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Telemedicine for a Post-COVID World, Pt. 2

Ben Gong

Written by Ben Gong

4 tips to prepare your organization for the future of care delivery

In part 1 of this blog series, I outlined how providers can safely jump off the “care delivery pendulum” in favor of a long-term virtual care strategy. In this installment, I’ll provide four tips to ensure you get the most out of your investment in this soon-to-be permanent fixture of a rapidly evolving healthcare environment.

Ensure end-to-end workflows

As is the case with in-person visits, the most effective virtual care encounters are those that involve true end-to-end workflows. This includes administrative and care-specific steps such as scheduling, pre-exam logistics, patient intake, the exam with the physician, ordering medications, billing, and much more. Hospitals and large healthcare organizations have been developing comprehensive, specialty-centric workflows like these for years.

Virtual care should be no different.

In fact, given the technical considerations, your workflows should be even more intentional. As I mentioned in a short Insights with eVisit video, no physician should have to play the role of an IT specialist to troubleshoot any technical issues that might arise. It prevents them from operating at the top of their license and seeing the optimum number of patients per day.

Outline your needs for each specialty

In my discussions with providers across the U.S., forward thinking hospitals and healthcare systems are preparing for telemedicine to be part of their permanent mix of care delivery modalities. And the most sophisticated among them are considering more than just their general needs; they’re asking themselves how to optimize their workflows for each specialty within their system.

Variance aside, the most common asked-for features include:

  • Integration with the provider’s “digital front door” via their website or mobile app
  • Built-in symptom checkers to triage the patient toward the right care at the right time
  • A virtual waiting room where care teams can start the intake process and ensure all the technology is working as expected
  • Integration of remote patient monitoring (RPM) technologies (e.g., devices that measure and report blood pressure readings, glucose levels, etc.)
  • Options that allow patients or administrative staff to seamlessly schedule their next appointment

Invest in data collection and analysis

During the pandemic, even the largest and most technologically advanced healthcare organizations reached for whatever telemedicine solutions they could find just to keep the lights on. Most were (and still are) nothing more than gussied up two-way video platforms.

Very few were designed to enhance physician efficiency, involve other members of the care team, or improve the patient’s clinical journey. And even fewer offered tools for data analysis.

Now that the “panic buying” phase of 2020 is over, trends indicate that virtual care will become even more data-driven, and health systems will need virtual care solutions that don’t just add more data to the warehouse, or worse, add no meaningful data at all.

Health systems are complex environments. A scalable virtual care solution must enable insights and analytics that are easy to access and truly connect to what matters most to end users, whether that be clinical quality, operational efficiency, economics, or patient demand. Two-way video solutions are just not geared for the complex data and analytics requirements of healthcare systems in the digital future.

Leverage external data to identify opportunities

While data-rich product solutions are critical to success in scaling virtual and hybrid care delivery models, many of the healthcare professionals I’ve spoken to at events like this year’s HIMSS and ATA conferences are hungry for external data sets as well. In particular, they’re looking for an industry partner who deeply understands the market variables in their area.

And I couldn’t agree more. Tailored analytics and curated expert insights using both internal and external data sets can help leaders confidently make decisions from inception to expansion. Unfortunately, lack of access to meaningful and timely analytics can often result in an inability to unify a strategic vision across all stakeholders.

With financial margins being so thin and staffing resources even thinner, I thought I’d end this blog with a few questions I’m getting from today’s healthcare business leaders. I think you’ll find that many of them can be answered by leveraging both internal and external data sets.

  • What’s the current adoption of telehealth across my health system and how does that vary across my providers?
  • How are patients accessing providers in my service area zip codes and for what conditions?
  • What’s the best way to optimize scheduling and staffing in today’s hybrid care delivery models?
  • What volume of my patient population could migrate to virtual and where should resources be focused to prepare for and accommodate the shift?
  • What are the trends across payors in my service area and what are the best strategies for patient access and reimbursement?
  • What’s the return on investment in new virtual care delivery technology and how should that value be communicated across stakeholders?

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Published: May 18, 2022