The implementation of a successful telemedicine program is not rocket science. Initially, it requires a lot of time, marketing, and operations efforts, it is similar to building a specialty practice in your hospital.
Telemedicine is the real buzz among Healthcare Organizations and Patients due to its unique advantage of protecting Doctors and Patients from contracting the deadly Coronavirus. It is now the need of the hour for hospitals to provide healthcare services at its normal best.
We can all learn from a small football-loving country, Portugal. The Portugal National Healthcare System has been successful in adopting Telemedicine. The healthcare fraternity is fixated at Portugal National Healthcare System, as 87% of their hospitals use telemedicine today, which means its larger population has access to it without visiting the hospital. Telemedicine in Portugal originally grabbed the spotlight in the healthcare industry due to the unavailability of healthcare services in remote places, especially for the elderly population who were unable to travel. Later it continued as part of their normal healthcare system to avoid crowded Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) and long wait times. This adoption has reduced unnecessary OPD visits with a reduction in readmissions by 75%. Today Portugal hospitals are the highest users of telemedicine technology.
The Government of India is also encouraging the adoption of telehealth to help mitigate risks and reduce COVID-19 cases. The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are easy to understand and follow. If only the Government would go a step ahead and start incentivizing the hospitals for adopting Electronic Health Records which would be awesome.
Step 1: Awareness
Awareness of the technology, process and environment is where you kick start your implementation for a successful telemedicine program
Create a Learning Environment for Providers
Any change in a hospital is usually interrupted with some hindrance. There could be users who are still learning to use technology or processes. Awareness can be created by providing mock calls and practice environment to providers before they get started.
Get Patients On-Board
It is essential to have a strategy in place to educate patients about the use of the application and prepare them before consultations. Patients can be informed through social media where demo videos are published. They can even be informed on the organization’s website where a learning video on accessing e-consultation can be made available. Well instructed patients are more likely to save the physician’s and hospital’s time. Sending out reminders over messages, emails, or calls to patients about their upcoming consultation will also aide in their digital doctor visits. Remember, it is not only crucial to get the patient’s informed consent before getting started, but also mandatory to know the patient-physician identity.
Step 2: Access
Usage typically depends on the Ease of Access and it is vital for implementing a successful telemedicine program
Make it Easy
Make it easy for Patients to access Telemedicine Services. Have Call to Action buttons placed right on the homepage of your hospital website. Also, ensure that the providers can easily access the Telemedicine platform, you should have the IT team to add them as bookmarks or create links on the intranet. Educate your patients and providers on how to access the platform.
Vendor With Software Support System
The Indian market has quite a few telemedicine vendors. However, hospitals are highly recommended to opt for telemedicine vendors who provide complete software support.
When a patient has an eConsultation in the off hours and a physician faces a technical issue at the nick of the moment, the reliable software support team will be the rescuer of that situation. Having a backup or alternative plan for eConsultation keeps the session on. It not only enhances providers’ confidence but also gains confidence in the targeted population to continue using the technology. The targeted population can indirectly do marketing of providers by referring or posting good reviews on social media.
Step 3: Adoption
Good outcomes require Adoption, the step 3 ensures that your entire telemedicine program has been implemented successfully.
Telemedicine should augment your regular healthcare services and not be run in a silo and to ensure that this happens you need to make sure that Steps 1 and 2 are implemented successfully. Active participation of Providers, Patients, and hospital staff is vital to the success of the program.
Identify & Inform Before, During, and After session formalities
Make sure the provider has the documentation that needs to be created or needed for eConsultations. Identifying the documentation such as the patient consent form, uploading previous visit summary or diagnostic results, documenting the visit summary, and a few tips for staff on workflow will prove helpful for the use of telemedicine in hospitals.
- Ensure ePrescription should be based on the Government’s policy.
- Review billing policy for self-pay, insurance coverage, and waiver.
- Identify Integration tools and the setup for EMRs
- Verifying the equipment set up and compatibility with mobile and desktop.
- Review the data security is intact as PHI is involved.
As they say, success is a journey and not the destination. So make sure you get all the 3A’s for a successful implementation of your telemedicine program.
MyTeleOPD has successfully implemented Telemedicine in Large Tertiary Care Hospitals as well as Solo Practices, to know more on how you can successfully implement Telemedicine Program click here
Don’t forget the telemedicine session ambiance should be like any regular physician-patient physical encounter, calm and well lit. Being prepared in formal attire for Doctors is equally important to ensure that the patient gets the look and feel of physical interaction with a doctor in a hospital. Lastly, and most importantly, make sure that the doctor’s face is completely visible during video consultation is key to the patient’s experience and feeling of being heard.