How to Successfully Launch Your Grant-Funded Telehealth Program

Did You Get A Grant For A Telehealth Program?

Here are helpful tips to help you launch a successful, sustainable telehealth program.

where do we begin

Where Do We Begin?

Telehealth grants are widely available during the COVID-19 public health epidemic. If you have been awarded such a grant and are new to telehealth, you may be wondering “Where do we begin?”

Read our Blog:Five Reasons Telemedicine Is The Key To Survival In The Coronavirus Epidemic

Since grants typically pay for telehealth technology, that’s where most people focus. But when it comes time to implement, it’s best to begin at the end with the outcomes you seek. 

Start with the Outcomes

A well-designed telehealth program is typically focused on increasing access to care, reducing unnecessary Emergency Department visits and improving clinical outcomes. If you’re thinking long-term, you may seek to “Provide patient-centered care” and “Lower the total cost of care.”

Now, during the COVID pandemic, your objectives may also be to: 

  • Reduce exposure for patients, providers and employees
  • Maintain continuity of care
  • Improve quality of life

Telehealth, HEDIS® and Value Based Care

HEDIS® (Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set) performance measures are a roadmap for health care providers preparing to participate in Value Based Care. Value-based care incentivizes providers to keep people healthy by coordinating care, personalizing care and achieving health outcomes. Successful, efficient providers share in the cost savings. If you plan to participate in Value Based Care, consider incorporating virtual care.

Telehealth Associates delivered significant outcomes when we built and managed one of the largest telehealth grant projects of its kind for the NY Department of Health’s Balancing Incentive Program. The program achieved an 86% reduction in Emergency Room visits, 99% patient satisfaction rating, and 50% faster access to care by bringing care to the residence.  Read the case study here.
medicare telehealth

Plan for a Hybrid Model

The coronavirus cancelled a million appointments, closed clinics, and put fear in people’s hearts about going to the doctor’s office. As people return to the medical office, it’s with caution, and in different ways. And they want telehealth.

Your transformed practice will be a hybrid, blending remote, virtual, and asynchronous care with traditional on-site care. You and your team have the opportunity to reimagine your practice, asking yourselves how you might:

  • Shift from being practice schedule-based to patient needs-based?
  • Expand to offer specialties or care modes you don’t offer today?
  • Incorporate the communication technologies your patients prefer?

Core Elements of a Successful Telehealth Program

Given COVID’s disruption of traditional medical practice, and the endless possibilities with telehealth, here are core concepts that every successful virtual care program will address:

Design to Deliver Right Care, Right Place, Right Time

The mantra of telehealth is “Right care, right time, right place, right resource, right outcome.” Another way to put it is, “What is the just-right touch this patient needs now to reassure, intervene, educate, encourage or course-correct their care journey?”

Below, see 3 examples of the way you might deliver “right care.”

A Virtual Video Visit

A video visit between a medical professional and a patient is private. The patient and medical provider may be in any location (home, office, day program, school, etc.). For this reason, the medical professional is able to expand the appointment slots available beyond typical office hours. Travel, wait and distance issues are eliminated, as is risk of infection from others. A video visit is “right” for:

  • Triaging a patient via a tele-video virtual visit on their smart phone or tablet.
  • Conducting a mental health therapy session using the therapist’s laptop and the patient’s tablet.

An In-Home Diagnostic Telehealth Visit

A diagnostic telehealth visit is sometimes referred to as “bringing the clinic to the home” or the 21st Century house call. This type of observation increases the medical professional’s ability to observe, assess and treat the patient without requiring either party to travel. All the patient has to be is be present. A “telepresenter” (care coordinator, LPN, MA) carries the diagnostic telemedicine kit to the patient’s location, sets it up, and takes vital signs. They connect with the provider for an exam using tools such as a high definition camera with multiple specialty lenses, digital stethoscope, electrocardiogram machine, spirometer. A diagnostic telehealth visit is “right” for providing:

  • Acute or urgent care to a patient who is too ill or fragile to leave home.
  • Exams, follow-ups and other routine primary care to reduce exposure during COVID, and to offer alternatives to high-risk patients and the homebound.

Remote Patient Monitoring for Chronic Care, COVID

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is the collection of data about the patient that is used to manage their health. The data collected includes biometric data gathered electronically (or input manually) from devices such as a scale, thermometer, blood pressure machine, blood glucose reader, pulse oximeter, ECG, fitness tracker and so on. These devices require the patient to stop what they are doing and take a reading. By contrast, wearable monitoring devices, such as rings and patches, deliver a continuous flow of certain types of data to a clinical dashboard.

