Every extraordinary recipe for a sublime dish relies on superb ingredients and high-grade kitchen tools that the seasoned chefs carefully procure and maintain. The secret behind sublime telehealth, lies in a similar list of ingredients and tools, namely workflows, policies, and technology.
While technology is obviously a key ingredient in a clinical service powered by digital health solutions, it is actually the least important. Granted, a good knife, a great food processor, or a solid frying pan will make it easier to create great tasting food. But it can’t compensate for poor ingredients or lack of skill. So pick your technologies wisely, but don’t make technology the be all and end all.
Policies in telehealth are akin to those necessary rules in cooking you have to follow for superb taste: preheat your oven; let the steak reach room temperature; cut everything into the same size, don’t smooch the ingredients, etc. It’s important you follow the right rules but leave some room for creativity too.
Which leaves workflows as the key ingredient to a sublime telehealth experience. A telehealth service is only as good as its systems. Don Berwick, MD, founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, often said that “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”. It’s the workflows that make up the system and as such are the secret to success or the root cause of failure.
A Shopping List
So if we were to go shopping for the various ingredients and tools to create a sublime telehealth experience for physicians, what should we secure?
As with all recipes, the first question is: what type of dish do you want to create (breakfast, dinner, or dessert?) and who is this for (your spouse, your kids or your mother in law?). Each telehealth service requires a different set of workflows, a different set of policies and oftentimes a different set of technologies.
Let me, for the purpose of this article, focus on the most common use case of today’s Covid-19 world: scheduled or ad-hoc direct-to-consumer, live audio/video visits.
As I mentioned above, workflows are the key ingredients to telehealth success. If the quality of the workflows is poor, no policies, no technology can make up for it and the telehealth experience will be poor for physicians and patients.
Here are 8 of the key telehealth workflows that you have to define and optimize for maximum performance:
TeleScheduling — scheduling an televisit (including ad hoc)
TeleOnboarding — preparing the patient for their first televisit
TeleRooming — preparing the patient for the imminent televisit
TeleVisit — connecting the physician and the patient.
TeleFollowup — post-visit activities a few weeks out
TelehealthBilling — proper coding, charging and getting paid
TelehealthPreapproval — ensuring compliance with the latest policy & reimbursement rules
Especially given the mass adoption we’ve experienced in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, Telehealth is still a new and novel way to deliver care to many. While care delivery is oftentimes uniquely tailored to the preferences of the physician, there are certain protocols (or policies) that each organization must establish to ensure consistent high-quality care and excellent patient outcomes.
Here are 6 of the key telehealth policies that every organization must define and implement:
Webside Manners — how clinicians can best and most effectively present themselves
Patient Safety — best practices to ensure (and if necessary restore) the safety of the patients
Informed Consent — required by many states and, if executed well, in general a good idea
Physician Licensure — while covid exceptions lifted some reinforcement, proper licensure must still be followed
Clinical Guidelines — ideally developed by clinicians for clinicians to objectively decide which patients are suitable for which care modality
Billing, Co-Pay — a policy that will need to remain flexible for the next two years as the rules and regulations will constantly change.
Last and least, there are a number of technologies that, when integrated with the workflows and supported by the policies, will create a superb experience for the patients and the clinicians.
Here are the key technologies that you need to select and/or configure carefully so they can be in support of your workflow:
Video Visit Hardware — HD webcam with good autofocus, speaker, microphone, headphones
Video Visit Environment — lightning, 2 or 3 separate monitors, proper background, etc.
Video Visit Software — solution to connect clinicians and patients via live audio/video
Christian Milaster optimizes Telehealth Services for health systems and physician practices as Interim Telehealth Program Director. Christian is the Founder and President of Ingenium Digital Health Advisors where he and his expert consortium partner with healthcare leaders to enable the delivery of extraordinary care.
Contact Christian by phone or text at 657-464-3648, via email, or video chat.
Christian Milaster optimizes Telehealth Services for health systems and physician practices as the interim Telehealth Program Director. He serves as a Digital Health & Telehealth Advisor to startups and established Health IT firms.
Christian is a Master Builder of Digital Health and Telehealth Programs and the Founder and President of Ingenium Digital Health Advisors, a boutique consultancy focused on enabling the effective delivery of extraordinary care through workflow optimization and the judicious use of technology.
Born, raised, and educated as an Engineer in Germany, Christian started his career at IBM Global Services before joining the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he worked for 12 years in various roles before launching Ingenium in 2012.