The promise of telemedicine is its ability to bring quality healthcare to patients whenever and wherever it’s needed. As a full-service telemedicine partner, VirtualMed Staff understands that one of the biggest factors to achieving this promise is ensuring consistent patient coverage for all our clients. Which is why we’re excited to announce that 2020 can officially be declared a “Zero Gaps in Patient Coverage” year!
With over 400 hospitals across 32 states, VirtualMed Staff ensured each of our clients experienced no gaps in patient coverage throughout 2020. Accomplishing this was no easy feat. It required a dedicated team of physician engagement specialists working diligently to ensure each client always had the patient coverage they needed.
Leading the initiative was Belinda Gordon, VirtualMed Staff’s Physician Engagement Specialist. We spoke with Belinda to highlight the steps that led to this achievement and what it means to our telemedicine partners.
What does zero gaps in patient coverage mean?
Zero gaps in patient coverage means there’s always a physician available to see a patient. In the case of VirtualMed Staff, a dedicated physician the client has built a relationship with and provides consistent continuity of care. “Patient care is always a top priority of VirtualMed Staff,” says Gordon. “We always want to ensure that our clients never encounter a situation where a physician isn’t available to see a patient.” Any gaps in patient coverage can have a profound impact on patient care.
For the patient, this could mean waiting hours for the next available physician and delayed treatment, which could lead to a negative health outcome. For the hospital, gaps in patient coverage means increased wait times, overloading the next scheduled physician, added strain to onsite staff, and a potential financial impact.
Gordon and the Physician Support team prioritized patient coverage in 2020. “It took transforming our program from the ground up; everything from how we recruit, structure physician contracts, to even how we communicate with our physicians.”
Below are three steps that Belinda and the physician engagement team at VirtualMed Staff outlined in order to accomplish zero gaps in patient coverage.
3 Steps to Zero Gaps in Patient Coverage
1. Establish proactive coverage monitoring
The first step was to review each telemedicine program’s current coverage and establish a 90-day rolling coverage system. This means that Belinda and her team consistently monitored coverage 90 days ahead and proactively identified potential gaps before they arrived. “We started by looking at the physicians we currently had and made sure their schedules aligned with our client’s coverage needs,” says Gordon.
“I outlined each program’s coverage requirements against the current and future needs and filled the gaps wherever possible.” Once that was complete, Gordon began the process of recruiting new, full-time physicians to fill any gaps.
2. Focus on purposeful recruitment for continuity of care
VirtualMed Staff’s telemedicine programs include a small, dedicated panel typically averaging between 3-4 physicians. With a such a small panel size, it’s important that each physician aligns with the program needs, requirements, and culture of the hospital.
“It’s not about finding a physician, it’s about finding the right physician,” says Gordon. VirtualMed Staff physicians are an extension of the onsite care team, so focusing on recruiting physicians that align with the culture and values of the hospitals they’ll be working with is essential. Additionally, treating patients virtually and working 100% remote requires a different type of physician than a typical onsite doctor, so identifying those candidates became a top priority.
“I needed to ensure that each physician was suited for a telemedicine environment and treating patients remotely,” continues Gordon. “Oftentimes, we see physicians testing the water of telemedicine, without understanding the requirements and commitment that it requires. Because VirtualMed Staff offers long-term telemedicine solutions, we needed physicians who were committed to the long-term.”
Gordon and the recruitment team prioritized recruiting physicians specifically dedicated to practicing telemedicine. By focusing on purposeful recruitment and aligning candidates with the hospital culture where they’ll practice, it decreased the likelihood of sudden turnover creating gaps in patient coverage.
3. Streamline communication
Remember the adage, “Too many cooks in the kitchen?” The phrase rings true in terms of communicating and coordinating telemedicine physician schedules. One of the key steps in achieving zero gaps in patient coverage was to streamline communication with the team of virtual physicians.
“In the past, there were too many people involved with scheduling,” says Belinda. “This created too many opportunities for scheduling updates to fall through the cracks or miscommunications to occur.” By streamlining communications, Gordon was able to ensure that any important update to coverage schedules flowed through a single point of contact. Now, whenever VirtualMed Staff physician calls out or needs an adjustment made to their schedule, they have a dedicated contact to ensure the message is received.
Over the next twelve months, VirtualMed Staff will be rolling out a provider portal. There, physicians can quickly log in, view schedules, request any necessary changes, and more. All of which is meant to streamline the communication further and create a simple communication process for physicians in the future.
By addressing current coverage gaps, focusing on purposeful recruitment, and streamlining communication, Gordon and her team have created a system to ensure there are zero gaps in patient coverage for every VirtualMed Staff client. “We’re fulfilling our promise to our clients and ensuring every patient is seen,” says Gordon.
Want to hear more about how VirtualMed Staff can prevent patient coverage gaps at your hospital or healthcare facility? Schedule a conversation with a telemedicine specialist today and let’s get started.