Telehealth is a rapidly growing method of treating patients and communities, particularly during the pandemic era when in-person care is so challenging. According to a report by the American Hospital Association, telemedicine use has increased by 13-17% across all specialties since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts believe it is only bound to continue growing in popularity.
If you’re interested in taking part in this growing trend and establishing a telehealth practice at your health facility, there are many hurdles you must first overcome before treating virtually. In this article, we’ll take you step-by-step through the telemedicine practice setup, ensuring you can begin providing care for your community through digital spaces effectively.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is defined as the delivery of care, or health-related services via telecommunication technologies and electronic information. Through these technologies, patients can access treatment and professional medical advice across vast distances, without ever having to visit a health facility or leave their home. The range of specialty services available through telehealth is quite varied and often includes patient education, behavioral treatment, physical therapy, and general health information.
Steps to Establishing a Telehealth Practice
When establishing a telemedicine practice there are certain steps you should take in order to ensure your virtual care is effective within your communities. For starters, you’ll want to identify the specific needs of your community and the regulations of your area. Additionally, you’ll want to seek out telemedicine vendors that provide HIPAA-compliant software and hardware that your staff will use to administer care.
Once you’ve compiled the tools to start delivering remote treatment, you’ll want to develop clear protocols that ensure your practice continues to be effective. While setting up a telehealth practice can come with its own share of challenges, we’ll guide you through the finer details to help you overcome the hurdles of setup.
Identify The Telehealth Needs of Your Community
Your first steps towards setting up a telehealth practice should be in determining the needs of your patient population and the types of digital health services you should be prepared to offer. Through virtual platforms, you can provide health care treatment for chronic pain, hypertension, geriatrics, behavioral therapy, and so much more.
Additionally, you should confirm that your patient community is eligible for telehealth services and the guidelines for compliance with local, state, and federal telehealth and Medicaid laws. There are regional, state, and federal laws imposed on telemedicine practices ensuring a particular standard of care, being in compliance with these legal parameters is imperative. Further, not all insurance providers support telehealth in every region across the United States so ensuring that your patients are eligible for virtual care can help you ensure success.
Choose a HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth Vendor
Once you’ve established that a telehealth practice could be effective in your community, you should next seek out vendors that meet your specific technology and service needs. Finding the right vendor is easier said than done, however, as there are plenty to choose from. You should ensure that the platform that you choose is in adherence with HIPAA policy and can secure your patients’ sensitive information from outside threats.
There are many steps you can take to find the right vendor which can make all the difference in the effectiveness of your practice. For instance, not all telehealth resource vendors will provide tools that integrate well with your existing technology. Searching for hardware and software that blends seamlessly with your existing systems can help ensure that your telehealth processes are fully optimized. Additionally, consider potential growth and how these new systems might scale to meet the needs of your practice.
After you’ve selected vendors that fit your practice’s needs, you’ll want to organize a demonstration of the vendor’s tools, evaluating them for some of the following factors:
- Clinical Validation
- Customer Service
- ROI Impact
- Ability to Integrate with current systems
While there are many things to consider, our CNECT representatives are here to help you find the right telehealth services vendor for your practice.
Train Staff and Educate Patients
Once you’ve determined what tools you are going to use to administer care, you should train your staff and health professionals on how to use the equipment at their disposal. Establishing a set of procedures and protocols for handling patient information is beneficial in ensuring your virtual care practice remains HIPAA compliant and that your patient population receives adequate and equitable care.
Further, designing a cohesive workflow is central to ensuring the effectiveness of your new virtual care practice. Your goal should be to streamline the patient experience without sacrificing any aspect of the patient-clinician relationship. Setting clear and detailed guidelines of what your staff should do before, during, and after a visit can better guarantee that your patients continue to receive an effective and fulfilling care experience.
Additionally, patients need to be informed of your new virtual care system. This process should start with capturing patient contact information, whether that be in the form of email or mobile numbers, and establishing how medical staff and patients will communicate. Practices must obtain patient consent prior to making a virtual appointment so patients are fully aware of the new remote care methods. Creating a patient FAQ can help to guide your patients through these new processes and provide a resource for any questions or issues that may arise. Finally, it is important to consider that every patient’s needs are different and virtual care may not work for all patients.
Measuring Your Practice’s Success
Your last step in the journey to establishing a telehealth practice at your medical facility is to measure the practice’s success. Like all new treatment methods, it is crucial to track overall effectiveness, particularly during the early stages of implementation. Continuing to evaluate the success of the virtual visits of your telemedicine practice can help to provide insights into the patient experience, enhance treatment protocols, highlight areas of opportunity or technology needs, and guide future decisions. Regardless of the type of treatment, you’re administering, you should continue to improve your virtual care methods so that it further aligns with the overall goal of your practice.
As a group purchasing organization (GPO), CNECT can help your facility save on the products and solutions required to implement telehealth services. From remote patient monitoring devices, smartphone scheduling systems, video conferencing, and secure medical messaging platforms, CNECT can help you save on supplies and expand your telehealth services. When you become a member of CNECT you’ll also gain the guidance and expertise of a team of nationwide representatives dedicated to supporting your organization and providing custom savings strategies. With CNECT as your GPO partner, you can extend telehealth to your patients with confidence.
Contact a CNECT representative to learn more about becoming a member today!