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How Can Hospital Systems Be More Telehealth Friendly?

By | Published Sep 13, 2021

Telehealth technologies have forever changed the way hospitals care for their patients. Hospital systems continue to innovate, becoming more telehealth friendly with equipment options that better serve their staff and the patients they care for.

Telehealth Today

Over the last couple of years, telehealth has shifted from a unique accommodation to a normal healthcare method. 2020 saw more than a 3,000 percent increase in telehealth services, covering more than 5 percent of all healthcare services. What was once a luxury in some hospital systems has now become an expectation among patients and providers alike.

Today, hospital systems provide a plethora of telehealth options to continue to meet the needs of patients in their care. Below we examine ways hospital systems can be more telehealth friendly and the equipment options to make those aspirations a reality.

Changes in Payment

Most hospitals are bound by legislation that affects how they’re reimbursed for the telehealth services they provide. In addition, many private insurances and some states’ Medicaid programs pay a significantly smaller reimbursement for telehealth visits versus physical visits.

This payment structure became a hot topic in 2020 when many hospital systems relied on telehealth services to continue patient care safely during the pandemic. Rural hospitals especially feel the burden of low telehealth reimbursements. Regulatory changes in telehealth reimbursement will need to be addressed to maintain the broad adoption of these services.

Equitable Access to Telehealth Services

For hospital systems to successfully implement telehealth services, they must know their patient demographics and ensure equitable access to virtual health services. In addition, hospitals need to account for patients with low literacy, lack of access to high-speed internet or a smartphone, and other barriers to receiving telehealth care.

These considerations are crucial for patients who require follow-up care or patients whose family needs to be informed of their treatment or status. Thus, telehealth services can potentially be a great healthcare equalizer: patients could receive quality healthcare regardless of their location. But for this to be true, hospital systems must be aware of patient needs and work to see equitable access to these services.

Safe, Smart Equipment for Physicians and Staff

A provider’s opinion of telehealthcare will be significantly influenced by the equipment their hospital provides. As hospital systems work toward a more telehealth-friendly culture, administration can make buying choices that optimize the provider’s telehealth experience.

Choosing safe, intelligently designed hospital carts benefits the doctors and nurses caring for patients within a system. In addition, ergonomically designed carts and monitor stations allow doctors to conduct telehealthcare comfortably, increasing the number of patients they can care for during their shift.

Additionally, quality telehealth equipment is shown to provide better patient outcomes. For example, mobile carts enable providers to promote patient engagement, improve data entry accuracy, and even reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

When cultivating a telehealth-friendly hospital culture, administrators should choose equipment designed with the user in mind. For example, Altus’s line of powered and non-powered carts are built deliberately to serve hospital staff. With sturdy construction to stand the test of time, these carts promote healthy posture and make data entry and retrieval fast and easy.

Incorporating Training for Virtual Care

Finding the right telehealth equipment is easy if you connect with the right distributors. But hospitals don’t simply implement telehealth initiatives as soon as the equipment is delivered. For many healthcare systems, training is a critical yet often overlooked component of successful telehealth delivery.

For Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health, a need for telehealth training prevented a system-wide adoption of virtual care. In response, they implemented training modules that boosted their virtual care from 200 visits per day to roughly 3,000 visits per day.

With proper training, hospitals can follow in the footsteps of Jefferson Health and increase the volume and efficacy of their virtual care. However, for hospital systems to become telehealth friendly, providers and staff alike need training that empowers them to use telehealth software and equipment to best serve those under their care.

Seamless Telehealth Integration

Hospital staff is more likely to adopt telehealth initiatives when the administration offers seamless integration within the current flow of patient care. For example, mapping clinical workflows incorporate telehealth into the current operations of a hospital system.

Workflow mapping provides a visual breakdown of how telehealth encounters will unfold within an organization. This strategy ensures every person involved in patient care knows how telehealth services will be offered, provided, and explained. In addition, creating workflows solidifies why a telehealth initiative is important for a hospital and empowers hospital staff to execute this care method effectively.

Encouraging a Culture Open to Change

Telemedicine and virtual health care are still new concepts to many patients and providers alike. However, hospital leadership can pave the way for a universal acceptance and implementation of this method of patient care.

When hospital systems encourage telehealth acceptance from the top-down, providers and patients reap the benefits of instant virtual care. Telehealth enables patients to receive more frequent care, increases their engagement, and access specialists who can better treat them.

Getting everyone within a system onboard promotes a telehealth-friendly atmosphere. In addition, providing proper training and effective equipment proves to providers that their system values a telehealth approach. This promotes system-wide adoption and results in better outcomes for everyone involved.

Conclusion

Telehealth has transformed the way providers care for patients. Industry-wide adoption of telehealth services means more patients have access to the healthcare they need to live life to its fullest. In addition, by providing doctors and hospital staff with quality telehealth equipment with smart design, hospital systems promote public health and innovate the patient care experience.

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