Getting Started in Telehealth: An Eight-Step Telehealth Implementation Strategy

The worldwide fight against COVID-19 has stimulated the adoption of telehealth services. McKinsey reports that healthcare organizations have rapidly scaled telehealth offerings to replace canceled in-person visits and prevent revenue losses. Medical organizations are currently seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients in virtual visits compared to pre-COVID times. 

But aside from COVID-19, there are a lot of other challenges clinics and the whole US healthcare system face that telehealth can address. For instance, hospital telehealth software systems can increase access to behavioral health and urgent care services in areas with clinician shortages and improve the continuity of care for people with chronic conditions while still allowing healthcare establishments to generate revenue by extending access to their services beyond normal clinic hours. 

Today, we talk about how to align your newly planned telehealth program with your organization’s priorities and prepare for implementing telehealth services in a way that allows for sustainable adoption among your staff and patients and guarantees your return on investment. 

Read also: Why Create a Custom Telehealth Solution and Essential Functionality to Consider

Telehealth implementation roadmap 

McKinsey recommends all healthcare stakeholders to “define a value-backed virtual health roadmap,” which actually is what inspired us to create this post. Our virtual care program implementation roadmap includes eight (I wish I could say "easy") steps that serve as a basis for how to implement a telemedicine solution within your practice:

how can I prepare for the telehealth solution integration: roadmap

Below, we explore what you should do at each stage of this journey to ensure the long-term success of your telehealth integration.
We should note, however, that this guide is for informational purposes only and is not aimed at substituting real medical, legal, or financial advice. That said, let’s get started.

1) Identify your need

There are a number of benefits ehealth services can bring to healthcare organizations: fighting infectious disease transmission, providing continuity of care, addressing clinician shortages in remote areas, improving patient satisfaction and earning patient loyalty, increasing revenue, and so on. But is telehealth right for you? Figuring this out is your first task. 

Defining and prioritizing your challenges is important so you can properly distribute your resources and draw up an exact action plan for further development. By doing so, you’ll get the basis for a time and resources estimate and be able to choose a solution that exactly fits your needs. What’s more, knowing the exact problem and evaluating its impact on your organization’s overall well-being will help you justify your effort in front of your main stakeholders. 

Things to do during this stage

List the challenges that hold you back from delivering higher quality healthcare services. Then select the ones that can be solved with telehealth. Here’s how you can find out what these challenges are: 

  • Gather feedback from your frontline staff to spot crucial bottlenecks and opportunities within your clinic. 

  • Survey your patients to learn when their satisfaction suffers.

  • Align the issues you’ve identified in steps 1 and 2 with your organization’s goals to define which you’ll address first (for example, by focusing on issues that bring the most value if solved with a telehealth solution). 

  • Determine if your organization or practice is financially ready for telehealth by starting to understand the cost of implementation.

We also advise starting with solving one issue to test how successful the telehealth technology is and then gradually scaling to other areas. 

Read also: How to Build a Mobile Survey App: Core Features and Development Tips

2) Gather your clinical team 

As telehealth integration is an effort that’s eventually meant to influence most departments of your health delivery organization, it’s important to involve key department representatives who can not only facilitate buy-in but also commit to the success of the program. 
 
Forming a team will help you look at telehealth integration from different perspectives, allowing you to fully evaluate organizational needs, anticipate possible implications (both positive and negative), and negotiate an effective, risk-aligned action plan for achieving success. 

Basically, this is where the actual program planning takes place. Below are a few tips for how to better organize your team to effectively plan for and manage your workflow during implementation. 

Things to do during this stage

Outline the team structure. There’s no need to engage all team members at the first stages of development, as it may significantly slow down the process. To avoid chaos, start with defining when and how different team members will step in. 
It’s also advisable to organize your participants into small teams, each contributing its own valuable expertise during the telehealth implementation process. For example, you can first engage lawyers and billing staff to consult on legal, regulatory, and financial questions, saving time on future interactions with these team members. 
Such teams may be organized as follows:

Telehealth solution integration guide: team structure

Understand where telehealth will “live.” To avoid overlapping roles and responsibilities, determine where within your organization telehealth will be hosted (as part of the information department or as a separate structure, for example).

Start with a kick-off meeting. Set up a kick-off meeting that will let you distribute responsibilities, set important milestones with exact dates, and then divide your workload by sprints, keeping key objectives in mind. 

Establish regular communication. Set up regular meetings with each team to get control over the implementation process. Set up weekly updates by email or in a separate chat to make sure everyone stays up to date on changes. 

