If there were ever a time to start a telemedicine program, it’s now. Consumer adoption is rapidly growing, from 11% of US consumers in 2019, to nearly 46% now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits. With the market predicted to grow to a staggering $250 billion, healthcare systems that don’t move to adopt a telemedicine program run the risk of being left behind to other systems ahead of the curve.
So, where should you start?
With any new program, there’s a million questions to consider. However, the early decisions will determine the later successes, so careful consideration needs to be placed when establishing the foundation of a telemedicine program.
Here are five things to remember when starting a telemedicine program and the questions you’ll need to consider.
1. Building the provider team
How many providers will your program need, and will your organization handle the recruitment, scheduling, and payments for each one? Each choice has its own requirements, associated costs, and challenges, but starting a program means establishing a dedicated team of remote providers and deciding who will oversee all the aspects associated with building the team.
As your telemedicine program grows and scales, the need for a dedicated provider management team to answer questions, address concerns, and monitor feedback becomes increasingly more important. After all, you’ll if there’s a high turnover rate because providers are unhappy with the program, then that places a higher burden on you to find coverage and fill vacancies.
If your telemedicine program is comprised of onsite staff, then credentialing would be minimal since only onsite staff need to be approved for telemedicine – at least at the beginning. As your telemedicine program grows and scales, the need for additional specialists and physicians will likely require you to credential and approve each new physician. Depending on the size of your program, that number can range from as little as one or two providers, to over 100. In which case, you’ll need to ensure your program understands certain rules and regulatory barriers.
3. IT support
Each telemedicine program is going to require its own set of technology and software requirements, and that means integrating it into your existing tech stack. Some telemedicine providers require you to integrate your existing technology to accommodate their software, which is a massive burden for an onsite IT staff to manage. Others, like VirtualMed Staff, integrate into your existing technology and processes, which makes implementation and ongoing support easier.
4. Training onsite staff
Any new program will require training; how to use the technology, how to incorporate telemedicine into existing workflows, what certain procedures look like, and much more. Here’s a scenario: A patient arrives at the emergency room and needs psychiatric evaluation before they can be dismissed, but the hospital psychiatrist won’t be in until tomorrow morning. What’s the tipping point for calling in a telepsychiatrist if the only other option is an overnight stay? Training onsite staff on how to handle these types of scenarios before they happen is an important consideration when getting a program up and running.
Additionally, any telemedicine program will require the creation of processes and protocols for nurses, physicians, and allied staff who will be impacted by telemedicine. Within an organization that could include lab work to imaging, pharmacy requests to prescription fulfillment, follow-up procedures to billing and paperwork. Without alignment, your telemedicine program has the potential to stall before it has the chance to get off the ground, so it’s important to consider what processes and procedures need to be in place before launch.
5. Maintaining quality control
As patients continue to seek digital alternatives to receive care and your telemedicine program grows in adoption, a system to maintain and review the quality of consultations needs to be in place. After all, if your patients are unsatisfied with the quality of care, what’s to stop them from going to another program that offers telemedicine? Ensuring patients continue to receive the highest quality of care means having a team in place that reviews and maintains the program is essential for long-term sustainability.
Partnering with a telemedicine service
Establishing a telemedicine program means having a strong foundation and a firm understanding of all the above areas. It can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be with the right telemedicine partner. Partnering with a telemedicine service can help you navigate and streamline the entire process so you can start seeing patients as soon as possible.
Adopting telemedicine is easier than you think – and VirtualMed Staff is here to help. Schedule a meeting today and learn how VirtualMed can customize a telemedicine program to suit your needs.