The 1849 California Gold Rush saw 300,000 prospectors flood the West Coast with dreams of cashing in on the recent discovery of gold. While a few found riches, most earned little more than they started with. Although there are several reasons for this, the simple fact is that many didn’t plan much beyond “get-rich-quick”. Similarly, as more and more healthcare systems and hospitals rush to implement telemedicine services to address the recent surge in demand, there’s the real risk that many will focus on the short-term win versus long-term success.
In the rush to establish a telemedicine program, healthcare systems oftentimes overlook one of the most important factors for long-term success – sustainability. Like the 49ers of the Gold Rush, they have the necessary tools and technology, an understanding of how it works, but they don’t have a strategy to successfully plan, implement, scale, operationalize, and maintain it. Establishing a successful telemedicine program is a race of endurance, and systems that focus on sustainability versus a quick win will reap the benefits in the long run.
That’s why having a telemedicine partner can help you focus beyond the technology and set your system up for success and sustainability. Here are a few of the ways that a telemedicine partner can help build a strong telemedicine foundation that will stand the test of time.
Safety and Security
First and foremost, to successfully maintain a telemedicine program, patient safety and data security need to be top priority. With nearly 32 million records exposed in 2018 alone, any healthcare organization that fails to protect patient data, runs the risk of losing the trust of their patients and, ultimately, their reputation. Not to mention the legal trouble, expensive fines, and more that are certain to follow.
There are countless free platforms that offer video conferencing capabilities, but in exchange, they oftentimes service ads, sell user data, or simply don’t offer any guarantees that patient data is protected and secure. Telemedicine partners understand the importance of protecting patient data and use technology that is HIPAA-compliant and secure. Some telemedicine partners, like VirtualMed Staff, are Joint Commission Certified, which means there’s added focus on risk management and risk reduction.
Initial Support and Implementation
With any new program, there are a million questions that need answers before you can start. But the early decisions will determine the later successes, so careful consideration needs to be placed on each one. For instance, where will the money to create a program come from? Will you use onsite staff or recruit third-party physicians? Will you use your existing technology or adopt a 3rd party software? Who will train the staff on the new procedures and maintain quality control?
Fortunately, a telemedicine partner can address all these questions and guide you to the right decisions that are right for your program. For instance, with the recently announced COVID-19 Telehealth Program, it’s easier than ever to receive a grant of upwards of $1 million to start a telemedicine program. VirtualMed Staff even put together a free guide to navigate any questions or concerns you might have (download it here).
Each decision you make will lend itself to building a strong foundation and is essential to creating a telemedicine program built for sustainability – all of which a telemedicine partner can help you with. However, once a program is off the ground, there’s still ongoing support and maintenance to consider.
As your telemedicine grows, evolves, and scales, there are inevitably going to be new challenges and concerns that arise. Having a telemedicine program without the help of a partner means meeting each new question and challenge alone, and that can be a burden to onsite staff and patients alike. For instance, there’s a significant difference between aligning telemedicine workflows for a small team of onsite physicians and a scaled program across multiple locations. How do you create alignment? How do you ensure continuity of care and that patients aren’t seeing a different doctor with each appointment? If you don’t know the answers, then surely a telemedicine partner can help answer them.
Similarly, as needs change and grow, so too do technology requirements. If you’re reliant on a 3rd party telemedicine software, then that means slowly integrating that software with your existing tech stack and potentially overburdening your IT team with each software update. If your telemedicine partner builds a customized program using your existing technology and systems, that means as your needs change, it’s easier for your program to grow and change with you.
A successful and sustainable telemedicine program cannot succeed without a team of dedicated remote physicians. However, it’s unfortunately far too common for many healthcare systems to view their providers as an “extension of the team”, rather than a “part of the team”. When considering the long-term health of a telemedicine program, it’s critical to consider the well-being and happiness of the providers that make up the program.
Telemedicine partners can help manage and support providers in a way that makes them feel less like individual contributors and more like valued members working as a team. From support with insurance, processing payments, to training and even hosting virtual events to boost morale, a telemedicine partner can help develop strong relationships with providers that contribute to the long-term success of a program.
Focusing on the Long-Term: How a Telemedicine Partner Can Help You Succeed
The long-term success and sustainability of a telemedicine program relies on understanding how to plan, implement, scale, operationalize, and maintain it. The right telemedicine partner can support and guide you in all these areas and set your program up for success. Telemedicine isn’t just offering patients a new piece of technology, it’s an opportunity to transform how you do healthcare – and it’s easier than you think.
To learn more about how a telemedicine partner can help you succeed, schedule a demo and learn more.