It is very helpful to sit down and think about the goals for your telemedicine program right at the outset. You want to define clear goals with objective measurements. You might consider how you want your telemedicine program to impact things like revenue, customer satisfaction, wait times, no-shows and cancellations, staff efficiency, patient retention, new patients, and any other measurements that are important for your practice.
Telemedicine will have an impact on several functions within the practice, so it is a good idea to get a number of people involved in the roll-out of your program. Consider assembling a task-force that includes providers who will be using telemedicine, people who will be scheduling appointments, any available technical resources, and people from other business functions that might be able to assist. If people are engaged early and have the opportunity to help shape the program, they will feel more invested in its success.
State laws and payer policies about telemedicine reimbursement vary widely. Most are becoming more progressive and embracing telehealth as an important tool for meeting the healthcare needs of the public. To that end, 26 states have what are known as “parity” laws, requiring reimbursement for remote video visits. Unfortunately, however, there is not a consistent approach, so it makes sense to make yourself familiar with the regulations where you practice.
There are a variety of telemedicine technologies available. Any solution you consider should be:
There is no universal telemedicine utilization strategy. You can tailor an approach that meets the unique needs of your practice. It may make sense to block off certain times during the week for remote visits, or you may decide to make video visits available during times that the office is traditionally closed. One approach to increasing utilization and revenue is conducting the follow up phone calls that you already do by video. Telephone calls are typically not reimbursable, whereas video encounters may very well be.
It is important to make sure that your patients know that video visits are an option for them. You may want to post signs in the office, send an email, or make mentioning it a part of every in-person encounter. Even if patients don’t immediately embrace the approach, knowing that it is an option may help keep them loyal to the practice in the face of increasing competition from retail health clinics and online only providers.
Whenever you introduce something new to your staff and patients, it is important to gather their feedback. Think about the best way for you to get the insight of both groups and integrate their best ideas into your program.
Once you are seeing patients via telemedicine, remember to check in with your goals from time to time. You may need to tweak your program or your goals after you get started. It is also important to recognize and reward your team when goals are met or exceeded.
Telemedicine has the potential to change your practice for the better in a number of ways, so it is smart to introduce it thoughtfully. These best practices will help you along the path to a healthy telemedicine program.