If you’ve made the decision to add telehealth to your practice service line, congratulations! Most payers including CMS have lifted restrictions that prevented providers from offering telehealth services. So, adoption is expected to increase over the next few years. In fact, most hospitals already offer telehealth in a variety of service lines, from cardiology to counseling. Most of these providers are also expanding the use of telehealth in new ways because they’ve directly experienced the cost savings and improved patient outcomes this technology can provide.
For the smaller practice, introducing a new service line is tricky; many times your office admin staff serves in a dual marketing role. Since signing up for an online telehealth service like OrthoLive won’t necessarily attract patients to the service; there is initial legwork that must occur to successfully launch. This is true of any service offering, of course, including telehealth. Planning the service so that this team is prepared for the transition is important to guaranteeing success.
Let’s look at four ways to ease this transition. This article will tell you what you need to know to launch a new telehealth service in your practice.
Even hospitals know that the “if you build it, they will come” approach doesn’t work anymore. There’s too much competition and patients have too many choices to just assume adding a service will automatically speed adoption of the service.
So, we’ve assembled four things you can do in your practice to make sure your telehealth service line is introduced and built properly even prior to go-live.
1. Tackle staff adoption and engagement
It’s important to discuss workflow and the new service line with your team. The goal is to engage them in the success of the venture. If you’ve rolled out a new practice management or EHR software and struggled with end-user adoption, you’ve already experienced what can happen if anyone is dragging their feet. We recommend a technology committee made up of clean clinical and administrative staff that are involved in road mapping the service line, interviewing potential vendors, and establishing workflows to accommodate the service.
2. Speaking of road mapping
You must all understand exactly what are the service line goals and how do they intersect with what the patients want? We already know your patients are interested in telehealth applications. But the service simply isn’t appropriate for every type of visit. In the orthopedic practice, we see telehealth applications used most frequently for post-op follow-ups, surgical discussions, MRI/lab reviews, wound checks, or other basic care. However, you might decide to select one of these services, roll it out, and then add more services once everyone (including your patients) are comfortable. While a “big bang” is one way to roll out something new, will that place an undue burden on your staff? Will it muddy the waters of the patient offering and confuse your target audience? These are all things that should be discussed; in fact, OrthoLive often engages with practice teams as we hash out these and other potential issues.
3. Market the service and then market the service some more
The first step toward offering any new service is to inform your audience. In the case of telehealth, you can develop patient educational materials that show exactly what services are offered, a step-by-step on how the service works, and the benefits of using telehealth. Help patients understand how the service is covered by their insurance and offer them an FAQ. To transition the service into the minds of patients used to the traditional visit, a simple flyer attached to their clinical paperwork with FAQs could work well. Place signs in your practice and add details on your website. The goal is to make it easier for patients to adopt the service. Train your clinicians to offer telehealth as an option for a surgical recheck, for example. Providers and support teams should take time to educate patients by emphasizing the benefits of telehealth as a “virtual house call.” Keep in mind that it takes time to introduce new things to people; so make marketing the new service line a consistent part of your administrative and clinical workflows.
4. Practice the service before rollout
Making sure you have the right lighting, background, and technology for the telehealth visit is important to consider well in advance of your first appointment. Is your built-in computer webcam giving you the best possible picture? If not, here are some low-cost options to upgrade. Test your equipment to make sure it’s working properly and practice on your office teams to make sure you’re coming across clearly and succinctly. Make sure you have a telehealth area set aside in your originating site that is free of distractions, quiet, well lit, and professional. Follow the same clinical guidelines as you would with an in-person visit. Engage the patient with eye contact through your screen; and this may feel awkward at first, so it’s important to practice. As the final step in the exam, practice explaining to the patient what is going to happen next, whether it’s picking up a prescription or scheduling a follow-up visit. At the end of the call, you could also ask the patient if they were pleased with the visit and if they’d like to have more telehealth visits in the future.
All signs point to telehealth as the next widely adopted workflow in most clinical practice areas. Telehealth can aid patients with improved efficiency and a higher quality of care. It can also help your practice reduce overhead costs and improve patient volumes. It’s not just the patients that save time and money with a virtual visit – doctor’s say these are their top motivators for adopting telehealth.
But rolling out the telehealth visit requires communication and preparation in order to attract and retain patients into this new service line.
OrthoLive has a telehealth application designed specifically for the orthopedic provider. Our low-cost online software can bring all the benefits of telehealth to your practice. Contact us today for a demo and see how telehealth can improve your patient experience and revenue cycle.