COVID-19 has accelerated the move to Telehealth solutions but, even without the pandemic, healthcare practices across all disciplines have identified the potential of technology to improve the reach and efficacy of their practices. Many health practices are actually finding that, in some cases, Telehealth is actually a better way to service their clients and see more clients.
In many ways, the move towards Telehealth offers a more efficient way of doing business. It has the potential to generate more revenue while keeping costs capped, maintains (and even build) customer loyalty, and truly meet the needs of clients in an innovative way that takes their unique requirements into account.
Healthcare practices worldwide are shifting from 100% in-person visits to an integrated approach, enabled by technology that is both cost-effective and easy to implement. The only issue that remains is, how to do it successfully?
We’ve mapped out the eight most important steps for implementing a Telehealth program for your practice. Following them will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes and, more importantly, set your practice up for future success.
1. Decide on Your Goals
You can’t expect to plug in a Telehealth solution, and with the wave of a magic wand, have it solve all the challenges that your practice is currently facing. The technology is merely an interface that enables you to deliver your services; it can’t take the place of excellent care. This means that the goals that you set need to be realistic, and mesh with the metrics that you already measure such as:
- Revenue and costs;
- Customer satisfaction scores;
- Waiting times, no-shows and cancellations;
- Number of patients seen;
- Patient retention and new patient ratios.
Some practical ideas for goal setting could include:
- 20% of patients to be seen via Telehealth per week;
- An increase of 5% in the number of patients seen.
2. Get Your Whole Team Onboard
Of all the implementation steps, this one is the most important. If you don’t have buy-in from your staff, Telehealth is not going to be a success. To get the best results, you should involve your staff members from the beginning, including them in important decisions such as goal setting and what software to use. This is also a great opportunity to build staff loyalty and generate fresh new ideas for your Telehealth offering that you would otherwise not have thought of.
Telehealth is going to have a huge impact on many areas of the practice, so rolling out the technology needs to be done carefully and considerately, with specific emphasis given to the training of your staff. If you can have your whole team on board, not only trained but fully engaged, they’re going to help shape the future of your online services and will feel invested in making it a success.
To get everyone comfortable with the technology, run practice Telehealth sessions between your team so that everyone has a good understanding of how it works, end-to-end.
3. List the Services You Can Offer
This will be different for different practices. In many cases, the first appointment might be better to have in-person, such as for a physiotherapist developing a rehabilitation program, or a chiropractor needing to do manual manipulations. But, if you can start to think creatively, follow-up appointments can be taken online in the form of follow-up sessions for rehabilitation exercises, or nutritional counselling that is offered alongside other chiropractic services.
If you’ve taken our advice in step 2, then this is where you want to get your employees involved. By creating an open forum, there is an opportunity for your staff to put forward new ideas and new ways of doing some of the things that you already offer. It may mean developing new programs and using technology to deliver them to your clients.
Because there’s no set way of using Telehealth and video conferencing, you’re free to set your own rules, tailoring an approach that works for your practice and meets the needs of your clients. It could be that you rework your opening and closing times, and allow employees to work from home in the afternoons and evenings.
4. Clarify Legal Requirements and Regulations
Don’t miss out on this step! It is tempting to want to skip ahead and start implementing a solution, but you need to ensure that your solution falls within your country or state’s regulations. In general, your Telehealth solution should be:
- Fully secure, using end-to-end encryption;
- Completely private between the client and the healthcare provider;
- HIPAA and GDPR compliant.
Power Diary’s Telehealth solution is one example of a software that ticks all the boxes. It is developed inhouse (without 3rd party solutions) to be fully HIPAA and GDPR compliant, as well as offering a peer-to-peer connection with end-to-end encryption functionality. You also have full peace of mind because the calls comply with ‘no vendor access’ privacy requirements so no one, not even Power Diary, can access the call data. In fact, once the call has been established, the call data doesn’t pass through the Power Diary servers or infrastructure at all. This means that no audio, video or any other content that is shared during the call will be stored or accessed by Power Diary.
