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Overcoming Hurdles in Telehealth Implementation

Posted: February 23, 2023

Implementing telehealth into a healthcare system can be overwhelming. According to 2021 HIMSS research, health systems rank EHR and enterprise system incompatibility as the #1 or #2 biggest obstacles when considering third-party solutions.

There are many challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome in order to have a successful integration, from resource expectations to patient privacy and technical infrastructure. However, the good news is with the right partners and clear expectations, these implementation hurdles can be overcome.

Technical Infrastructure

Telehealth requires its own unique set of technological infrastructure components including software applications, hardware devices, and internet connections. As such, it is important for organizations to ensure they have the right setup in place before launching their telehealth program. Otherwise, they may run into technical issues which could impede the success of their initiative.

Resource Expectations

Health systems often have a different concept of what implementing a new application costs and may tend to view it as a much larger project than it actually is. It can be difficult to accurately estimate the exact time required to complete the project due to a variety of factors. However, having the right partners in place - from virtual care experts to integration experts like our partner, Redox, the timeline can be shortened and it reduces the need for intensive resources from the health system’s IT staff.

Additionally, it’s helpful to know who’s going to be working on the integration project from each party involved. Some typical titles and roles of health system employees who are often needed to help complete the project include Health System Project Champion, Health System IT Lead, Health System Network Analyst, Health System Interface Analyst, Health System EHR Analyst, Application Lead, and more.

Regulatory Changes

There are numerous regulations and laws that must be taken into account when using telehealth services such as HIPAA compliance and state licensure requirements. Organizations should consult with experts in telehealth regulation before initiating any telehealth program in order to avoid potential liability risks or penalties due to non-compliance with laws and regulations.

Additionally, health systems should look to choose an integration solution that can accommodate the inevitable regulatory changes that occur in healthcare. For example, LTI’s integration partner, Redox, does just that – covering anything from EHR updates, changes of system, or the adoption of a new data standard like FHIR. A hub-and-spoke model allows us to quickly make changes that will quickly take effect within an application’s workflow.

Patient Privacy

Protecting patient data is paramount in a health care setting, especially when it comes to telehealth services. It is critical that organizations implement secure systems and safeguards across all their devices, portals, and systems in order to protect against unauthorized access or breaches of private information. LTI’s virtual care platforms are HIPAA and FERPA compliant, ensuring patient data is kept private.

Provider Training

Once an organization has implemented its telehealth program, it is essential that providers receive proper training so they can use the technology effectively and confidently provide quality care remotely. Without clear instructions on how the systems work or protocols for providing remote health care services via virtual visits, providers may not feel comfortable enough utilizing such technology on a regular basis. A virtual care partner that provides 24/7/365 service is a way to ensure providers will have access to training and support at all times.

Provider Payment for Telehealth Services

Organizations need to develop a payment structure that is fair and adequate for providers who are providing telehealth services. Organizations need to incentivize their providers to use telehealth services while also ensuring they are fairly compensated for their efforts. Providers can only be expected to adapt to a wholly new way of patient care with solid understanding of who they will bill for their time and who will pay that bill.

Ongoing Maintenance

Along with training providers, it’s also important for organizations to continually monitor their system on an ongoing basis to ensure that the platform continues running smoothly over time. Otherwise, there will be more frequent service disruptions leading to increased user frustration levels amongst both patients & staff - something you certainly don't want.

Reliability and Accessibility of Telehealth Technology

It’s important for organizations to ensure that their telehealth technology is reliable and accessible whenever needed. Otherwise, users may experience difficulties during virtual visits which can lead to a bad user experience. Furthermore, it’s important that the technology is easy to use and understand so that all users regardless of technical expertise can take advantage of it.

Patient Training

Organizations should provide educational resources, such as videos or tutorials so that patients can become more familiar with the technology and its features. With the right investment into patient education, telehealth will be seen as a viable option for providing quality care remotely.

Changes to Culture and Behavior Norms

It is important to recognize that the transition to telehealth is not just about implementing new technology and new policies for that new technology. It requires a change in how healthcare organizations operate, from staff behaviors to patient experiences. Organizations should look into ways to encourage and foster this change in behavior amongst their personnel and patients in order for any telehealth program to be as successful as possible.

These are just a few of the considerations organizations should take into account when incorporating telehealth services into their operations. Evaluating their financial, legal and technical needs as well as the cultural shifts that may be required are all essential to determining the success of a telehealth program. With the right preparation and planning organizations can ensure their telehealth programs have the best possible chance for success.

By taking these steps and addressing common challenges associated with implementing telehealth services, healthcare organizations can mitigate risks while ensuring a successful implementation process. With careful planning and execution, telehealth has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry, providing more efficient and cost-effective care for patients around the world.

Taking into consideration all of these factors and more, healthcare organizations can make an educated decision about how to implement a telehealth program and ensure that it provides the best possible care for all those who utilize it.

Ready to establish a telehealth program for your organization? Let's talk.