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4 Ways Health Systems Can Optimize Their Telehealth Platform

Posted by Scott Berghoff

Manatt Health developed the Hospital Telehealth Maturity Model to help leaders of hospitals and health systems identify where their organizations are with their telemedicine efforts.  Manatt identified three levels of telehealth maturity: basic, foundational and advanced. Basic describes telemedicine programs that are fragmented across service lines, have little or no integration with EMRs, and have no central governance of its implementation.  Foundational describes programs that have strong EMR integration, a central governance approach to telemedicine, and a high level of adoption by users. Advanced describes a telemedicine program that has a substantial budget, complete EMR integration, and very strong adoption and commitment throughout the organization. Having an advanced telehealth system provides a unique position to influence health outcomes in a large geography, improve and strengthen revenue streams and lead healthcare delivery for years to come.

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We’ve identified four opportunities for your telehealth platform which will allow you to move your system from the foundational level to the advanced level.

  • Expand virtual behavioral health programs which can help reduce strain on EDs across your system ⏤ “mild, moderate, and severe mental health diagnoses were associated with increases of 2.9%, 12.1%, and 22.6%, respectively, in ED use,”
  • Provide telehealth as a benefit to your employees using your network of providers
  • Expand your virtual primary care and urgent care without building new facilities  
  • Reduce readmission rates across hospitals in your system

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Four Telehealth Opportunities

Reduce Avoidable ED Visits by Expanding Virtual Behavioral Health

As you know, there is a serious shortage of qualified behavioral health specialists in the country, and behavioral health issues account for 25% of all ED visits.  Using telehealth to address this shortage not only ensures these patients have access to this vitally important specialty, but the added benefits of:

  • Reduced avoidable ED visits
  • Reallocated ED beds to higher acuity cases
  • Increase response times and discharge speed improving these patients’ outcomes

Behavioral health patients wait in EDs for extreme lengths of time for the help they need. In January 2019, Modern Healthcare reported “Beaumont Hospital in Farmington Hills had 16 patients in its ER who waited over 48 hours each because the hospital had no available psychiatric beds or could not find other hospitals willing to take them.”

Offer Telehealth To Your Employees Using Your Network Of Providers

Healthcare benefits for employees can cost up to $15K per employee. More and more employers have offered telehealth services to their employees, and your system may be one, but rarely addressed is the fact that many of the telehealth solutions used for this benefit come from an outsourced telehealth company. This means it does not involve your network of physicians. By incorporating a telehealth solution for your employees, staffed by your provider network, you will drive revenue and eliminate paying someone else to treat your workforce. 

Expand virtual urgent and primary care options

It costs upwards of $1M for each new brick and mortar facility, but with telehealth you can expanded your reach without having to build new facilities.  AdventHealth in Florida implemented telehealth with the creation of a virtual urgent care clinic. It then expanded on that idea by offering this benefit to employers in the Orlando area as a health benefit for employees. In doing so, they improved their patients' outcomes, particularly for chronic care conditions where patients are engaged and benefit from more frequent doctor visits without physically going to a facility. They have more than 25,000 enrolled patients and conduct 120 visits/month. AdventHealth has seen a $2M reduction in readmissions.

Reduce readmission rates across your system

Readmissions are something that every healthcare executive and administrator monitor diligently . It’s estimated the annual cost to the overall healthcare system for readmissions is $41B. The value-based reimbursement model, designed to reduce readmission rates and improve patient outcomes, has forced this issue. Telehealth also allows your teams to lower surgical cancellation rates by ensuring patients are prepared properly and up to speed prior to their scheduled surgical day.  

Next steps

Now that you’re thinking about it, task your telehealth leadership to discover what problems to solve or improve with the expansion of your telehealth platform. A service line that may have fast ROI is post-discharge follow up for patients who have just left the hospital. This along with the creation of virtual primary care and urgent care clinics are excellent stepping stones to move your system to the advanced level, and meet your goals to grow revenue, help control operational costs, and reduce fragmentation across the continuum.

Scott Berghoff

About Scott Berghoff

Scott has an MBA in Health Care Management and spent 20 years in pharmaceutical sales in Arizona, Alaska, California, and New Mexico. He likes to keep up on current and upcoming trends in the health care industry. He and his wife, a Family Nurse Practitioner, live in Arizona. They enjoy relaxing with their dogs, traveling, reading and spending time outdoors.

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