When you're implementing a telemedicine program, your best bet for success is to work the new technology into your existing workflow. It's a lot easier to adapt your current workflow to your health tech than to create an entirely new productivity model, or shoehorn technology into your daily processes without making small changes.
Luckily, altering your workflow model is easy if you go about it carefully and consciously. To ease telehealth tech into your workflow, start by asking questions like these. When you find answers that work for your practice, it will make transitioning to telemedicine easier for staff and patients alike.
What information do you need to gather from the patient to start each visit?
This is the virtual equivalent of picking up a patient's chart before you go into the exam room. Before conducting a telemedicine visit, make sure you have the patient's health record on hand, and make note of any specific questions or comments they made when scheduling the appointment. If you need to collect any health information from the patient or connect to remote monitoring equipment, do that before the visit, too. Also give yourself a decent set-up time window before a meeting, so you can confirm both you and the patient have a working camera and microphones. Visits will run more smoothly if you are ready to get straight to work when the patient signs on.
When do you want to offer remote visits?
Time management is crucial to success in telemedicine, especially since one of telemedicine's main draws for patients is the convenience of quick care. Decide early on when you'll offer telemedicine visits. Will they be on-demand appointments, in the style of a walk-in clinic? Will you offer telemedicine before or after regular office hours, or block out a specific time slot during the day to perform virtual house calls? Making yourself consistently available to patients will allow them to access telemedicine services when they're needed. By creating a set time for virtual visits, you're also making sure you treat remote and in-office patients fairly, and avoiding messy workload overlap.
Where will the provider be during the visit?
This is a workflow question you might not typically think of until you're setting up telemedicine equipment. What kind of environment will you be in when conducting a visit? It's important to consider what your practice has space and resources for. Will you designate part of a specific exam room as telemedicine space? Will you conduct visits from the privacy of your personal office, or a designated telemedicine room? Also, consider the technology and other resources in the space you set up. You don't want to establish your "telemedicine room" in an area where necessary technologies or human resources are difficult to access. Make sure your practice space is well-prepared, so you can focus on the patient completely.
Who will schedule visits and send patient reminders?
Depending on your practice size, some staff members may have to take on new tasks when you implement telemedicine. Make sure you approach new responsibilities carefully, and decide who should take on which duties. One of the most important steps in your workflow is scheduling virtual visits and reminding patients of their appointments. Consider a few options for this task. Will it be integrated into your normal scheduling process, or will you have a different way for patients to request telemedicine services? Will the practicing physician, nurse or physician extender send reminders prior to the visit? Or, will this be the responsibility of office staff? Will you need to bring in new team members specific to telemedicine? When you answer these questions and assign specific duties to members of your team, you're one step closer to seeing your ROI.
How will you bill patients?
Or, in other words, how much do you want to charge your patients for the convenience of doing remote visits? Determine whether you will use a cash-for-service model or take patient insurance information, and determine if you'll use a facility or transmission fee. This is another place where you'll need to analyze your staff's responsibilities, too. Consider any steps in the billing process that may need to be assigned to specific team members, such as figuring out the billing codes to bill insurance. It could seem like a lot of logistic work at first, but in the long run, your processes will be less stressful, which is always worth it.
When it comes to health tech, workflow is everything. It can be hard to change your workflow, but adapting now will make using new technologies easier down the line. By asking these questions prior to practicing telemedicine, you'll get a better sense of what to expect, and can prepare yourself, your staff and your patients for a telehealth program.
How did you establish an effective telemedicine workflow in your practice?
Let us know in the comments!