In order to grow as a business, it’s important for any private practice or hospital to look at new and advancing technologies as a means to elevate the quality of care offered to their patients. One such emerging trend in primary care is telemedicine. Telemedicine, in short, is the practice of using communication technology to provide care remotely. Adding telemedicine as a service offering has its benefits but may not be a good fit for every practice in its current form. To help you decide, we’ve outlined some of the benefits and paths to integration.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of patients remotely through the utilization of telecommunication technology. With telemedicine, doctors can connect with patients via the internet for follow up appointments, treatment of chronic conditions, and more, without the need for multiple in-person visits. There are various types of telemedicine including remote monitoring (effective in treating chronic conditions), interactive (via online communication), and store-and-forward services (allowing physicians and patients to review pertinent information at convenient times).
Is Telemedicine Right For Your Practice?
When looking at integrating telemedicine services, you have to consider how it will help your practice reach its goals, and how implementing a new approach will affect your patient base. In other words, do your patients need telemedicine, will they use it and how will it affect your practice from a business standpoint?
If you practice near rural areas…
For patients living in rural areas where access to quality treatment requires a considerable amount of travel, telemedicine is a viable option to receiving care. Telemedicine also enables doctors operating outside of these rural areas to take in additional patients they may not have seen due to logistical hurdles and see these patients regularly.
If you operate at high volumes…
From a business standpoint, telemedicine makes sense if your practice sees a lot of patients. By freeing up critical resources necessary for in-office treatment, your practice could realize an efficiency boost without sacrificing volume.
If you are ready to grow but aren’t sure how…
Affordability of telemedicine technology is improving and access to the software and training necessary is becoming more widespread. If your practice is at a growth stage, an investment in telemedicine might be a smart move to gain a competitive advantage in an evolving digital healthcare ecosystem.
How to Integrate Telemedicine Into Your Practice
If you are ready to take the next step in offering telemedicine at your practice or hospital, there are a few areas to consider in order to make the best use of new technology.
Maybe your practice needs to see more patients. Maybe you need to meet certain requirements in order to receive reimbursements in a timely fashion. Or perhaps you simply want to stand out amongst other similar practices in your area. Regardless of the growth needs of your establishment, defining goals is the first step in determining whether or not telemedicine with help take your practice to the next level.
Identify Relative Needs
Do you have a need to more closely monitor certain patients, while seeing an increase in new visits? Perhaps you are seeing a massive influx of visitors and need to improve wait times and overall patient satisfaction. By determining what needs to take place in order to achieve your growth goals, you can determine whether or not telemedicine helps with those needs.
Let’s say you’ve identified an area in which telemedicine will improve your practice’s workflow. The next step would be to evaluate different technologies to determine which is best for your practice. You’ll want to look at whether or not the technology effectively executes on one specific area of care (such as monitoring glucose levels in diabetics) versus providing a suite of comprehensive tools you can activate as needed.
Other factors include determining if telemedicine will help or hinder your ability to remain compliant with current medical standards and insurance requirements. You do not want to invest in the perfect solution if it is going to cause other logistical headaches.
Another often overlooked qualifier when evaluating different options is in quality technical support. When you are busy and your staff is having trouble accessing important information stored in your telemedicine software, access to competent and efficient technical support is paramount. When making decisions on the right technology for your practice, make sure and take a close look at how their technical support is rated, customer reviews and whether or not technical support is available at a premium or no additional cost.
Once you’ve chosen the right technology for your practice, the next step is to determine how to adjust your workflow to accommodate the new tech. If you are using interactive telemedicine, it might make sense to schedule these types of appointments at a time when most of these patients are at home.
Be prepared to shake up your staff and patients a bit while you get used to the new service offering. If integrated intelligently, however, your practice should be on it’s way to improvement with little distraction.