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Tips for getting telehealth across the finish line

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Dr. Alan Pitt, Chief Medical Officer, Avizia and attending physician and Professor of Neuroradiology, Barrow Neurological Institute

Every Hospital IT Director knows that you can have the best technology on the market, but it’s essentially useless if your doctors and clinical staff aren’t using it effectively. You’ve likely seen this play out in your hospital with a new app or technology solution that was supposed to make lives easier, but due to an onerous implementation or ineffective staff training it never had a chance to deliver value.

Hospital IT leaders are being pressed to improve patient outcomes through faster care delivery, and telehealth solutions are critical to realizing this vision within existing budgets. But many healthcare executives are finding it challenging to get clinical staff and physicians on board with telehealth, with many seeing it as a burden and a less efficient way to deliver care. In fact, a recent survey from Avizia entitled “Closing the Telehealth Gap” found that 25 percent of respondents cited clinician resistance as a key barrier to implementing telemedicine solutions.

To close the gap, IT leaders need to see telehealth through the eyes of their clinical colleagues. To convince them of telehealths value focus on the things that matter to physicians the most, making more money, getting home earlier and improving patient care.

Increasing revenue

For physicians, telehealth is an opportunity to increase revenue by seeing more patients and meeting changing federal requirements. Especially for specialists, telehealth can help build an expanded referral network. Through telehealth specialists and clinicians can expand the access patients have to the specialty care they may need by connecting them with specialists who may be hours away.

Telehealth can also help physicians increase revenue through MACRA, the new federal regulations on payment. MACRA is beginning to change the way care is delivered and more importantly how care is payed for. When reimbursement was structured in the fee for service it was difficult to receive payment for telehealth services. However with the move to MACRA and value based care delivery physicians will be better reimbursed through telehealth as the focus shifts to the quality of care of the volume of care provided.

Shorter work hours

Many doctors are spending more time at the hospital and would be more likely to accept technology if it knew it could get them home earlier.  Telehealth can help by reducing the time it takes for care teams to coordinate with each other. Take for example a patient with an abnormal lab or x-ray finding. Without telehealth, a care team would have to take the time to find the right person to make sense of the results. However with telehealth, the results can be shared with the entire care team immediately, allowing team members to discuss the results in a quick real time fashion. Moving from phone calls between clinicians to text and video options provided through telehealth means communication can happen quickly, freeing doctors up to get home earlier.

Improved patient care

In an on demand world consumers expect to be able to reach healthcare whenever they need it, no matter the hour. This frequently results in patients going to ERs or urgent cares when they need to see a physician. But with the changing reimbursement landscape physicians need to help patients find care in the right format. Through telehealth patients can still reach care whenever they need it and doctors can be reimbursed for providing better care in a better setting.

Research has shown that when patients feel they have a good relationship with their physician, they are more likely to follow advice and treatment plans. With telehealth, physicians are able to check in on patients more frequently and in doing so build a stronger relationship with the patient and ensure better care.

The big picture

Telehealth is bringing healthcare into the digital age and it is up to IT leaders to make the transition seamless. It starts by learning from the past, collecting feedback directly from folks that deliver care, clearly communicating the benefits and choosing a platform that seamlessly and efficiently aligns with the day-to-day needs of clinicians.   

Technology is changing how care is delivered, and if we can all get on the same page, we can ensure that patients receive the care they need in any place at any time, with any physician.

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