tend to be less distracting than an in-person setting.
2. Increase patient throughput
Hospital and clinic visits begin in the waiting room, so it is no wonder that a primary goal for hospitals would be to increase patient throughput and decrease wait times – both of which telemedicine can address.
A common strategy to reduce these wait times is to prioritize in-person visits based on acuity level. For example, psychiatric patients seeking treatment can quickly connect with a telepsychiatrist to determine whether they need inpatient treatment, or can be stabilized with medication and safely discharged. This helps the hospital save money by decreasing avoidable bed days, reduces the overall wait time, and allows the hospital to continue treating patients.
3. Reduce physician burnout
Physician burnout remains a major concern for hospitals, which is why reducing burnout is an important goal for any telemedicine program. Burnout not only affects a physician’s happiness but patient care and productivity as well. What’s more, of 15,000 physicians surveyed, 50% reported that they would take a pay cut for better work-life balance.
With telemedicine, providers benefit from working a schedule that fits their lifestyle and allows them to See More Patients™ on their terms. Telemedicine reduces the constant rush of seeing patients face-to-face and slows down visits to be more focused and intentional. Physicians are able to reawaken their focus and again see how they are improving patient outcomes with more continuity of care. By reducing the shuffle from room-to-room and minimizing constant interruptions, physicians feel less stress and more job satisfaction overall.
4. Grow revenue
Patient care and provider well-being come first, but at the end of the day, most hospitals and medical facilities need to remain profitable to continue providing services. Especially now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. hospitals are losing millions of dollars per day. From layoffs to provider burnout, high expenses, and low margins, healthcare providers are looking for new ways to remain profitable while still delivering high quality care. Telemedicine can help.
Telemedicine can serve as a multi-faceted solution that grows revenue in several ways. The increased access to specialty providers enables hospitals to treat patients that would otherwise be transferred to a different facility. Incorporating telemedicine into daily workflows, like screening low-acuity patients, improves efficiency and increases patient throughput. Medical centers are also able to extend their hours and increase their availability to treat patients. As hospitals and clinics find more and more creative ways to leverage telemedicine, the opportunities for increasing revenue will inevitably continue to grow.
These goals are easily met when implementing a telemedicine program with a reliable and quality partner. At VirtualMed Staff, our telemedicine solutions integrate with your existing people, processes, and technology. We provide a dedicated project manager to help your team incorporate telemedicine into your existing workflows while providing technical training for your onsite staff.
Adopting a telemedicine program is easier than you think and will produce positive results for years to come. If you want to learn more about how telemedicine can improve your practice, book a demo with a virtual care specialist today.