A Buyer’s Guide to Telemedicine Platforms: Key Considerations to Help Optimize Clinical and Financial Outcomes
The pandemic may have changed healthcare, but it’s telehealth technology that will continue moving the sector into the digital realm. A Definitive Healthcare report found that 90% of hospitals looking to invest in telehealth services are planning to do so quickly. By the end of 2022 — if not well into 2023 — chances are good that telehealth will retain its title as the most popular technology investment for healthcare organizations. That said, it is important to make sure your healthcare organization is set up for proper implementation so that you reap the clinical and financial benefits of telehealth.
Though its growth has certainly been impressive, the accelerated adoption of telehealth has left many leaders in the industry with questions. Often topping the list is the implementation process itself. How does it work? Will it disrupt current workflows, staff, and services? Should we anticipate downtime? More importantly, after going through the whole telehealth integration process, when can our organization expect to see a return on investment?
When implementing any new technology, uncertainties are just part of the territory. Telehealth integration is no different. For this reason, we’ll walk through the most common concerns, help set expectations, and put to rest any lingering fears.
PART 1: Preparation Is Essential to Telehealth Technology Integration
One of the biggest barriers to digital transformation has long been internal resistance. People often don’t like change, even if that change is vital to an organization’s long-term viability.
Employees rarely want to break from their routines. And implementing new telehealth technology in hospitals is the epitome of breaking from routine, as the transitionary period has the potential to disrupt workflows, processes, and services — all of which, if not handled well, can negatively affect the quality of care delivery and patient outcomes.
Similar to any other aspect of operations, preparation will be key for a successful transition. It’s important to approach telemedicine services with a full understanding of the possible hurdles on the path to implementation. The last thing you want is to complicate matters for healthcare workers, many of whom are already experiencing burnout and considering leaving their jobs in the near future. Even the slightest hindrances can make people question their choice of employment.
As you explore your options for a telehealth technology partner, take the time to sit down with leaders from IT, operations, administration, and the clinical team. You’ll want to discuss each department’s needs before developing a series of site-specific questions centered on the implementation process. This can be especially relevant for pre-existing clinical workflows, as disruptions can lead to serious repercussions for patients and clinicians alike.
While we can’t speak for other telehealth services, we can share what to expect during the integration process of a solution like AMD AGNES Connect. For one, the platform integrates with EHR systems, supporting your clinical needs without replacing existing workflows. This alleviates some of the time and effort needed to learn a new system, giving back valuable time for healthcare workers to put toward patient care. AGNES also automates the collection and documentation of vitals, minimizing the potential for mistakes, improving data accuracy, and saving upwards of three minutes per patient. Nurses and clinicians can now spend more time on direct patient care, improving the quality of care delivery and patient satisfaction levels.
To ensure you’re choosing the right technology, make sure to ask these four questions during the screening and selection process.
PART 2: Setting Realistic Expectations for Telehealth Integration
Healthcare organizations, particularly those in rural communities, often expect that their legacy systems, older devices, and sometimes-spotty internet connections will be problematic for telehealth integration and telehealth engagement. These are no longer the biggest hurdles. Though many of the barriers to adoption are “tech-specific,” it’s not the technology itself that’s getting in the way. In fact, technology accounts for less than 10% of telehealth obstacles.
More often than not, the obstacles lie with adoption from providers and patients. It can be difficult to bridge the digital literacy gap when it comes to emerging technologies. Proper training can certainly help improve the adoption rate for those inside the organization; those users who are outside, however, can be a different story. Patients and remote providers who don’t understand how to use telehealth technology will be slow to adapt to the option — if not abandon it altogether.
Apart from the digital literacy gap, implementing technology in healthcare can’t be treated as a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Not all telemedicine services are created equal, nor do they provide all the same functionalities. To ensure you’re getting the full benefits of telehealth technology, it all goes back to choosing the right software or platform that will help address your organization’s specific challenges. With the right telehealth technology partner, you can realistically expect:
• A collaborative approach to finding a solution that fits your organization’s specific needs.
