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How can I start a telemedicine program, and what does it cost?

by | Jul 12, 2022 | Blog

The specific medical devices you need may vary depending on the specialties you plan to service with telemedicine. The good news is that you don’t need to have all the answers right away because some telehealth technology providers offer scalable and modular telemedicine systems. This means you can purchase just what you need to get started and then add additional medical devices later on as your program expands into additional specialties.

The cost of quality, FDA-registered medical devices for basic primary care services can range from $500 to $5,000, and this would include devices such as examination cameras, ENT scopes, ECGs, and digital stethoscopes.

An essential part of a clinical telemedicine visit is the ability to stream data from these connected medical devices, through the encounter management platform, live during the virtual visit. This provides the remote doctor the ability to objectively evaluate, diagnose, and determine a treatment plan on the spot.

2. Communication Platform and Video Needs

How you plan to manage the patient-to-remote encounter is a key component to consider for clinical telemedicine applications. Because you are communicating a patient’s critical diagnostic data, the optimal choice is to do it securely and in real time. After all, the beauty of telemedicine is the functionality to have an interaction between a patient and a remote specialist that matches an in-person visit as closely as possible.

AMD Telemedicine recommends using a web-based encounter management portal to communicate and aggregate medical device data and share it live with the remote physician. This is truly the best way to offer telemedicine services. It is best to first evaluate any videoconferencing investments your organization might have already made to see whether these can be leveraged for your current application. Many times, they integrate seamlessly with telehealth encounter management platforms.

The typical telemedicine platform price is based on a licensing model per month, but there are still some platform options for a one-time purchase fee with ongoing maintenance and support fees. The monthly licensing model is more common today, and some vendors base the licensing on either per-user or per consult. As you can imagine, both of these cost models are hard to budget for and can get out of control if usage adoption increases or the number of providers goes up. The best option for a scalable telemedicine program is one that does not have recurring fees for users or encounters.

Virtual platforms can range in price from no-cost options to $600 per user per month, along with the cost of on-site hardware. Something that needs to be considered when evaluating a virtual care platform is whether the solution was designed for communication or for healthcare delivery. Many low-cost options are sufficient for a video-only visit but don’t include any scheduling, EHR workflow, or medical device integration.

3. Form Factor Design and Mobility

Telemedicine carts, cases, wall mounts, and other equipment are all just various ways to package the telemedicine hardware and software. Although there is a difference in how aesthetically pleasing they are (or are not), the main thing to keep in mind is whether this packaging will fulfill your intended use, not just now but also in the near future.

Ideally, you want a telemedicine cart or case that is modular and can be easily configured for additional medical specialties so it can evolve with your program. For some applications, such as school-based health centers or long-term care facilities, it is helpful to select a telemedicine system that is an all-in-one package. This helps streamline the purchasing, maintenance, and support for those that have very little IT support for their telemedicine programs. All-in-one telemedicine systems that include telemedicine software, primary care medical devices, and mobile cart/case can range from $10,000 to upward of $30,000.

4. Bandwidth and Internet Connection Recommendations

You may be pleased to know that you don’t need to invest in a significant infrastructure overhaul to make telemedicine a reality for your clinic. Of course, your specific needs will vary depending on factors such as location and size or your organization, but the most important consideration is not how much bandwidth you need, but rather how reliable and consistent your bandwidth is. It is necessary to have IT support your telemedicine program and monitor your network and bandwidth requirements.

The most common internet connections are shared with others, which can cause the upload and download speeds to lag and be interrupted at busy times. So finding a reputable internet service provider with a commitment to reliable service is the first step. If possible, purchase a business-grade service so that you experience a more consistent bandwidth capability to ensure your real-time data is not interrupted or compromised in any way.

5. Training

You already staff your organization or practice with top-notch doctors and nurses, so the next step is to provide these healthcare professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to best make use of your new telemedicine technology in daily operations.

Fortunately, clinical telemedicine equipment training isn’t a complicated need to meet, especially if your staff has any familiarity with basic medical devices and modern communication technology.

There are two types of training programs to ensure the long-term success of clinical telemedicine programs: user training for clinicians and nurses, and technical training and installation for the IT staff. Training programs like these can range from $200 to $2,000 per site, depending on the complexity of equipment, the number of users, and other factors. There are also options for training to be done virtually versus in person. Depending on the people being trained and the complexity of the workflow, it might be necessary to do the training in-person to ensure a smooth transition for the staff.

6. Support

Remember that the increased reliance on network connectivity and internet technology at your office means that you’ll need to ensure you have adequate IT staff support. This is likely more of a concern for smaller practices that may not have an in-house IT department. It’s a good idea to talk to your telemedicine vendor to determine whether it provides installation services, as well as what technical support options are available if you don’t have an IT staff of your own.

Navigating the waters of telemedicine can be much easier with the help of industry experts working alongside you and your clinic’s employees. Contact AMD Global Telemedicine today to learn how you can begin thinking about your own custom telemedicine solution.