Launching a commercial telemedicine platform may seem like a waste of time and resources for a small practice or a solo practitioner, especially in the current economic situation where both are so scarce. However, telemedicine provides essential operational & clinical advantages that could spell the difference between a flourishing practice & one that fails.
Selecting the appropriate commercial telehealth platform is the trick.
Small practices and lone practitioners must carefully evaluate virtual care. Since they frequently lack the funds to experiment and the overhead to sustain a failed endeavor.
They should instead focus on their own patient demographics. They should choose a service that can be quickly move online, and match the technology to the service. Rather than trying to mimic the programs already in place at big hospitals and health systems.
Getting Started With Commercial Telemedicine Platform
Before launching their first virtual visit platform, small and single providers should adhere to a six-point checklist, says Lee Horner, CEO of Synzi (the virtual care firm spun out of Stratus Video in late 2017):
- Is it compatible with all hardware?
- Will the level of service meet or exceed that of in-person treatment?
- Will it include remote patient monitoring?
- Is it as simple to use for patients as possible?
- Are all HIPAA and security issues addressed?
We advise that you should consider your process before deciding how to integrate technology. Will the platform work with the EHR or will it lead to separate workflows and more problems than it solves?
Providers might wish to select a commercial telemedicine platform that has a built-in EHR. It provides them with a structure and makes sure that no medical records are duplicated.
However, it also limits how the physician can design the virtual visit platform because many legacy EHRs created before the advent of telemedicine may have limited or occasionally ineffective functions.
Privacy and Security
Any virtual care platform that handles personally identifiable health information must undergo extensive testing before going live to make sure that data cannot be improperly accessed, delivered to the incorrect devices or places, or stolen.
Guidelines for safeguarding health information online are provided by HITRUST (the Health Information Trust Alliance) and HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Reimbursement and ROI
Opportunities for reimbursement for virtual visits range widely. Medicare operates under a single set of rules, and telehealth applications are typically subject to limitations.
Some states have even gone so far as to outlaw store-and-forward telehealth and services provided by phone, text, or email for Medicaid programs. Medicaid operations are governed by a different set of standards.
Private payers and health plans may grant additional flexibility, particularly if the provider is open to bargaining.
According to Nathaniel Lacktman, who oversees the practice of telemedicine and virtual care at the law firm of Foley & Lardner, LLP, “there have been some conscious efforts to align with payers and welcome cooperation on coverage and reimbursement.”
Choosing the Delivery Method
The delivery method would be the subject of the next query. Would a commercial telehealth platform that uses video perform better than an asynchronous, or store-and-forward, service?
In most jurisdictions, a video visit is essentially equivalent to a physical examination, giving clinicians a lot of flexibility. It offers a greater variety of use cases and supports a wider range of specialties.
Video may also be more appealing to older patients, people with chronic diseases, and people who want to communicate with their doctors on a more personal level. On the other hand, younger generations might favor the adaptability of store-and-forward.
Once the platform is up and running. Providers must spread the information by sending messages to current patients. and launching a publicity campaign for attracting new patients.
The “Field of Dreams” fallacy, or the idea that “if you create it, they will come,” is the most typical error witnessed in all virtual care implementations. Whether it’s virtual care or something entirely different, education, communication, and marketing are essential to the success of any new service line.
A practice wouldn’t think of keeping patients in the dark if they hired a new doctor or added a new specialty. For virtual care we should use the same strategy.