Posted: July 19, 2021
The healthcare industry has suffered massive losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the tune of at least $323 billion, according to the American Hospital Association. Hospitals are still dealing with COVID-19 patients, while visits unrelated to COVID-19 are down. Potential patients are reluctant to seek non-emergency care, leaving medical institutions with more limited budgets.
The healthcare industry is rallying around telehealth to attract patients with its lower cost and broad accessibility. The telehealth benefits for hospitals are numerous including reducing barriers to treatment, decreasing patient and provider costs, and minimizing risk to healthcare workers. Implementation of a telehealth program can seem like a daunting task, but an increasing number of facilities have adopted it to great success.
The widespread applicability of telehealth across the healthcare industry was long suppressed by state and federal reimbursement regulations. With the onset of the coronavirus, many of those regulations have evaporated, or at least been eased significantly. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded reimbursement and services to help deliver telehealth access for all Americans. This means Medicare now covers visits regardless of location and allows for virtual visits in any number of settings. The “established patient with a physician” requirement is no longer enforced, so physicians are being reimbursed through Medicare despite taking on a brand new patient.
Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission released $200 million in emergency funds to eligible public healthcare providers to broaden accessibility to telehealth services for the public. Much of this money remains unspent and available for use. Additionally, many state and local funding opportunities are also available at the telehealth resource center site.
For telehealth capabilities to reach max potential, staff at every level of your facility need to become familiar with the technology and all the ways it can be used to make operations more efficient. When selecting a telehealth partner, ideally they will offer telehealth training for your staff when rolling out the technology.
Additionally, most hospitals designate a telehealth champion to advocate for its benefits, assist in developing a training plan for clinicians and office staff, and act as a reference point for questions. An effective training and engagement strategy can increase both doctor and patient satisfaction through the safe and effective use of telehealth in a variety of situations.
One final important consideration is the placement of your facility’s telehealth kiosk or consultation room. The ideal location will vary based on department priority, convenience, and space availability in the building. Many hospitals have flexible work arrangements with some doctors allowing them to conduct virtual visits from home, but others may have to set up a particular space for doctors to meet virtually with their patients. Near out-patient check-in is an ideal location for a consultation room, or in the vicinity of the ER where a clinician may be able to direct the patient to the proper non-emergency care following a virtual check-in.
The digital age is here to stay. Hospitals all over the country are adding telehealth to their list of services to stay relevant and attractive to patients in need of fast accessible care. Let's Talk Interactive is all about integrating telehealth with your facility. Contact us today to get started.