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Should you be offering a telemedicine program? The aspects to consider to design a program

As the future of COVID continues to put a strain on healthcare delivery, many have looked to scale up their telehealth programs to help serve their populations.

When considering if a telemedicine program might be right for your practice there are a few things that you should consider.

The first thing you must ask is what are you trying to achieve with your telemedicine program? There are several types of programs and you should design it correctly to meet your challenges. For example, enhanced access to care model delivers care to remote populations that would be difficult for them to receive care otherwise. A second example might be a diagnostic imaging  model where X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, or other medical images be read remotely by a centralized physician group.

Having a vision for your program is just the starting point, you should also understand the legality of your program, especially when your facilities cross state lines, this could be more complicated. Part of this process should include understanding what services that insurers will reimburse.

To be successful with your program you should consult caregivers on their comfortability in providing such a service. It can improve communication between caregiver team and gives them access to a larger patient coverage area. This allows patients the ability to work with a specialist without having to travel. Some programs could be asynchronous to the patients, meaning that they would allow for physicians to review the requests when they have time, freeing up scheduling time. Other forms might have audio-video that requires the caregiver to directly interact with the patient to see their current conditions. If you’re looking to implement a program like this, it would be good to start to have internal meetings digitally to gain comfort.

Not only should you consult your staff, but you should consult with your patients as well. See if there is interest to utilize your program. Understand what services they might be interested in and convey the benefits to them. Giving them a questionnaire or simply talking to them on their next visit. If you do decide to offer telemedicine, make sure that you make them aware. Update your website, send out marketing emails, create signage or pamphlets for in-office. Don’t forget that social media can be an effective way to engage the market with your new program.

With so many different types of telemedicine services available, limit your number of offerings, to ensure that you can focus on making them successful. There’s numerous software providers out there, and many standard office software like Microsoft Teams can become HIPPA compliant. Ensure that when selecting a vendor that you keep the process as simple as possible, from signup to delivery. If there’s a lot of work for patients to do, the less likely they will be interested in the hassle of using it.

As with any new environment, you should test well before releasing it. Educate both clinicians and users on hot to properly use the software. Have the clinicians trial the software and get their feedback. As part of a continuous improvement effort, ensure that you can collect feedback from patients as well.

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