Most physician-owners and the office managers and administrative teams that run the small to mid-sized orthopedic practice simply don’t have enough time in an average day. Increasing paperwork coupled with the challenges inherent in any complicated multi-faceted business have made running your practice a sometimes-frustrating but always time-consuming endeavor.
What’s complicating this snarl is the fact that the healthcare paradigm is shifting from volume to value. Too, digital technologies are creating a new type of healthcare consumer. Research-savvy and time-pressed; they’re looking for new solutions to the traditional medical delivery system. All of these trends are pushing medical practices of any specialty-type to consider new technologies that add “value” while still attracting and retaining patients.
Telehealth applications provide consumers with the ability to receive care in a virtual visit. With these technologies the patient never has to leave home, instead, experiencing a house call from a physician online. This is an extraordinary concept with a workflow that has proven to increase practice efficiencies. Simply put, telemedicine means more revenue for your practice, happier patients, and improved workflows that save you time.
With the hurdles to telemedicine reimbursement finally being lifted, many practices are finally exploring this technology. However, vetting and rolling out a telehealth provider creates its own challenges. Determining what services you’ll offer via telemedicine, along with how’ll your market the service are steps necessary to the technology rollout. But even deciding on what vendor to choose is a complex and time-consuming process in an already-busy day.
We’ve come up with seven key questions to ask a telehealth provider that we hope will help you save a little time when you’re developing your roadmap to the virtual visit.
Seven Things to Ask a Telehealth Vendor
If you deal with insurance payers all day, you already understand how difficult it can be to get a straight answer to even a simple question. That’s why it’s important to select a telemedicine vendor that doesn’t feel like a vendor.
The truth is that third-party vendors, whether they are handling practice collections or customer data in an EMR, are actually partners in your business. It’s particularly important that any customer-facing technology have a clear line of communication with a provider that takes your business seriously. Especially in the smaller practice, we know it can feel like you’re a small fish in a big pond. So, look for a telehealth vendor that your instincts say they will give you their full attention whether you have 50-docs – or just five.
Here are some of the other questions we believe are most important to telehealth technology selection:
1. Who designed this platform and what do they know about your workflows?
If you’ve ever dealt with one of the big EMR companies, you know that customization is necessary to adapt their one-size-fits-all platform to the orthopedic (or another specialty) practice. Instead, look for a telemedicine vendor that designed the application with your specific workflows in mind. Are you comfortable that the vendor knows enough about your business model to maximize the telehealth application from day one?
2. Is the technology in the cloud?
Telehealth applications are tied to the Internet, of course, but they aren’t necessarily housed there. A cloud-based telehealth application has clear benefits over an on-premise application. First, there is no additional equipment to buy, which could create unexpected overhead. Second, security updates, which should happen frequently, occur seamlessly in a cloud environment. Look for a vendor that doesn’t require a lot of additional hardware to make the technology work.
3. What about HIPAA and data security?
Data hacks are an increasing concern in healthcare, so look for a telemedicine vendor that is secure, stable, and cloud-based, so that security updates can happen in real-time. For HIPAA compliance, the data should be encrypted and protected while it’s flowing to and from the Internet and while it’s at rest in a server.
4. How mobile-friendly is the application?
If your practice isn’t adapting “mobile first” strategies, you will struggle to compete with larger practices. Choose a telehealth application that was designed with mobile applications at that the forefront of their approach.
5. What has been the experience of other practices similar to yours?
This is a particularly important question when considering the customer support that an orthopedic or other practice receives after the go-live. Ask the telemedicine to provide references and please take the time to talk with these customers. Have these practices experienced any glitches in the service? What has the support level been like on a consistent basis? Did the customer really receive what the salesperson promised? How have patient sand staff responded to this new service?
6. Can you e-prescribe?
Integrating e-prescribing, billing, and the EMR into the telehealth application will save you time by eliminating redundant tasks. The more redundant tasks, the more risk, so the telehealth vendor should be able to integrate their platform to create a seamless experience. If your EHR has e-prescribing (and most do now), the telehealth application should be able to integrate directly into these functions.
7. How easy is the technology to use?
Look for an application that isn’t just intuitive to use on the front-end. Make sure you’re not going to need a dedicated IT team to install and use the software. This is one area where software-as-a-service models will be particularly beneficial to your practice. SaaS applications reside in the cloud and one of their universal benefits is that they are plug-and-play. Look for a telehealth vendor that will require very little training for your patients and your staff. Unlike an EMR, this technology should be quick to implement and easy to use.
While these were our top seven suggestions for questions to ask a telehealth vendor, it’s likely you’ll have more questions about everything from reimbursement to rollout. We’d like to offer a complimentary consultation with the OrthoLive team to discuss the ins and outs of implementing a telemedicine feature into your practice. Please don’t hesitate to contact us; we’re here to help.