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Posted by: Experity
Woman walks into an urgent care center—or maybe she doesn’t. In the 21st century, seeing a doctor is as easy as logging into a website at a predetermined time and communicating one-on-one with a medical practitioner trained in telemedicine.
For many urgent cares, finding new ways to meet patients’ needs keeps them relevant and successful in a very dynamic industry. This entrepreneurial attitude is one of the hallmarks of the urgent care industry. With constant movement towards new ways of delivering care, many clinics are now considering incorporating telemedicine into their business.
Telemedicine isn’t really new, but it is more readily available to the general public than ever before. Once the domain of astronauts and patients with extraordinary needs, it’s becoming a more common—and convenient—way for patients to visit with their doctor.
5 Critical Steps to Take Before Incorporating Telemedicine into Your Urgent Care
If you’re thinking about taking the leap into telemedicine, follow these five critical steps to ensure your success.
Step 1 – What is your motivation for doing telemedicine?
The telemedicine services you provide to your patients (and/or your market) should be tied to the reason you’re offering telemedicine in the first place.
The term telemedicine includes a very broad range of services, but there are generally three types of telemedicine strategies: Store and forward; remote monitoring; and real-time clinical telemedicine. For urgent care clinics, real-time telemedicine is by far the most commonly practiced services. Once you get clear on your motivation, it’s easier to choose the telemedicine services that make the most sense for your business.
Often called synchronous telehealth, real-time telehealth involves two-way live interaction between a patient and provider usually via secure video. It’s a virtual healthcare alternative to an in-person visit. This is primarily what people envision when they think of telemedicine.
Real-time telemedicine is an opportunity for urgent cares to expand their services in a variety of situations.
Once patients try real-time telehealth visits, they may decide to make it their first choice when it makes sense for their medical care.
Store and Forward
Store and forward telemedicine is all about data and sharing information. Not often regarded as “telemedicine,” these solutions have become integrated into the current healthcare landscape allowing various providers to work together to come up with the best care plan for patients. When used in the context of a telemed visit, these solutions allow various healthcare service providers to share medical data like lab results, images, and records with other providers at different locations through the use of secure platforms—all in real time.
One of the biggest benefits of store and forward telemedicine is efficiency. Since providers can access information at different times from different places and still work together, the time from the initial visit through diagnosis and treatment is quicker and patients have access to a whole team of doctors working together to get the best possible outcome.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Although not particularly relevant to urgent care providers except in special cases such as occupational medicine, remote patient monitoring is a telemed service worth mentioning.
In the past, monitoring patients meant a stay in the hospital or frequent visits to a clinic to check on vital signs or progress. With remote patient monitoring, and the participation of the patient, providers can now track important data like blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Many remote patient monitoring solutions automatically update patient data and send it to primary care providers and specialists, giving doctors the ability to see warning signs and intervene if they see inconsistencies or potential medical problems.
Step 2 - Review your state laws for practicing telemedicine.
Not all states are created equal, at least where telemedicine is concerned. To make a good choice, learn more about the laws for practicing telemedicine in your state. The following questions are a good place to start.
It’s not surprising that some practitioners are reluctant to diagnose symptoms without actually seeing a patient. Before diving into telemedicine, it’s important to consider the legal restrictions and the malpractice ramifications that could affect your clinic.
Step 3 - Review your payer contracts.
As you consider a new telemedicine service, it’s essential that you take a good look at current payer contracts to be sure it’s a good financial choice for your business. Some contracts that have been in place may need to be renegotiated to include telemedicine. Begin with finding the answers to the following questions:
The answers you find will help you make good choices—not only about whether or not to launch a telemedicine practice, but also about how you will incorporate it into your current urgent care practice.
Step 4 - Choose a financial model.
With your current goals in mind, determine what financial model will best help you meet these goals. You may choose a combination of direct revenue from traditional payers if the legal restrictions in your state are friendly to telemedicine providers. This model will require a thorough review and possible revision of your claims processes. Check specific state guidelines and train staff to be certain you can meet all the requirements to ensure reimbursement.
Another option is to collect cash up front from telemed patients. This choice requires a thorough evaluation of the market and your competition. Research what other successful practices have done to make it work. Determine what your patients pay for this service and what you need to charge to make it worthwhile financially.
Step 5 - Choose a clinical champion (or two).
Once all the plans are in place, choose a champion to help get your telemedicine practice off the ground. Look for a respected, enthusiastic clinician with influence who can not only be the role model for other staff, but who can actively help you build your telemedicine practice. Get some additional support from an MA, nurse, technician, or other staff for the triage process.
Your clinical champions will be your on-site experts on not just the technology you use, but how to address patients electronically and how to approach the scope of the practice. Based on the type of services you provide and the vendor you choose, your clinical champions will help establish your workflow and train your personnel.
With the industry shift to delivering value-based healthcare in which the quality of outcomes means more to reimbursement than the quantity of encounters, telemedicine solutions may be one of the most effective routes to improving care in a few important ways: increasing access, effectiveness, and engagement. For the right urgent care clinic, telemed has the potential to change the game for patients and providers.
Experity provides integrated technology solutions to more than 4,000 on-demand healthcare practices, primary care clinics, diagnostic testing centers, and health systems nationwide. With a mission to power patient-centered care, the company’s complete suite of software and services includes EMR and PM, patient engagement, teleradiology, business intelligence, consulting, and billing solutions. Experity is a fast-paced, high-growth company with a single focus -- All urgent care. All the time. Visit experityhealth.com.
This blog article is a benefit of UCA's Corporate Support Partners (CSP) program. Thank you to Experity, a Diamond Level CSP.
Urgent Care Association
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