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5 Things Every Hospital Executive Should Know About Scaling Virtual Care

Posted by Scott Berghoff

Hospitals today are facing major disruption as growing competitive pressures and consumerism force change. The traditional strategy of driving inpatient admissions via brick and mortar facilities is expensive and limiting. Patients are leaving your network and going to your competitors; Competitors that are tech-enabled, with their own network of providers, delivering faster, more convenient care the way patients want it—on their phones and computers.


“Building relationships and trust is something that has been a core competency and core strategic asset for hospitals in the past. In the future, this simply won't be possible without leveraging digital platforms as we do in every other aspect of our lives today.”
-Dan Michelson, CEO, Strata Decision Technology 


To compete and thrive, you have to create your digital front door by integrating virtual care into every service line across your enterprise. Here's what you need to know in order to scale.

  • Align your virtual care strategy to your business strategy
  • Integrate a platform that positively impacts the right metrics
  • Drive better care with an enterprise solution
  • Leverage a platform that can optimize to scale
  • Partner with a non-competitive virtual care solution

1. Align your virtual care strategy to you business strategy

Business Strategy on the Mechanism of Metal Cogwheels.

Most hospitals have similar strategic business initiatives, and it is vitally important to align your virtual care strategy with your business strategy. Some of the most common are:

  • Use community needs as a starting point for your virtual care journey
  • Address the growing trend of consumerism to acquire and retain patients
  • Use virtual care to assist in the transition from volume to value  and grow revenue
  • Integrate the virtual care platform into the electronic health record (EHR) system and into clinicians’ workflows to improve efficiency
  • Use one virtual care platform to coordinate care across all service lines

Community

Telehealth has proved its usefulness, over and over, in its ability to reach out and into local communities improving access to healthcare and patient outcomes whether it be in the aftermath of a natural disaster or in the care of those living in rural areas.

An example of this positive impact on a community is AdventHealth’s utilization of their telehealth platform in Orlando during Hurricane Irma. When Hurricane Irma made landfall on September 10, 2017 as a category 4 storm, it brought serious destruction. AdventHealth stepped up and waived all fees for use of its eCare platform. Patients were able to stay in their homes during and after the storm, and still receive medical care from their providers.

Consumerism

Consumerism is not a new concept or trend. The term itself first was used in 1915. But, consumerism in healthcare is relatively new, and Millennials, currently the fastest growing demographic, are powering this wave of healthcare consumerism ⏤ and it’s spilling over into other generations as healthcare providers accommodate these demands. They prefer to use walk-in/retail clinics and telemedicine. In fact, 93% of them do not schedule preventive appointments. They prefer affordability, transparency, digital experience, and improved engagement. Virtual care checks all the boxes for a consumerist shift.


"There is a generational shift," said internist Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. "These trends are more evident among millennials, but not unique to them. I think people's expectations have changed. Convenience [is prized] in almost every aspect of our lives, from shopping to online banking."
The Chicago Tribune  October 8, 2018


Volume to Value

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) initiated a transition from volume to value to reform healthcare delivery and reimbursement. Healthcare providers are rewarded with payments for administering high-quality care to their Medicare patients. CMS’s three-part aim of this is to improve care for individuals, improve overall health for populations, and lower costs. For you it means decreased readmissions and increased savings.

Volume to value is not just improved outcomes and more reimbursement. It’s designed to save money and save lives.


“...as the cost of brick and mortar options continue to climb, a recent economic analysis showed potential cost savings of $131.71 per episode of care when using telehealth.”
Utilization Review Accreditation Commission: 2018 report Accelerating Telehealth Adoption


2. Integrate a platform that positively impacts the right metrics

Metric One: Outcomes

Patients who come to your facility expect to receive the highest quality of care. Expediting a patient never the goal. Not only will this reflect in the overall health of your community, it will also reflect in your revenue because patient outcomes would be poor and Medicare penalties would reflect it. High readmission rates must be avoided.

Virtual care has proved its mettle in this area over time. This technology offers ways for hospitals to improve the efficiency of pre and post-op protocols, patient transitioning and monitoring. With fewer readmissions, outcomes improve — and so does revenue.

Finger Presses Red Button  Improve Efficiency on Black Keyboard Background. Closeup View. Selective Focus. 3D Render.

Metric Two: Efficiency

One of the most positive impacts virtual care has on hospital efficiency is in the Emergency Department. Just using the platform to triage patients prior to coming to overused EDs, saves time and resources. It has reduced costs across departments, and shown a correlation between telehealth and quality of life improvement in ED staff.

