We know that evaluating potential telemedicine vendors can be overwhelming. We've all been there. Whether you're trying to find the right EMR or choosing a billing consultant for your practice, going through that selection process is time-consuming. Where do you start? You might have some ideas about what you're looking for, but the rest is hieroglyphics. It's hard to know sometimes what factors are really important to your practice until you actually implement them.
So how do you choose the right telemedicine vendor for you? Here are 15 questions you should always ask to help make an informed decision. Consider also how each of these answers will affect your decision. Some factors might be more important to your practice then others.
Is the telemedicine platform cloud-based?
Cloud-based solutions usually mean no frustrating software installs and on-site data storage for you, since everything lives online. With all our technology increasingly moving to the cloud, a cloud-based solution can also be an indicator that the platform is keeping up with the times and is more likely to be a user-friendly, innovative tech tool.
What additional equipment would I need to purchase?
Telemedicine systems come in all shapes and sizes, and the more complicated ones can require all sorts of additional equipment (telemedicine kiosks, carts, screens, data storage, etc). When you're evaluating a new tool, keep in mind that the price may not include all the additional equipment you need to actually run it. Unless you're in the market for a complex, enterprise-level telemedicine program, we recommend looking for a solution that doesn't require a whole bunch of extra equipment to be usable.
What are the initial and ongoing costs?
Breaking down pricing can be tricky. Beyond the set-up costs, or monthly fee, ask the telemedicine vendor what kinds of ongoing costs you should expect. Again, keep in mind that if you need to purchase additional data storage or some sort of maintenance package, that's a continuous cost.
Would I need to purchase training packages after set-up?
Training is a HUGE part of successfully implementing a new technology into your practice. You won't be able to get a new telemedicine solution up and running without getting all your staff onboard. Ask the telemedicine company what they include in terms of training and whether you'll need to purchase training after a certain time point. What's their standard model?
Is it user-friendly? Can we set up and manage the platform without a dedicated IT staff member?
You can probably answer this question yourself as soon as your see the platform. Is the interface design clean and simple? Does it seem intuitive? Can you envision it fitting into your practice workflow? On the back-end process, you'll probably have to ask the vendor. How do their clients usually get set up? Do they help get them started, or is it generally on the practice?
What is the video quality?
While the video quality of a telemedicine visit is affected by both yours and your patient's bandwidth, the platform should be made to support HD video when conditions are good. What's the point of a live video visit if you can't actually see your patient?
Can I ePrescribe through the platform?
While not all providers may have ePrescribe high on their list of priorities, it can be an important feature of any telemedicine platform and a big bonus of the solution. Imagine finishing up your video chat visit with your patient and then simply hitting a few buttons to send their prescription directly to their pharmacy. Having ePrescribe integrated can make your life easier.
Can I bill patients through the platform?
Like ePrescribe, having an integrated billing feature can help optimize your workflow. Especially if you're doing a direct-pay model or charging a flat, convenience fee for telemedicine visits.
Can I use this with my EMR?
We all know that EMRs have a become the hub of practice management and record-keeping. Chances are your workflows are built around your EMR. Ask the telemedicine vendor how the solution works with your EMR and whether the records from your telemedicine visits can be easily imported into your EMR.
Can I use this to get reimbursed?
One of the main reasons many providers are trying out telemedicine (besides that patients love it) is to find creative ways to increase their revenue. While you might prefer just to do a direct-pay model for telemedicine visits, it's always smart to ask the reimbursement question. Does the platform generate a patient record that will help you get reimbursed? Does it have the proper documentation? And does the telemedicine vendor really know how reimbursement works? The answers to all these questions will give you a better idea of whether you can indeed get reimbursed using the platform.
Is the platform secure and HIPAA compliant?
Everyone knows about the recent health data hacks and the increasing important of tech security in the healthcare space. Ask the telemedicine vendor how they ensure HIPAA compliancy and what they've done to build a 100% secure platform.
Do you have a mobile app?
If you really want to provide patients treatment anytime, anywhere, you need to be on mobile too. Check whether the telemedicine platform has a mobile app and what devices it will run on.
What kind of technical support do you offer?
No matter how strong the platform, technical questions and hiccups are going to come up. Ask what kind of support the company offers for solving technical issues, and whether this is a free or paid service.
Will I have access to a client success team?
If you haven't heard of a client success team - it's basically what it sounds like; Will the company give you a dedicated team member(s) to help you get started with the platform? To help train your staff? To make sure you're implementing telemedicine and have the tools you need to be successful? Never underestimate the power of a great support team!
Do you offer resources for patient marketing?
This piece of the puzzle is often overlooked. While more and more patients are finding out what telemedicine is, and expressing real interest, you still need to get the message out to them. Even if you and your staff have your telemedicine program up-and-running, you need the right marketing materials to spread the good news and walk patients through the process of signing up. See if the vendor has any marketing resources to offer you, especially if you don't have a dedicated marketing staff.
Ready to grill your telemedicine vendor? We sure hope so! Choosing a new software is a big decision, so think about what answers you're looking for to each of these questions. Good luck on finding the right fit!