As an account executive for eVisit, I have had the privilege of discussing telemedicine with hundreds of CEOs, COOs, CTOs, physicians and providers from all over the United States. This has reinforced my belief that telemedicine is not just the future of medicine, it is medicine. Looking back at these discussions I have identified three things you need to do and know as you incorporate telemedicine into your health system.
If You Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail
Telemedicine will take time to see positive results. According to the American Medical Association’s Digital Health Implementation Playbook, it can take up to two years to go from the initial decision to implement telemedicine to its being used by providers. A plan helps speed up your success. A good place to start is to list all the obstacles you can identify and address them in your plan along with-
WHY you want to use telemedicine?
HOW will you implement telemedicine into your current system?
WHO will use the system?
WHEN will you want to go-live?
WHAT are you going to do to help facilitate adoption by patients and providers (internal and external marketing)?
Some telemedicine companies have this dialed in and can walk you through the whole planning process. Choose one or two of the key services you want to offer to your patients and start there. Trying to immediately do tele-everything = disaster. Here is a template from the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center to give you a good starting point.
Patients WILL Adopt — Slowly
Have you ever changed a workflow that involves patients? How did that go? Did you get any pushback from the patients or staff? Something to remember is: you are changing a patient mindset. Your goal should be to move them from thinking, “I have to go see my doctor.”, to “I can see my doctor on my phone.” In your plan you will need to consider how you will facilitate their buy-in and acceptance of this new paradigm. Once your patients have completed a few virtual visits, they will see how they can receive the same level of care for non-acute medical conditions, and word will get out. Two metrics that are very important are patient adoption and patient engagement.
Providers May Be Hesitant
This may not come as a surprise to you, but providers may be your most difficult group to convince. At the Service Provider Summit (SPS) Telemedicine conference I attended last year, a representative from a 14,000-provider healthcare system said that out of the 700 providers who had expressed interest in telemedicine when they implemented, only one signed up to provide remote care. Remember, just because you’ve built it, doesn’t mean they will come.
Some things that will improve buy-in from patients to providers are:
Put a diverse team of stakeholders together and get their feedback and input throughout the entire process.
Identify metrics for success, and review and share them relentlessly.
Be cognizant that it takes time to see results -- on average up to two years from idea stage to post implementation. Remind your teams of this as they encounter obstacles.
Be diligent by choosing a vendor that has experience implementing telemedicine platforms into enterprise size companies, like yours.
Once you have considered and addressed these three challenges you will be well on your way to successfully implementing telemedicine.