Then there are the reimbursement regulations that you need to be aware of as remote video visits may only be covered in part by insurance companies and other third-party payers and you may need to use different codes.
5. Investigate the Software Options
Once you start investigating, you’ll quickly find that there are a lot of Telehealth options and it can be quite overwhelming. To make it easier to shortlist the best options for your practice, you should ask yourself these four questions:
- Does it integrate with my current practice management software?
- Does it comply with my country’s legal requirements for health practices?
- Is it easy for my patients and staff to use?
- Is it affordable?
Here again, Power Diary provides a solution that stands apart from its competitors. If you already have Power Diary for your practice, the Telehealth feature is available at no extra cost, and the easy-to-use instructions are available here. It also means that you’re getting a stable, secure solution that is baked into an existing practice management software framework.
6. Start Marketing Your Telehealth Services
Once you have a clear idea of what you want to offer and how you’re going to do it, it’s time to let everyone know. Telehealth is a great way to differentiate your practice and, for many clients, it’s by far the preferred way to check in with their healthcare providers. So, given that you’re doing something ground-breaking that your competitors aren’t, and it’s something that your clients may grow to love, what are your options for sharing the news?
We’d suggest starting with:
- Your email list, send out an email to your database and ask them to pass on the information to anyone they know who might be interested.
- Your social media channels, get the information out onto your Facebook page with links to the various services (maybe even run a Facebook Ad campaign to share the update with potential clients who might be interested).
- Your reception staff, ask your receptionists to offer Telehealth appointments as an alternative and have them mention it to every person who comes into the practice.
- Your healthcare practitioners, ask your staff to suggest Telehealth follow-ups wherever appropriate and check that they’re educating their clients about your remote service offering.
- Your answering machine, update your answering message to let clients know about Telehealth appointments and give them the option to book online.
- Your waiting room, post signs in the waiting room (and even the practice rooms) so that your clients are continually reminded of the service. This will make them more familiar with their options and, over time, they may be more likely to use the service should the need arise.
What should you include:
- The services you offer;
- How the software works;
- FAQ’s to address any concerns;
- An option for a telephone call to explain how it works.
7. Get Feedback and Improve
As a practice owner, you don’t exist in a vacuum. For your Telehealth program to be a success, it needs to work for both your clients and your staff. It may be that the solution you had in mind doesn’t stack up in reality. Regular feedback from the people using the system can help you identify shortcomings, make refinements, and ultimately improve your Telehealth offering.
As with any new service, there are always going to be a few glitches when you start out. Keep in mind that it’s new for your clients too, so reframe the experience as a collaborative learning journey that you’re on with your clients. If you have a well-established relationship with them, this new way of meeting their needs is only going to strengthen your relationship.
As we mentioned back in step 2, having buy-in from your staff is critical. If you involved them in the planning phases, then there’s a good chance that they’re as invested as you are in making the shift to remote healthcare a success. But, it doesn’t mean that it’s all going to be smooth sailing. An open-door policy is best here so you can take feedback on board and make changes as and when needed. It can be helpful to keep the process informal as you’re more likely to get honest, direct feedback when roadblocks arise, rather than finding out a week down the line at the next staff meeting.
8. Circle Back and Track Your Metrics Against Your Goals
This is a great way to see if you’re making progress. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and forget to track your successes. A few months after you have implemented a Telehealth program, circle back, and see how the numbers look. You may need to make changes to your goals now that you have some experience with the new system. There’s also a good chance that you’ll have reasons to recognise and reward your team for areas where they’ve met or exceeded their goals.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Telehealth seems set to stay with forecasts predicting the sharp increase of video-assisted healthcare and uptake by clients, with many clients and practitioners actually preferring telehealth sessions over face-to-face ones. Telehealth has the potential to change your practice by making you more agile and better able to respond to the needs of your clients while clearly differentiating you from the competition. But it can only work if you’re prepared to take the time to do it properly, and these eight steps will help you do just that.