All too often I get heartbreak when I walk into a clinic and see a Telehealth unit just sitting unused in a corner so covered in dust that I can write my name. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see this is “what happened?” But as I think about it more, the question I should be asking is “what didn’t happen?” What critical steps in the planning process were forgotten? Did someone get stars in their eyes when a slick salesperson walked through the door? Does the health system have “buyer’s remorse”? The use of that equipment could save a life, could help a single mother get specialty care for her child with a disability, could save that elderly couple hundreds of dollars because they didn’t have to travel so far for an appointment, could save Medicare hundreds of thousands of dollars because that nursing home patient was treated in-house rather than being transported, it could do so much. But instead, there it sits, a collector of dust and discarded paperwork.
Let’s cut to the chase. Not everyone should have a Telehealth program for many different reasons. Maybe no one has done the homework needed to make an informed decision, maybe someone heard that a competitor was doing it, maybe someone took the leap without looking. Telehealth isn’t hard but it is something that requires a bit of thought and a bit of planning. So what are the 10 reasons you shouldn’t implement Telehealth?
1. You like shiny new objects.
Stop right there! The world of telehealth has exploded over the past few years with awesome tools, tricks, and software programs. And let me tell you…some of this stuff is really cool! But don’t jump into telehealth believing the hype that you need one of every new toy out there. Step into telehealth with the basics. Think of it like building a house: you need a solid foundation and can add to it later.
2. You are a one-man (or woman) show.
Depending on your situation, you may very well need a team to put together a highly successful telehealth program: think hospital systems or provider offices. If you work in a hospital or clinic setting, who are your stakeholders? Are there any nay-sayers who need convincing? Do you have a telehealth champion that can help pave the way for a successful program? Gather your troops, get a plan, then get moving!
3. What Timeline? What Goals?
Whoa! According to folks who lead thriving projects, you cannot start with a blank slate and keep it that way. Get messy! Write a project charter, develop a timeline of milestones, gather your stakeholders (see point #2). If you don’t know what you need to accomplish with your telehealth program, then how will you know if you are ever successful or if your program build-out has been completed?
4. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope this works.
Let’s get one thing straight. Telehealth is not a “build it and they will come” kind of a program. According to Patient Engagement HIT, those of us in the telehealth world have done a pitiful job of letting patients know what telehealth opportunities are available to them and how to access it. Get a marketing plan. Let folks know what’s available. Lead that horse to water!
5. You think you can’t get paid.
As Telehealth becomes an accepted healthcare delivery modality, the issue of insurance reimbursement is becoming less and less a factor. Are there still problems with reimbursement? Absolutely. Is it progressively (and quickly) getting better? It sure is! Several states have put policies in place that make it easier for providers to receive reimbursement. Do you know the rules in your state? Should you take action to help push for policy to make reimbursement easier or better? Do you have questions about the telehealth policies in your state? If that answer is yes, give me a call…. I’ll help you figure it out!
6. Let’s get a grant.
Ok, grants are fabulous, aren’t they? I can hardly think of a better way to get a program started than with a bunch of free(ish) money. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? But before you start pecking out a proposal on your keyboard, really think about it. A grant-funded program is sorta like getting a puppy for Christmas. It’s a commitment. You are taking money and promising a program. You’ve glammed up your proposal with elaborate plans for sustainability. So why do so many programs suddenly die once a grant ends? Just like that puppy you bought, it was cute and seemed like a great idea but then when it grew up, you decided the cuteness had worn off and it was just too much work. Stop wasting money! If you don’t mean it, don’t do it! (and please don’t get a puppy if you aren’t committed…but that’s a whole other conversation!)
7. I’ll make my providers use it.
Oh really? Have you ever been in a boardroom full of providers espousing their opinions on why or why not do something? Many medical schools have not done a very good job of training graduates to leverage telehealth in their practices. Some schools are beginning to adopt curriculum and training that includes telehealth and for that, I am thankful! But what about those who are already out there practicing medicine? How do you get a boardroom full of providers to adopt telehealth as a viable care delivery model? It usually takes one important thing: a trusted colleague who has done Telehealth and has survived. Doctors are data and outcomes-driven…show them a success. Prove to them that telehealth can be done easily and successfully.
8. Disruptive Technology is what we are going to implement.
Think about that statement for a minute. Go ahead, read it again. How does that make you feel? If you are Elon Musk that statement may make you drool. It means that we launch a new technology-enhanced service or invent new technology and put it into action. While that does sound nifty, how do you think your already-overwhelmed providers will feel? Most likely their patient schedules are full, they have a new EHR system being shoved down their throats, they can only spend 17-24 minutes with each patient (probably not even that much time!), and now you want to “disrupt” what they are doing? Telehealth should not be a disruptive technology. The only thing you are disrupting is an already oppressed workflow. Why not find a telehealth program that fits almost seamlessly into an existing workflow? GPT has built its entire product and service line around that philosophy. If you want providers to embrace telehealth remember two things: (1) train them; (2) don’t mess up their workflow.
9. I’m not ready.
I get this. You feel like you need more training. You can’t remember which button does what. You wipe the sweat from your brow every time that machine stares you in the eye. You were not cut out to be on the “big screen.” Stop making excuses and just do it. That’s right, just do it. You’ve been trained. You’ve got this. At some point you need to either do it or allow someone else to do it. You are wasting time and money when you have a defunct telehealth program.
10. Telehealth is for rich hospitals.
You are somewhat right. There are many very expensive telehealth options out there (see point #1). The truth is that everyone can afford telehealth. It should not be a major investment. It does, however, need to be a commitment. GPT specializes in catering to small rural hospitals, provider groups, skilled nursing facilities, schools, universities, correctional institutes, and county jails. We want to help you work within your budget to put together the most wonderful telehealth program you can imagine.
Let 2020 be your year to develop and implement a wonderful telehealth program. Don’t become stuck. Don’t let the 10 reasons you shouldn’t implement Telehealth get in your way. If you want to put together a successful program give us a call at GPT and let us help. Cheers!