You can also use this chart to understand which team members can be involved and when:

how can I prepare for the telehealth solution integration: team engagement

3) Realize barriers

Next, you’ll need to identify legal, regulatory, financial, and social barriers that could get in your way so you know how to cope with them later. These barriers could be:

Licensure and reimbursement challenges. Even though we may see a temporary relaxation of legislation and reimbursement rules as a result of the pandemic, understanding barriers associated with credentialing clinicians and funding telehealth services and knowing ways to overcome them long before you start integrating your telehealth solution will help you save time and money. Because after all, you’re here to double your revenue, not lose it. 

For example, if you’re going to serve patients outside your state, it’s vital to make sure your tool meets the regulatory guidelines of all states in which you provide services to avoid costly penalties in the future. You should also pick the reimbursement model that fits you best. For example, you can bill your partnering insurance companies (Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurers), bill your patients, or even provide telehealth services for free by funding the program through grants. 

Technical challenges. The lack of integration with electronic health record systems, poorly designed data migration protocols, lack of interoperability, high cost of customization, and lack of adequate technical support for patients and caregivers are some of the most common telehealth barriers reported by Yalantis clients. We’ll get back to these technical challenges below.

Shift in clinical culture. According to Gartner, clinicians may experience a lack of trust in the efficiency of virtual care. Caregivers may think that this shift to digitalization may cause more work during each shift thanks to lengthy virtual sessions needed to improve productivity. Also, it’s important to consider clinicians’ concerns regarding learning how to use a new virtual care solution. 

Pessimistic patient expectations. Just like caregivers, patients may experience a lack of trust in telemedicine. For example, they may expect a lower quality of services compared to in-person visits. Their concern can also relate to violating individual users’ privacy, autonomy, and control. We’ll discuss how to prepare clinicians and patients for telehealth below.

Read also: Yalantis’ Expertise Building a Sweeping SaaS Virtual Clinic Platform

Things to do during this stage

Here’s what you should consider before implementing your telehealth strategy:

  • Consult with legal and billing staff to understand federal, state, and payer requirements and regulations, as they may give you significant input about managing reimbursement documentation including CPT codes, modifiers, and correct language to use (this data is also important when it comes to developing your own custom healthcare solution).

  • Figure out in which states your clinicians are already licensed and in which states they have to be licenced to provide services.

  • Check with your partnering insurance companies to understand if they cover telehealth services. Also, research other payers who cover telehealth and consider negotiating with them for partnerships.

4) Define success

After you and your team have defined a goal (or goals) for your clinic and a virtual care solution, it’s necessary to set measurable metrics that will help you evaluate if your solution proves effective for your organization. Understanding these metrics at the early stages will also help you with evaluating your software vendor, as you’ll already know what features you should seek out to assess your performance.

Things to do during this stage

  • Make sure your goals are clearly stated in your business requirements to form an exhaustive request for proposal for your technology partner.

  • Determine which metrics are suited to properly assessing progress toward these goals (for example, the number of virtual care visits per month, the patient base growth rate per month).

  • Document your current state of affairs in accordance with your defined success metrics. This is the only way you’ll be able to measure the true impact of your telehealth solution.

  • Integrate a system to collect data and track progress toward your goals (here’s where your telehealth solution’s analytics capabilities may help). 

  • Set specific checkpoints to collect data and analyze results. Also, set baseline metrics that will be clear evidence of your success.   

5) Find and hire a technology partner 

Most healthcare delivery networks first reach out to their existing electronic health record vendors to provide their practice with the ability to conduct health virtual visits. However, the solutions provided by EHR vendors may not fully satisfy your needs, or their price may be too high, or their service may be far from perfect. In other words, you may start looking for a new partner whose solution will better suit your needs and budget expectations — one who’s always on hand to solve your challenges and inspired to achieve results with you. 

Note! As this post is not intended as legal or financial advice, we decided to avoid discussing anything related to actually contracting with a technology or service provider. It’s best to consult with your attorney or another legal or financial professional regarding any legally binding agreements.

Things to do during this stage

How can you find and hire a healthcare software vendor? Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • Ask for referrals among your fellow practices that have been successfully using telehealth services for some time. If possible, ask them to provide statistics demonstrating improvements.

  • In the old days, you may have attended healthcare technology conferences hosted by organizations like HIMSS or the American Telemedicine Association, but the pandemic has changed things slightly. Try searching for a vendor on the web. Websites like Capterra, Software Advice, and G2 can help if you’re looking for ready-made software. If you’re looking for a custom solution, try checking Clutch and GoodFirms for reviews of software development companies.

  • Prepare a detailed request for proposal (RFP) to send to your preferred vendors.