• A trusted and reliable technology, proven across multiple applications and specialties.
• A strong history of customer references and experiences.
• Implementation and training services that support successful user adoption.
The benefits of telehealth technology can be astounding for patients and providers alike. As you continue to add new tools, services, and devices, however, be mindful of where each one fits within your operations. Utilized properly, implementing technology in healthcare is poised to revolutionize how we think about healthcare.
PART 3: The Operational Impact of Telehealth Technology
While healthcare can be one of the most rewarding fields with plenty of opportunities for upward mobility, oftentimes the hours, workload, and working conditions can quickly become taxing. The past year can serve as a testament to that. Roughly 20% of healthcare workers left the industry altogether, largely because of burnout. During the pandemic, rates jumped to a range of 40–70% — up from 30–50%.
Burnout is nothing to take lightly. Though this should go without saying, there is more on the line than an employee’s career. In addition to the danger to the employee’s health, increases in work-related stress can lead to misdiagnoses and miscommunication of patient care with other medical staff, too.
For many leaders, the answer to the problem has been an increased investment in telehealth technology — a logical decision in that it ideally removes some burden from healthcare professionals’ plates.
While telehealth integration takes time, the proper solution will lead to more efficient systems for healthcare workers. To optimize these benefits, consider the challenges that many healthcare workers encountered during the initial EHR implementation. And remember, many healthcare workers are already overloaded, so it could be difficult to carve out time to learn a new system or platform.
That’s why it’s so important to minimize the operational disruption of telehealth integration. New telemedicine services must be easy to learn, intuitive to use, as similar as possible to in-person care, and integrated with other systems. If not, it adds even more complexities to an already complex day. Many healthcare workers, nurses in particular, often take on both administrative and direct care roles. With all this juggling of responsibilities, it’s no wonder that nurse retention is on the decline.
Again, the key is finding a telehealth technology solution that works seamlessly with existing workflows to ensure that your staff saves time, as well as that the technology supports the quality of care and improves patient outcomes. The only caveat? Training. To maximize the benefits of telehealth technology, proper training is essential.
PART 4: Maximizing ROI After Telehealth Integration
Implementing new technology in healthcare offers several immediate benefits, but it’s just as important that organizations look for ways to maximize the investment once implemented. As already mentioned, the selection process will be critical. Off-the-shelf and/or startup alternatives will rarely deliver the results you want or need, especially regarding patient experience or health outcomes. The goal should be to open the digital front door as wide as possible, and for that to happen, customization is key.
Once you choose a telehealth provider and have the telemedicine solution in place, your attention should turn to adoption. You know the system works. You know it can improve efficiency, increase accessibility, and widen the care delivery options for the communities you serve. So, how exactly do you get the word out about your services? How do you help patients transition to virtual care when necessary? How can you encourage your clinicians to now treat and monitor patients remotely when the use case fits?
The answer is to make the transition as seamless as possible for all parties involved. This will help guarantee your organization gets the most out of the telehealth technology, recoup your technology expenditures, and improve the bottom line for your organization — all the while offering a more affordable care delivery model.
While the approach will vary from one organization to the next, maximizing the ROI of telehealth technology often comes down to four points and strategies: limit the number of technology platforms; leverage telehealth to reduce costs; train, train, and train again; and be realistic.
CONCLUSION: Making the Right Telehealth Decision
Your choice of a telehealth technology provider isn’t something you leave to chance. Vetting all the options available to you, understanding their capabilities, and then comparing the functionalities to your operational needs can ensure that you make the right choice — for the short and long term.
If you’d like to learn more about AMD Global Telemedicine, contact us today. A member of our team will be happy to discuss our telemedicine solutions, products, tools, training, and technologies and develop a package perfectly suited to your institution’s needs.