RPM is “right” for monitoring individuals with:

  • Chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, congestive heart failure and pulmonary disease.
  • Temporary conditions such as high-risk pregnancy, COVID or post-op.
oman shaking hands with doctor coming out of her computer screen

Embrace Telehealth Surveys to Supplement Monitoring

Use digital surveys to collect important subjective information about:

  • Symptoms
  • Health status
  • State of mind
  • Anxiety and fears
  • Social determinants of health
  • Level of engagement with health and healthcare

Read “4 Telehealth Surveys to Boost Your Monitoring Program.

Harness Your EMR for Telehealth Success

Your efficiency, cost savings, clinical outcomes and business success depend on the way you collect, store, present, report and bill your patient data. That’s why telehealth success depends on harnessing the patient data in your Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Telehealth relies on transmitting data digitally for speed, efficiency and decision-making. This ranges from a simple app for taking and displaying vital signs to a robust and complex platform that aggregates patient data from a multiple sources and pushes it to a clinical dashboard. Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs and ‘virtual assistants” that let clinicians work at the top of their license rely on the EMR as well. For these reasons, your EMR is an important factor in designing your telehealth program.

10 Steps to Building A Sustainable Telehealth Program

1. State Your Objectives

Your organization’s objectives will likely consist of a blend of the general and universal, such as improving access to care and the more specific and personal, such as carving out a competitive differentiation for your practice. Whatever your objectives, write them down and share them broadly within your organization.

2. Manage Your Revenue Landscape

You will have to balance what is known about pre-COVID and current reimbursement for your entity type against the unknown reimbursement landscape to come. Then consider whether there are additional virtual care revenue streams available to you, and whether you can weather a defined amount of revenue loss in order to gain experience and traction with a currently unreimbursed modality (i.e., Remote Patient Monitoring for FQHCs). Read our blog: Telehealth Reimbursement: Make a Plan, Stay Flexible.

3. Articulate Your Use Cases

In your future hybrid practice, your office may be closed, but your practice can be open and treating patients. Who will you treat, and for what? Will your focus be narrow (monitoring high-risk pregnant women) or broad (after-hours urgent care for all)? Telehealth enables you to provide any number of virtual services, from urgent medical care to behavioral therapy to annual exams.

4. (Re)define Who You Will Serve

Telehealth can retain current patients, regain lapsed patients, and attract new patients – even – especially – during the public health emergency when so many other care providers are limited or shuttered. It can help you offer new services, such sleep monitoring. Explore service offerings that you can provide immediately, and consider what you want to expand to in the future.

5. Assign New Care Team Roles

Every organization will define virtual care roles in its own way, based on the services you provide (i.e. remote monitoring, video visits, in-home diagnostic visits) and the resources you can apply to the roles. It may take a couple of iterations in roles and workflows to hit the groove of “right resource, right time, right place.”

6. Determine Your New “Open Hours”

With virtual care, your practice can stay open 24/7, add weekend hours, or add a few hours before and after weekday office hours. Whatever you choose, there are numerous staffing, technical and operational logistics aspects to consider.

7. Identify Where Services Will Take Place

Where will your patients be when receiving your services? This can range from their home to your office, pre-school, a skilled nursing facility, a senior center, etc. Each has implications for the other 9 elements listed here.

8. Plan to Market your telehealth-enabled services

During COVID, everybody needs to know you offer telehealth. That includes current patients, prospective patients and entities that might contract with you to provide telehealth-enabled services. They need to know it is available from you, and also, the answer to “What’s in it for me?” See our infographic “Four Reasons Your Patients Want Telehealth Now.”

9. Plan to bring your team on a change journey

Your telehealth program’s success is highly influenced by the receptivity of your team. So, consider your employees a target audience to whom the program must be marketed, as well. What’s in it for them? How will they be involved in making these changes? How will they be supported as they learn?

10. Begin Well to End Well

Your grant funded telehealth initiative will start as a project and end as a program. This means you will need a project structure/mindset to make implementation successful – with a kickoff, leadership within the part of the organization that will own it, a champion and responsible parties for each key aspect.

Why Work with Telehealth Associates?

Telehealth Associates encourages your pursuit of telehealth and is here to support you on your path. Our deep experience with telehealth grant projects makes us an invaluable partner, able to shorten your learning curve and get you up and running with telehealth swiftly. In addition to our expertise and resourcefulness, we are responsive, diligent and we deliver what we promise.

We believe access to quality health care is a right, and we want to build telehealth programs that bring the right care to the right people at the right time, using the right resources to achieve the right outcome. We do this by developing strong enduring relationships based on trust and being proactive. We care deeply that our clients succeed, and we are always planning for their next success.

Contact us with questions, to explore options or for a complimentary session to talk about your next steps in implementing your telehealth program.