Reaching the top isn’t always a straight road. In 2012, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. From the base of the 19,341 ft. mountain, the peak seemed directly in front of us; however, our journey never took a direct path. Instead, we spent five days trekking, camping, and slowly making our way around the base. Tired and confused, I asked our guide why we didn’t just march straight towards it if that’s where we wanted to go.
He laughed and pointed out the dangers of marching directly towards the top, including falling rocks, the absence of water, lack of climbing gear, and altitude sickness, to name a few. I then left the journey in the hands of our trusted guide, and we eventually reached the top safely. However, it became clear that despite how simple something may appear, an experienced partner can help you navigate unforeseen challenges.
The same can be said for building a telemedicine program. It is important to have a guide that can help you understand the requirements, implementation timelines, and anticipate potential risks and roadblocks. Below is a look at some common misconceptions and how a telemedicine partner is needed when creating a successful telemedicine program.
Limited coverage means fast implementation
Establishing coverage, whether it’s only for six hours a week or 24/7, requires a considerable amount of effort. Video conferencing capabilities, reliable internet, and hiring a physician may seem like easy tasks; however, just as the top of the mountain looked easy to grasp, many steps must come first.
For instance, it is important to know if hospital bylaws currently allow telemedicine and how clinical or technology workflows need to adapt. Will doctors be required to treat children and adolescents, and if not, who will see those patients?
The number of coverage hours has little impact on the length of time it takes to license the doctor, process the application, and other vital components necessary to offer a telemedicine service line. The right telemedicine partner can assist you on this path.
Telemedicine is plug and play
As a healthcare organization grows and evolves, so too will the size and scale of its telemedicine program. Expansion seems as straightforward as relocating video equipment, copy and pasting workflows, and conducting training sessions, but moving too fast can result in telemedicine “altitude sickness.”
There is a significant difference between adapting telemedicine workflows across one location versus locations with different staff and cultures. To do so requires creating alignment from not only executive leadership, but those implementing the telemedicine service at each individual facility. Does the executive leadership strategy include input from all the appropriate stakeholders? If not, there is the risk of misidentifying patient volumes, underestimating training requirements, and misunderstanding each location’s EMR system.
A telemedicine guide identifies key stakeholders at all levels and ensures essential communication around needs and goals. By identifying early on who needs to be consulted early on – both internal and external stakeholders – challenges can be easily identified and addressed in order to develop a successful telemedicine implementation.
A telemedicine program would not be possible without a team of virtual physicians. However, each physician requires credentialing, which can be lengthy and labor-intensive (credentialing a physician can take between 30 and 90 days, or up to 150 days).
Some healthcare systems and facilities have in-house teams dedicated to the credentialing process. For those that do not, the process can be difficult to navigate, especially when it involves multiple providers across various locations. Similarly, once a program begins to grow and scale, the entire process will need to be revisited.
That’s where a telemedicine partner can lead the way and give you the “climbing” tools you need to reach the peak. Credentialing by proxy, like what VirtualMed Staff provides, means a dedicated team of professionals handle the bulk of the process, paperwork, and timeline.
Whether it’s establishing, growing, or starting a telemedicine program, you need a guide and the right tools to make it a success. An experienced telemedicine partner, like VirtualMed Staff, can help you overcome many of these challenges and navigate your organization throughout the entire process, from conception to implementation, to the first consultation and beyond.
Want to learn more about how VirtualMed Staff can help you build or expand your telemedicine program? Let's get started today to see how a VirtualMed Staff partner can guide your hospital to seamless telemedicine integration.