By Dr. Pat Quinlan, founder and CEO of Hippo Technologies
Over the past year, virtual care and telehealth have moved beyond an alternative care option to become a standard offering in many medical practices and hospitals. We have seen a 50% increase in the number of virtual health visits compared to 2019, new government policies are encouraging the expansion of virtualcare, and 90% of physicians say they have treated patients remotely. Below are the top 10 best practicesto help your facility expand or begin offering virtual care.
1. Establish clear goals
One of the most important first steps to setting up successful virtual care is to clearly define your program’s goals. With the pandemic, virtual health is quickly becoming the norm for patients and is projected to generate $29 billion in revenue.
Virtual care is helping reach patients from cities and rural communities around the world. It is breaking down barriers, decreasing costs, and allowing a greater number of people to obtain the healthcare that they need, where they need it, and when they need it. In addition to providing better continuity of careand access for patients, virtual care is also supporting combat medics in the field and first responders by connecting them with physicians and experts, no matter their location. Using virtual care provides a first-hand view of the scene and allows on-site medics to instantly send vital information to distant carefacilities.
Knowing where your care team’s strengths lie can help shape your virtual care service. Your strengths may even lie outside of the normal day-to-day routine, expanding to helping patients and medics across the globe.
Data security and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are terms that healthcare providers are very familiar with. How to ensure your facility remains compliant when providing virtual care can be new territory for many though. It’s important to make sure your virtual care partners stay up-to-date and take security as seriously as you do. Security certifications along with regular audits for data breaches help ensure access to patient data is restricted and confidential.
While virtual care is breaking down geographic barriers to access, providers have to keep local regulations in mind. Just as the US has HIPAA to ensure patient privacy, the EU has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires health businesses to meet universal standards to protect privacy and personal data. Failure to comply with any of these regulations can result in some hefty fines, so it’s vital that your staff and virtual care providers are familiar with them and take the necessary steps to remain compliant.
4. Clinical workflow
Implementing new technology in clinical settings can be challenging. New systems must be customizable enough to fit with existing practices, be quick to deploy, and focus on functionality and effectiveness. Forsuccessful adoption, virtual care needs to provide easy and timely access to information – all without interrupting day-to-day clinical routines and interactions with patients. Hippo Virtual Care has in-built clinical workflows designed by physicians, giving providers the ability to deliver a seamless careexperience equivalent to an in-person visit.
Ongoing training, system updates, and outdated technology can quickly drive up the cost of virtual care. That’s why it’s essential to consider usability from the outset. Ideally, virtual care tools and networks should be quick and easy to deploy with remote set-up, training, and ongoing support. User interfaces should be intuitive with a low learning curve for quick implementation. Hippo’s headsets and head-worn tablets have voice technology that was built with busy medical and emergency environments in mind, allowing the device to be accurate even in the loudest situations.
One of the biggest barriers to new care models is integrating them with existing systems. Consider whether your virtual care network can seamlessly integrate, or if you are looking for a whole new upgrade. Open APIs are another bonus, making products “future proof” by allowing the integration of third-party applications.
6. Understand reimbursement
Reimbursement for virtual care has been quickly changing over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the quick expansion of virtual care, and changes to legislation around reimbursement quickly followed. Currently, more than 43 states have statutes for commercial payers. While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stepped in to provide reimbursement during the pandemic, this legislation may not be permanent. The overall trend is looking positive though, as more and more states begin to recognize the benefits of virtual care to overcome barriers for patients and providers around the country.
7. Find the right partner
Virtual care and telehealth are quickly expanding and changing. Having the right partner by your side can be the key to success. The best partner will fit with your workflows, provide ongoing training and support for staff, and will be knowledgeable in reimbursement strategies. It’s also important to align yourself with someone who takes security as seriously as you do. With large fines and patient trust on the line, knowing your virtual care partner is going above and beyond for data protection can be a huge weight off your mind.
8. Device selection
With the quickly expanding demand for virtual care, head-mounted displays and smart glasses, once a thing of science-fiction, are finally finding their healthcare niche. These hands-free devices use voice commands and speech recognition, enabling physicians to focus on the patient without disrupting the examination or medical procedure. New versions also have a less obtrusive appearance, allowing formore natural interactions with patients and adding to providers’ and patients’ willingness to use the devices.
Virtual care devices expand beyond video conferencing, head-mounted displays, and smart glasses though. Technology is quickly filling in gaps to provide safer care environments with devices like Hippo Thermal Alert™. This device provides dual spectrum thermal imaging to deliver continuous, real-time, no-contact temperature monitoring, from up to 20 feet away.
9. Involve your staff
By far the best resource at any medical facility is your staff. To ensure the success of your new virtual careprogram, it’s a good idea to involve key staff members to make sure everything runs smoothly. A small task force can help you select the best partner and devices and get a new system up and running for quick deployment. They can also serve the crucial function of training and engaging other staff members.
10. Beyond telehealth
Virtual care extends beyond telehealth visits. One vital aspect of medicine is training medical students. Virtual care enables professors and medical professionals to easily connect with students across the country to gain first-hand, virtual, experience. Often, medical students are crowded together when observing patient care, which decreases the chances of having an optimal view. With virtual care, students can see from an expert’s point of view and even have the chance to see patient care settings that otherwise would be inaccessible to them.
Many medical devices today require extensive training. Often, providers will need to travel to conferences or training centers, an expensive endeavor and use of time that could otherwise have been spent caring for patients. Virtual training platforms let providers bridge this gap, allowing users to become experts through immersive virtual experiences. Often, initial training sessions can even be recorded and accessed at scale.
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