Posted On January 24, 2023
Optimizing Your Telemedicine Strategy to Create Cohesive Programming for Patients and Providers
When it comes to telemedicine, few health systems are starting from scratch. The pandemic forced everyone to offer some form of virtual care, even if it was just two-way video.
However, when it comes to a comprehensive telemedicine strategy, many health systems are still at square one. Or back to square one after an initial strategy didn’t work out because of broken processes, low provider adoption, or lackluster technology.
For the sake of this blog post, we went back to the drawing board chronicling what to do from the very beginning to create a seamless experience for providers and patients, focusing on strategic and intentional design. With this in mind, a great way to get started is to focus on three important integrations that create a high level of cohesion across your practice.
To explain further, we’ve brought in Kathi Cox (Chief Operating Officer, Ambulatory & Virtual Channel at Texas Health Resources) who has implemented these three key integrations as part of a comprehensive virtual care delivery strategy. She’ll also share advice on presenting your strategy to a CEO/CFO, even if you’re pivoting from a different approach/technology.
Technology needs to be integrated with your EHR
When utilizing telemedicine, ensuring that providers can easily navigate the required technology is the core foundation of the strategy. Kathi Cox lists “integration with your EHR” as the most important integration necessary.
“The more a provider has to work across systems, using a virtual platform over here, documenting in an EHR over here, that takes more effort to complete the visit and the follow-ups,” Kathi said. “When everything is integrated together, everything is right there for the provider. The patient receives timely post-visit information. This starts to make the experience seamless from beginning to end, for both providers and patients.”
Without integration, the added steps lead to frustration and lower provider adoption. With low adoption, the telemedicine program fails to gain momentum.
Unified communications for the patient
The second key component of the strategy is to build an intentional patient journey, focusing specifically on patient communication. If the messaging to the patient is confusing, the office has to spend extra time fielding questions, and you’ll reduce the operational efficiency of the program.
“Offices start to receive calls from the patients that are technology driven – ‘I don’t understand what this message means, or this link was provided differently over here’ – there’s confusion, and that makes for a bad experience for both parties,” Kathi said.
When an admin team serves as inbound call center/IT Support, or if this falls on providers’ plates, this decreases operational efficiency, which in turn deteriorates ROI. Without a healthy ROI, it’s difficult to secure additional investment/resources in the telemedicine program.
Integrating language services into the virtual visit
Lastly, as an added component of improving the patient experience, the program should strategically capture patients who may easily be missed. One of the concerns with virtual care models is whether or not it inhibits access to patients who speak English as a second language. To address this challenge, it’s best to create workflows that readily prepare your providers before the visit begins.
“If you have integrations with your EHR and you’re collecting the information about the patient’s preferred language, that information seamlessly travels across,” Kathi said. “Before the patient ever gets onto the call, the provider already has the language services available so the visit can seamlessly go forward in the language that’s best for the patient.”
If not addressed, this leads to inefficiencies, longer visits, and fewer appointments held in a day. Similar to the last point, these inefficiencies hurt the program’s ROI and create a frustrating patient and provider experience.
Strategy Change – Making the case to the CEO/CFO
Regardless of whether you’re building a new program from scratch, or updating the existing program that you implemented quickly, you should strategically involve your CEO and CFO.
In these conversations, Kathi emphasizes the importance of articulating the exact problem you’re trying to solve and using data when making your case.
“Determine what’s the return on investment you’re getting today – or not getting – and what’s the data that supports that,” Kathi said. “And then as you’re thinking about another solution, start to think about the value and ask the questions, ‘If I change my solution, will that increase my provider satisfaction, patient satisfaction, financial benefit, and this is why.’ Technology does not solve bad processes, so make sure you’re thinking about the processes that are causing problems in the solution you have right now.”
Launching (or re-launching) a telemedicine strategy is not easy. But if you’re intentional with each decision determining, “Does this create a cohesive program or add extra steps?” you start to optimize your strategy and create a program that both providers and patients will love to use.
eVisit is simplifying virtual and hybrid care delivery for health systems and hospitals. Learn more about the company’s virtual care platform by visiting the eVisit Team at ATA2023, Booth #406.