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Five tips for launching a successful virtual care program

By Scott Sullivan

Telemedicine is revolutionizing the healthcare landscape. Business Insider Intelligence released a report that defined 2018 as the “tipping point” for the telemedicine market; a JAMA study found virtual visits increased 261 percent between 2015 and 2017, with 7 million people estimated to have received remote services in 2018. Millennial and Generation Z patients are demanding virtual care, while healthcare networks find telemedicine helps them manage capacity and reduce costs.

So why is telemedicine becoming so mainstream in U.S. healthcare? Two top reasons are innovative mobile devices and real-time, high-speed data communications. The Internet of Things now includes wearable technology like smart sensors that monitor patient conditions. Healthcare delivery organizations of all sizes are using these tools to remotely provide acute, chronic and emergency care.
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If your facility is considering launching a telemedicine program, some prepatory measures can help ensure success. You’ll want to make sure the virtual care solution will improve patient outcomes and increase operational efficiencies. Ideally, it will also drive cost savings. Finally, you’ll want to inspire an enthusiastic commitment from everyone in your organization.

Your first priority will be choosing a virtual care provider that understands healthcare workflows, virtual technologies, data security and HIPAA compliance. But you’ll also need to build the right foundation internally. Here are the five top considerations to get the results and value you’re looking for.

1. Define clear clinical objectives and roles.
Start by defining your clinical goals. Do your doctors need to diagnose and treat patients during acute episodic situations or for post-acute problems? Do you want to give patients tools to manage chronic conditions? Will specialists at academic medical centers provide remote post-operative follow-up care?

Also consider whether patients will be able to use the telemedicine system on their own or require an intermediary, like a nurse. Training can play a critical role in both the patient’s and staff’s comfort with equipment use. You’ll also want to think about the patient user experience, the physician’s duties during virtual visits, and any administrative requirements such as billing, coding and authorizations.

Outlining these needs will drive the scope of your hardware and software requirements, your staffing needs, and any training requirements. Together these factors will lay the groundwork for your preliminary budget.
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