As the healthcare industry slowly recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and shifts towards a hybrid care delivery model, the ability to provide healthcare services both in-person and remotely becomes a necessity and important differentiator.
To ensure ongoing effectiveness in providing digitally enabled care, providers and health care systems are evolving beyond traditional care delivery models to more flexible alternatives that combine in-person care and virtual visits. This includes implementing virtual care solutions such as telehealth video conferencing and remote patient monitoring as part of their standard care delivery. At the onset of the pandemic, many health care delivery organizations quickly adopted a pilot program or limited scope solution to meet the demands of providing digitally enabled care. As we move forward, the greatest opportunity is in expanding from small scale telehealth initiatives to assimilating telehealth services as a standard and systemic approach in providing care.
The healthcare industry has not been excluded from the effects of the ‘Great Resignation’ which has led to a significant reduction in workforce. As a result, the need to leverage care delivery models that enable ongoing patient care supported by a smaller workforce becomes even more critical. Incorporating virtual care provides the flexibility to supplement in person nursing visits with remotely delivered patient care, whenever appropriate. Virtual visits are therefore an important strategy in managing staffing shortages whilst enabling ongoing access to care.
A comprehensive telehealth program will include combinations of both remote patient monitoring and effectively delivered virtual care services. Virtual visits can be incorporated in both acute care and chronic care settings. In an acute care setting, virtual care is often enabled using a centralized virtual care team, that monitors and engages directly with patients in different units within a hospital. In most chronic care settings, virtual care services are delivered through a set of identified virtual care providers focused only on providing remote care to patients in the home, and augmenting a separate team focused on home-visits.
So, what does an effective telehealth program look like today? How do you incorporate scalable and sustainable virtual care services?
Tips for Creating Successful Virtual Telehealth Programs
- Establish a Centralized Virtual Care Delivery Team
Establishing a centralized virtual care delivery team ensures access to a specialized team that is trained and focused fully on providing virtual care. This requires hiring or changing the roles of previous field-based staff to specially trained virtual care staff able to effectively provide a new care model
- Expand virtual care services to include Specialists and Ancillary Care providers
Expanding virtual care to specialty physicians is crucial to ensuring comprehensiveness and continuity of care, particularly for advanced conditions that require ongoing monitoring or regular follow-ups. Incorporating specialists discourages care fragmentation and ensures that important aspects of the patient’s treatment, disease progression, and self-management involve the patient’s specialists. In addition to specialty physicians, virtual care services can also be provided by ancillary providers. Some examples include home-based rehabilitation such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and mental health services such as psychiatric treatment, counseling, and bereavement support.
With virtual visits, patients and specialists can easily connect in real time without a long drive to the clinic or hospital for a half-hour appointment. From there, the provider can determine if an in-person visit will eventually be necessary, or if the patient needs to undergo any surgical procedures.
- Develop Policies and Procedures for your Virtual Care Services
Policies and procedures help to standardize your services and increase staff compliance with the new model. They provide clear guidance for your internal processes and support consistent decision-making across your staff. For your new care model to be successful, outlining virtual service guidelines should be augmented with monitoring for adherence.
- Train your team for appropriate Webside Manners
Despite the convenience of telehealth, an in-person patient experience simply isn’t the same as an on-screen experience. A negative experience can result in poor patient engagement and adherence. With the transition to virtual care, the quality of telehealth programs also depends on training for and delivering an effective “webside” manner.
For many patients and clinicians, virtual visits are a whole new experience. When providers conduct telehealth visits without any training, related experience, or knowledge of webside best practices, they may struggle to build trust and rapport with patients, affecting the clinician-patient relationship.
Proper wedside manners involve more than just a professional appearance. A good webside manner puts equal emphasis on objective factors such as the quality of video, how one is positioned as they look into camera, and subjective factors such as how well one conveys empathy virtually. Effective webside manner will ensure that patients feel effectively evaluated and cared for, while giving clinicians the confidence to gather information and provide care virtually.
- Obtain organizational buy-in
Gaining organizational buy-in is key to the success of any new endeavor. Communicating the goals and benefits of virtual care, as well as the risks of not embracing it as an integral part of healthcare delivery, will improve staff buy-in and organization-wide transformation.
To ensure the continuity and success of your telehealth program, staff should be provided with the appropriate enablement tools and resources to facilitate model implementation. Tracking and monitoring key performance indicators for adoption and sharing progress with staff ensures that opportunities for improvement are addressed in a timely fashion. Leaders should also set short-term and long-term virtual care program goals that will be tracked and communicated with staff. As the proverbial saying goes, what is measured will improve.
Build and Scale Your Virtual Telehealth Program with HRS
An effective telehealth and RPM platform should help simplify your transition to providing virtual care services, allowing you to focus on improving patient outcomes and optimizing clinician workflows.
HRS’ industry-leading telehealth and remote patient monitoring solution offers advanced virtual care solutions that are secure, scalable, and easy to use. Our clinical team of advisors bring best-practice guidance to your team as you deploy or expand your virtual care services. See how our platform and advisory services can help your organization deliver successful hybrid care services!