By Fred Binczewski MHA
September 28, 2020
4 Keys to Future Telehealth Sustainability
We have all found ourselves as students in the crash course presently for the pandemic Covid-19. Healthcare organizations small and large have in many cases had to refocus themselves into “on the job training” telehealth transformational and transactional connoisseurs. In addition, these are extremely challenging times for organizations, providers, staffing and government, commercial and private insurers as we head into flu season. Our ER’s and clinics may pay the final price to keep overloaded scheduling and walk ins to a premium and risk care of patient delay.
Telehealth has primed a potential revolution or evolution when it comes to the digitization of not only documentation but the delivery of patient care as it requires to be for the virtual future. Along with the advent and usage of 5G communications and interoperability, telehealth, as a product pre-Covid-19, will never look back at it’s past as a secondary or tertiary form of patient care. It is now in the forefront of offering various provider to patient services as well as exponentially increasing the bandwidth of potential patient televisits. For this to occur to it’s true potential and sustainability, several strategical telehealth keys must occur.
Initially, healthcare organizations must be nimble and flexible to not only accept the technological advances, but to also create new pandemic committees to enhance the pre-existing committees and teams associated with patient quality of care, revenue cycle and denial prevention. This along with a sustaining cooperation system- wide with IT will propagate new virtual and physical processes and educational intelligence moving forward to accept telehealth as a main ingredient and tool kit for advanced satisfaction and quality of virtual patient care. One example of the new technological collaborative effort for healthcare comes from the people at Microsoft. Their product, Microsoft Teams gives new tools to the staffing in healthcare, particularly, the front line clinicians. This solution empowers them to deliver the best care possible through revolutionizing care team collaboration and virtual health. This means care teams get access to secure messaging that is as easy to use as a consumer user chat app, but with extra security to protect sensitive HIPAA health information. New features in Teams like Lists help clinicians simplify their MDT meetings, discharge planning, rounding, nurse huddles and more. It also means a seamless virtual visit experience for both patients and providers. 1
Secondly, government both at a federal and state level must scrutinize existing budgetary dollars that have been historically destined for healthcare and now must explore other provisions on redirecting these dollars to telehealth virtual healthcare. According to analysis by McKinsey and Co., as telehealth adoption has steadily increased, since the onset of the pandemic, providers have rapidly scaled up telehealth offerings and increased the number of patients served virtually by 50- to 175-fold. Their report also states that up to $250 billion of the nation’s current healthcare spending could be redirected to virtual health. Telehealth expansion and sustainability will create the need for this type of government commitment to occur. 2
Along with these 2 key points is the discussion now surrounding reimbursement. With the rapid expansion of virtual telehealth and all the opportunities it brings is the concern from many organizations that based on patient geographic locations that telehealth services and its reimbursement may drop to the point at which many of the services we currently are providing will become cost-prohibitive to continue. In the words of Dr. Jonathan Lewin, …we see several areas that will likely remain across many of our service lines. One area that predated the COVID-19 related acceleration of our telehealth activities that will undoubtedly continue is our work providing consultation to assist physicians managing their patients in distant or rural hospitals; for example, Nephrology program enables dialysis in rural hospitals without local nephrology coverage and prevents urgent transfer of renal failure patients, benefiting the patient and their family along with the local hospital and clinicians.
We also will continue our preoperative evaluations in patients who live significant distances from our facilities, along with follow up postoperative care when appropriate. There are many patients with chronic conditions who will benefit from ongoing telehealth video visits. Psychiatry consultation, allowing patients to receive care in their residence, will also be an ongoing offering. Lastly, we have, and will continue to, use video visits when providing care for patients who cannot travel to distant facilities. 3
While excited about the prospects, it is too early in telehealth adoption and experience to fully understand what long-term rates should be. Additionally, the same professional clinical expertise is being provided under most circumstances regardless of care settings. Further discussion must be realized with federal and commercial payers in order to avert decreasing reimbursement in these areas of patient care virtual vehicles. No one can afford these types of barriers.
Finally, patient quality of care must not change from the old model but must be enhanced through telehealth. Hours on the phone making appointments, transportation for a visit, enduring the long lines in medical lobbies and provider offices have been nearly eliminated in the new model. Providing health services that are now convenient, at home, with no added stress becomes the new quality of care that we are just now understanding. Keeping privacy issues at the forefront through secure HIPAA website implementation and maintenance holds another aspect of providing the best quality care attainable. Along with this comes higher satisfaction scores for healthcare organizations, more accurate documentation and patient information as well as timely execution of services and patient follow up.
In closing, telehealth is certainly here to stay. This environment now covers newborns to our most senior people throughout society. It is becoming easier for individuals who have access to the Internet and devices to communicate virtually. We must continue to include many areas in the United States where internet access is still not available. This only will delay the quality care that patients could get from their own homes. Stay safe and diligent. See you all next time…..This Week in HealthCare
1. Emma Williams, Corporate VP of Modern Workplace, Microsoft
2. McKinsey and Co
3. Dr. Jonathan Lewin, , CEO Emory Health.
Uprise Consulting Group, Inc., Eliminating Denials Today, Tomorrow and into the Future.
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