After several rounds of negotiations, you may end up with a list of two or three preferred vendors to pitch to the leadership team.

You can read more about how to choose a software development partner in our full article on finding and hiring the best app developers. Meanwhile, there are the four basic criteria to help you narrow down your list of medical software developers: 

Implementing virtual visits with your practice: How to find and hire a telehealth software vendor

At Yalantis, we try to provide extra value to our clients at all stages of solution development, from preparing marketing collateral for your pitch presentation to assisting with educational materials for staff and patients. 

So if you’re curious to find out more about the custom telemedicine app development services our team provides, you’re welcome to check our latest article on how to develop a telemedicine platform from scratch and what are the benefits of doing so.

6) Design a new clinical workflow 

Virtual visits are likely to alter some daily operations within your organization such as patient-provider communication, appointment scheduling, nurse and physician training, billing, and reporting. It’s important to properly adjust your clinical workflow with minimum disruption to your staff and clients. 

Things to do during this stage

  • Conduct feedback sessions with your staff and patients to find out their readiness to adopt telehealth services and determine their major concerns to make sure your new workflow addresses them (by creating sufficient training programs, for example).

  • Document your existing workflow to spot where changes will be necessary and work with your delivery team to get their input on the new workflow design. 

  • Make sure your services are provided legally (by supporting informed consent for your patients) and adhere to policy and reimbursement requirements (for your convenience, your healthcare system should support necessary CPT codes and modifiers to ensure successful reimbursement from payers). 

  • Document your new workflow, including new protocols and procedures for each department and exhaustive supportive and training materials (webinars or guides either developed by you or your telehealth vendor) to address possible challenges among staff. 

  • Choose staff leaders to present your new workflow to personnel who will use the solution every day.

  • Schedule training sessions for your existing staff and consider proper onboarding for newly hired employees.

  • Educate your patients on your new offering and set expectations for its use (assuring that you’re providing services in a fully legal and secure way, for selected and appropriate clinical use cases).

  • Conduct usability testing (i.e. test virtual visits) and collect valuable staff and patient feedback to make improvements.

Read also: Learning Management Systems: To Build or Not to Build

7) Integrate the solution 

Now it’s time to officially launch your telehealth solution to test out your new workflow, from scheduling an appointment to getting through the billing process. During this stage, you’ll finally see telehealth in action and be able to evaluate your first results by tracking key success metrics to adjust your program and drive further scaling.

Things to do during this stage

  • Officially launch the service. You can create a landing page on your website to describe your new service and the benefits it provides and let patients schedule virtual appointments. 

  • Be ready to support your patients in getting service and support your staff in providing this service. 

  • Make sure you track success metrics at defined milestones to see if you’ve achieved success. By demonstrating your success to the leadership team, you’ll be able to justify the need for further scaling. If you’ve failed to achieve your goals, consider reworking your workflow or customizing your solution.

  • Based on your customers’ and staff’s feedback, make changes to your workflow if necessary (ask your provider to integrate your system with a solution for collecting feedback).

  • Pay close attention to whether documenting, billing, and reporting procedures work properly to be able to quickly address any issues and avoid losing revenue. 

Read also: How to Ensure Large-Scale Data Integration for Your Healthcare Company

8) Scale further 

If your telehealth solution has proven effective at this stage, you should consider other areas for improvement within your organization (for example, applying telehealth to another department of healthcare delivery network branches). Once you’ve determined your next target, you can go back to setting new success metrics and designing new workflows. But first, consider taking the following steps. 

Things to do during this stage

  • Promote the success of your past campaign across the organization to inspire your staff and increase your chances to win new buy-in. 

  • Continue tracking your success metrics. 

  • Engage new patients to try virtual care. 

  • Attract more staff to adopt the new clinical solution and enable program growth. 

Yalantis unites with healthcare businesses to help them achieve sustainable growth and optimize business processes through tailor-made digital health technology. If you’re looking for a new opportunity to transform digitally, tell us about your ambition at hello@yalantis.com and we’ll devise an effective way to fulfill it. 

4.9/ 5.0
Article rating
11
Reviews
Remember those Facebook reactions? Well, we aren't Facebook but we love reactions too. They can give us valuable insights on how to improve what we're doing. Would you tell us how you feel about this article?
Despaired to find your perfect telemedicine solution?

Perhaps, you require a custom one? Discover what types of healthcare businesses we assist and what medical software we deliver to see if we could be of any value to you.

Go to services

We use cookies to personalize our services and improve your experience on this website and its subdomains. We may use certain personal data for analytics and marketing purposes. Please read our Privacy Policy before using this website.