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3 Steps to Evolve Your Community Hospital Virtual Care Strategy

Scott Berghoff

Written by Scott Berghoff

Most community hospitals (76%) have some telehealth system in place and most are still at the basic level of the Hospital Telehealth Maturity Model developed by Manatt Health. Many have started which is great. To get the full value of telehealth, you need to continue evolving. You're probably struggling with these issues: 

  • Limited integration with the EHR/EMR
  • Unreliable technologies in place
  • Ineffective workflows are in place
  • A small set of pilot programs may be running
  • No clear governance is in place
  • Limited budget

Here's how you overcome and move to the next level.

Staying at the basic level will not improve your organization’s competitiveness nor its ability to survive in today’s consumerist-healthcare atmosphere. The cost of doing nothing is high. But, you’re not stuck there. There are steps that you can take to move your community hospital’s virtual care strategy to the next level ⏤ foundational ⏤ and create opportunities to improve outcomes, revenue and efficiencies. 

It’s likely that telemedicine platforms within most community hospitals have grown from local champions, advocates and early adopters. They live within individual departments and service lines often creating more work, taking up resources and causing inefficiencies in workflows. 

Close up of human hand drawing career ladder with chalk

Three steps you need to take

To move from the basic level of your virtual care journey to the foundational level there are three steps you need to take:

  1. Create a centralized team that will be in charge of guiding the virtual care program
  2. Increase virtual care budget to scale to your business needs between
  3. Focus on at least three use cases to drive use and adoption

Create a Centralized Team

The creation of a centralized team is invaluable to the success of your virtual care journey. This team should include not only executive members and healthcare providers, but administrative and support staff who have patient interaction from intake to discharge.

This team will be the core champions of your virtual care journey. They will not only help craft the enterprise-level governance your organization will need to be successful, they will also be the advocates within their specific departments. This is of vital importance because the creation of high-level of adoption within the narrow domains of the hospital is one of the most, if not the most, important activities to ensure successful implementation. 

Invest in Enterprise-Wide Virtual Care Technology

This seems straightforward, right? Without the proper budget in place, your team will not know how to manage their request for proposal (RFP) requirements. They will need to evaluate the virtual care platforms that are available, determine their licensing and fee structures, and identify what features are must-haves and which ones are nice-to-haves. In order for this team to research what problems they want virtual care to solve, or help solve for, they will need to do so with the confidence they can not only procure a reliable enterprise virtual care platform that can scale with your organization’s inevitable growth, but also create the internal infrastructure, training, EHR integrations, metrics, workflows, and support teams, they will need a substantial increase in budget. It’s not just buying the software.  

Focus on Specific Use Cases to Drive Adoption and Usage

Most hospitals have some sort of telehealth platform in place, but they are not focused on driving improved adoption and usage, better outcomes, revenue or efficiencies. Some of the most common use cases for telehealth are virtual urgent and primary care clinics, behavioral health, pre and post op care, and employee telehealth. 

Virtual Urgent and Primary Care

One of the most common expansion models of virtual care that hospitals engage in to generate new patient revenue and reducing patient leakage is creating an urgent care and/or primary care network. However, establishing a brick and mortar facility can cost up to $1M per facility. Using an enterprise telehealth platform is much more cost-effective for your organization and much more convenient for your patients.

Virtual Behavioral Health

As you know, there is a serious shortage of qualified behavioral health specialists in the country. Using telehealth to bridge that gap not only ensure access to this vitally important specialty for your patients that need it, but also has the added benefits of:

  • Reduced avoidable ED visits
  • Reallocated ED beds to higher acuity cases
  • Increase response times and discharge speed

Virtual Pre & Post Op Care

Readmissions is something that every healthcare executive and administrator is monitoring. With the change to the value-based reimbursement model, keeping readmission rates low improves your reimbursements from Medicare. It’s estimated the annual cost to the overall healthcare system for readmissions is $41B. 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. 

Employee Telehealth

More and more employers have started to offer telehealth to their employees via their health plans. Your hospital may be one of these, but something that isn’t mentioned often is these telehealth solutions come from an outsourced telehealth company. This means your network of physicians is not involved. By incorporating a telehealth solution specific to your employees and your network of providers you will drive revenue from your employee base and eliminate paying someone else to see your employees.

Take That First Step ⏤ Put Your Team Together

Start today and reach out to department heads, team leaders and your peers and inform them you’re putting a team together to evolve, scale and grow it to an efficient revenue driving machine, and that you’re looking for people to join this team and steer your virtual care future in the best direction for your organization and patients.

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Published: August 13, 2019