The right virtual care platform improves efficiencies across all service lines, not just one, and that improves the efficiency of your entire enterprise. Improved efficiency leads to improved outcomes, fewer readmissions, and improved revenue.

Metric Three: Revenue

When it comes down to it, revenue is the number one metric measured. It is broken down in multiple ways, across Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The recent changes and improvements in CMS telehealth reimbursement model shows that the value of virtual care has been recognized and is here to stay. Such acceptance and current legislative pushes across the country show telehealth as a positive revenue generator for hospitals that use it effectively.

The right virtual care strategy creates opportunities to acquire new patients and retain the patients in your pipeline by limiting patient leakage.

New patients will come from the added convenience virtual care brings to the healthcare delivery table. Millennials and Baby Boomers, two of the largest generations by population in the country, want this convenience in their healthcare.  Virtual care meets this need with aplomb.


3. Drive better care and engagement with one enterprise solution

Your competitors are using technology to drive better care delivery and engagement, and you need enterprise technology to do the same. Many hospitals already have some type of telemedicine tool(s), but they’re typically fragmented and departmentally focused, causing inconsistent user experiences for providers and patients.

Executives have little to no visibility into program results and can’t optimize for success. Ultimately, this causes low adoption among providers and patients—taking you further away from your goals.

Using one platform across all service lines is where an enterprise organization like yours must be.  An enterprise technology will provide

  • Integrated remote care delivery
  • Standardized platform for all use cases
  • Consistent experiences for patients and providers
  • High platform adoption rates for patients and providers
  • Enterprise level analytics

4. Leverage a platform that can optimize to scale

Orange Optimization Button on Computer Keyboard. Business Concept.

Where is your organization on the Hospital Telehealth Maturity Model right now?

Chances are your organization is at the basic level or in the early stages of foundational. This means you have some challenges ahead of you to get your organization to the advanced level where your platform enables capabilities across the enterprise, is completely integrated with your EHR, and the levels of adoption for your platform are high for both patients and providers.

If you find that you’re running with different virtual care platforms across departments or are still working your way through pilot programs, then you are at the basic level. Another indicator is your EHR has little or no interoperability with the platform(s), and new workflows have to be implemented in order to utilize the technology.

At the foundational level you have established virtual care standards and there is a high adoption level (even if only among narrow domains), and your EHR is more integrated than ever with the platform.


5. Partner with a non-competitive virtual care solution

There are virtual care platforms out there that may look enticing, convenient, and offer a quick entry into the telehealth market.

 Businessman standing and holding a yellow caution sign in front of his head

BUT BEWARE!

Many of these telehealth platforms have their own network of providers. This means your patients are seen by another network’s providers, not yours, and each time one of your patients uses them there is a real chance they will leak out of your network ⏤ for good. It may seem the platform vendor is collaborating with you, but in actuality they are competing.

Every dollar your organization, or patients pay to use platforms like this is a dollar the platform vendor will use to infiltrate your market and take more of your patients. It’s simple business.

However, there are virtual care platforms, like eVisit that allow you to use your own network of providers and expand your organization’s reach into and around your community. This expansion is how you will acquire new patients and retain current ones.

In fact, the number of lives you base your new patient acquisition goals should not be limited to your immediate network, it should include the population of your local communities, your employees, the critical access hospitals in outlying communities, and areas where the rural hospitals have shut down or have downsized. Strive to become a virtual care hub for your region. Doing so provides your organization the foothold it will need to stave off the influx of competitor platforms that are coming.

With the prediction of telehealth revenue reaching $3.5 billion by 2022, the recent changes Medicare made in telehealth reimbursement, and the strengthening of telehealth benefits for Medicare Advantage members, it’s a safe bet there will be telehealth competitors in your area soon ⏤ if they aren’t already there now. Implementing the right platform to align with your current and future business strategies is important.


The decision is now in your hands

While your telehealth team will have a deeper understanding into the technical requirements your particular organization needs to integrate a platform, a strong understanding of these 5 strategic virtual care points will help you scale successfully.

eVisit is an enterprise platform that enables your organization to deliver virtual care using your network of providers. With eVisit, you’ll improve patient care delivery and engagement by expanding care, engaging patients, and enhancing outcomes to compete and thrive in today’s market. Schedule a consultation or a demo with us to learn more.

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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