Implementing a Telehealth Framework for a Practice

Getting started with a new technology isn't always as easy as clicking a download button. Companies like TruClinic have put extra effort into streamlining the process as much as possible (we keep in person clinic workflows intact and just move the waiting room online), but beyond the accessibility of the software package there are wider human resources and organizational factors that have to be deployed in order to get a telemedicine technology up and running. Fortunately, there is a growing list of resources and blueprints for deploying an effective telehealth platform in a practice painlessly and without hassle. Identifying initial use cases, setting up a telehealth work station (or dedicated device), and implementing training sessions are some of the key requirements for  successful implementation.

An important step is to conduct assessments of both the external (market) and internal (asserts) operating environments. Externally, providers must know if there are deficiencies in their region in care provision and whether this is a gap telehealth can close. An example of this would be using telehealth for substance abuse treatment in South Dakota, where there are gaps in care because of the rural dispensation of that state. In general, telehealth can improve any practice, but if there are holes in the proportion of physicians to the general population, there are obvious market opportunities for telehealth programs thanks to the leveraging effects of the technology. Once the market has been described, hospital managers ought to ask themselves if they can match their resources to the demand. Telehealth can be thought of as an electronic connective tissue joining external market demands with internal institutional resources and bringing them into alignment.

Internally, providers can identify the visits that take up the most amount of time and offer the lowest return on investment as the best place to start with telehealth. Use cases like follow up appointments, group sessions, and jump starts to gather information are some of the best places to start. Once a practice becomes comfortable with one or two use cases, the opportunities for telemedicine to spread throughout the organization become unlimited.

Experts recommend setting up a clearly designated work place station for telehealth activities or a consistent device that practitioners are familiar with. This “sending room” should be closely modeled on a patient exam room. When collaborations between primary care providers and specialists arise, a “receiving room” ought to be an extension of the physician’s office, even their usual desktop. An effective sending room is paired down, minimalist, and not too daunting, to help the patient understand that what they are undergoing is a natural and straightforward exchange in a clinical environment. There is no need to ostentatiously display technological capabilities, as this may intimidate the patient. An effective receiving room is close to where a physician spends most of their time, easily accessible, and equipped with necessary peripherals such as a fax machine or printer. Start simple, and telehealth will gradually expand toward more specialized, differentiated services.

Training is essential to effective deployment. Training should cover several bases: the communication technology, operating the diagnostic tools, work-flow protocols and troubleshooting. Experts advise setting up training in layers, so that initial training gradually builds up. Training should be formal and involve familiar processes and protocols, nothing fancy. (Many of the skills of a conventional clinical workplace environment should transfer to a telemedical setting with little fuss. Online resources that can help familiarize you with the necessary training materials can be found here or you can just call us for more information). The more comfortable the staff is with the technology, the more comfortable the patients will be.

Establishing an effective telehealth infrastructure has its fair share of challenges and expected overheads, but the improvements in cost, time management and overall care quality improvements more than make up for it. With no installation, no new hardware or software to download and no changes in workflow, TruClinic is designed to make the transition to telehealth a simple one. In addition to our technology we offer all our customers our advice and expertise in setting up a telemedicine solution - we know healthcare is more than technology, it is patient care and we’re committed to improving it.