Build a sustainable telehealth practice
Developing and implementing a sustainable telehealth practice involves several steps to establish a successful and financially stable practice. Providers that use telehealth are able to increase flexibility for their patients and attract new ones.
There are several factors to keep in mind when building a telehealth practice that is successful in the short term and the future.
Staff roles and preparation
A well-prepared staff is key to creating a sustainable telehealth practice.
- Establish roles and responsibilities among your staff to manage the day-to-day operations of your telehealth practice.
- Evaluate if changes in staff roles and responsibilities are required to accommodate changes in workflow.
- Determine if there is a need for a dedicated telehealth team
- Assign a telehealth practice lead to manage administrative issues and resolve problems that may occur.
- Schedule trainings to increase comfort and familiarity with telehealth technology and changes in workflow.
- Seek feedback on a regular basis to find out what is working well and what can be improved.
Staff Training, Education May Be The Keys To Telehealth Sustainability – from The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers
Reviewing legal and licensing requirements
It is critical to understand licensing and other state laws, including Medicaid coverage for telehealth services, and how they may impact your practice. Policies continue to evolve, so it is critical to keep up to date on any changes.
- Understand which telehealth services are covered
- Compare the reimbursement rate with the in-person rate
- Check to see if your state is part of an Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which allows you to practice across state lines.
- Verify that your malpractice insurer covers telehealth or if you need to purchase supplemental coverage.
- Review federal and state law regarding prescribing controlled substances virtually.
Evaluating telehealth technology
It is important to make sure the technology you use is reliable and accessible. Evaluating telehealth technology requires an understanding of your patient’s needs. Then choose the telehealth solution that meets your requirements.
- Make sure your telehealth product or vendor meets the needs of your practice.
- Evaluate your practice’s current software to make sure the telehealth solution integrates with minimal disruption.
- Understand your practice workflow to make sure technical requirements for your telehealth solution will have minimal impact on your day-to-day operations.
- Ask the telehealth vendor or product designer about how the patients will use the technology and what software and equipment requirements are needed to make it easy for patients to use.
- What are the technical infrastructure requirements of telehealth? – from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
- National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (TTAC) – a Telehealth Resource Center
Redesigning your workflow
Each practice has its own unique workflow. However, there are several things to keep in mind as you redesign processes to support telehealth services.
- Understand how telehealth fits into your daily workflow so that you can document and incorporate telehealth visits into your schedule.
- Educate your patients about telehealth including how they can schedule a telehealth visit, where the telehealth visits will take place, and how they can access technical support if needed.
- Identify a staff member to track reimbursement policies and verify what documentation is needed for telehealth billing.
Working with your patients
A successful and sustainable telehealth practice must plan for all of the interactions with providers and staff. Patients who are comfortable using telehealth technology and feel supported by staff are more likely to continue using telehealth and refer others to the practice. There are a number of activities you can do to make sure the patient has a good experience using telehealth.
Evaluating and making changes
As your telehealth practice evolves, you may need to make new investments or secure new funding. This helps you demonstrate the value of your telehealth technology.
Metrics to consider include:
- Satisfaction — Are patients and providers happy with their telehealth experience? Are post-visit surveys regularly distributed?
- Technical performance — How long does it take patients to connect to their telehealth appointment? How often are calls dropped due to technical difficulties?
- Financial impact — What is the average cost per visit? How far would the patient have had to travel for an in-person appointment? Has the number of “no-shows” changed?
- Metrics for Assessing the Reliability of a Telemedicine Remote Monitoring System — from the National Institutes of Health
- The Evidence Base for Telehealth — The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
- List of Telehealth Services — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services