You stare at your watch as the precious minutes tick by, looking away only briefly to check that your children haven’t touched the communal magazines. Everyone around...
Silvia here, from Coviu. We provide software to healthcare businesses to enable them with secure & effective video consultation solutions. But I’ve found that lots of healthcare businesses and practices fail at making the transition to digital and I want to help you succeed.
The time is right to go ahead with the introduction of a video consultations: the networks, the devices and the software are all readily available, there’s user demand and even Medicare is now introducing rebates here in Australia. But there are pitfalls that you need to be aware of before jumping right in.
If you come prepared, you’ll be surprised about the advantages it will bring for your practice, your clinicians and your patients. You can extend the services of your business beyond the boundaries of the local area, your clinician can adopt flexible working hours (possibly even offer out-of-hours services from home), and patients can receive care when they need it wherever they are all while retaining continuity of care.
All of this applies to medical specialists and GPs as much as Allied Health professionals. Many years of telehealth trials across different healthcare fields have resulted in studies that prove clinical effectiveness of telehealth, particularly in mental health, emergency medicine, fields requiring ongoing therapy, family health, ophthalmology, dermatology and many other specialist fields.
But it’s not sufficient to buy a software and just expect everything to magically happen around it. There’s a bit of home work to do before it will become a success for your healthcare business. Consider these 7 challenges before launching yourself into your first telehealth service.
You need to begin with the vision of what the first version of your digital service will look like. Identify the key impact you’d like to achieve and which type of patient you’d like to apply it to first. Can you set yourself a quantitative goal that you can assess at the end of your pilot?
This will be very specific to your business and you know your patients best. Talk to your patients about your plans and pick those that are most interested — it may be families, or the elderly, or office workers. It’s good to have a cohort before you start preparing your first video consultation project — this will determine many of the answers to the next challenges.
You don’t want to introduce a video consultation service that ends up costing you more than it makes you. Think about how you can make it work for you financially — which may also influence what patient cohort to focus on. Do you want to have patients pay privately? Are you able to offer a service that has Medicare reimbursements? What do the private health insurances reimburse? Can you offer a value-based care plan which includes several different service offers? Do some calculations and be inventive — after all, video consultations should be a new service to make you better off, not worse.
Most failed change projects are because of people issues. Have you talked to all the people that are affected by the new service you will be launching? Your admin staff? Your IT support? Your clinicians? And most importantly your patients? It’s everyone on board? One way to get the doubters on board is to involve them in the process — let them test some software, make trial calls, prepare training material or be responsible for a part of the preparations, e.g. buying cameras. A single person working against you in your organisation can be the cause for failure of the project, so this is really important to get right. Listen to their concerns and take them on board — they may be valid and help you launch a better and more successful new service.
Now that you know what kind of service you want to introduce, it’s time to think about how the new service fits into your practice workflow. How do patients book an online appointment? How does the practitioner know that an appointment is to be held online? How is the patient invited/reminded of the appointment? How are payments done? Think through some options that will work and don’t limit your thinking with the capabilities of existing software.
Talking about software — you will need to consider the technical system set up. Do you have sufficient internet bandwidth? Does the software support your planned workflow? Are all your computers set up with the necessary hardware and software? Does your telehealth software integrate with your electronic medical record handling? What about billing and Medicare reimbursements? Make sure to find a software partner who can help you find, configure or adapt the best solution for your needs.
As you work through your software choices, you will also need to make sure that your setup is secure and privacy preserving, and thus retains patient confidentiality and meets legal requirements. You may need to get informed consent from patients. On the regulatory side, you will also have to consider if you are licensed to offer services to such patients, particularly if they are reaching you from another state or even country. And finally, don’t forget to contact your professional indemnity and other insurance providers to make sure you and your staff are covered for the new service.
7. Communication & Marketing
As you prepare your new service offering, you should also start thinking about how you will market it to your patients and how you will communicate about it to your partners, providers and the public. Do you have a Website where you need to include the new service offering? A monthly newsletter where you can announce it? What about hanging up some posters in your practice and handing out flyers? Are you running a Google adwords campaign? Consider running an ad in your local newspaper or even contact the local newspaper for an article about this new service. How about letting your professional industry association know? Also, add yourself to the diverse business listings available online with this new online service.
This may all look a bit daunting to begin with, but you don’t have to get it all perfect from the start. Just focus on one issue at a time and take it step by step. Keep testing your setup and improve successively before you decide to scale, launch publicly and do a big marketing campaign. And don’t forget to check your progress against the goals set at the beginning when you formulated your vision. The opportunity is waiting!