You already know the scenario: Healthcare costs continue to rise, consumer expectations continue to escalate and the physician shortage continues to grow. Meanwhile almost 75 percent of all doctor, urgent care and ER visits are either unnecessary or can be handled safely and effectively over the phone or video.1
Implementing telehealth is a smart strategy and one that could save millions of dollars while improving outcomes and boosting satisfaction. In fact, applying virtual health to ambulatory patient encounters is estimated to save more than $7 billion each year in physician time alone.2
With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that telehealth continues to gain favor among stakeholders across the care spectrum. But even the smartest strategy is only as strong as its execution.
Much time has been spent dissecting and reinventing healthcare delivery processes, but the fact is, that same careful examination and planning hasn’t gone into most virtual care processes. Across both payers and providers, it’s been a piecemeal approach at best.
So how do we ensure that the telehealth experience is as frictionless as possible for consumers, payers and providers alike—and lives up to the truly transformative idea it can be?
First, start with awareness
Before telehealth can take hold, we need to educate consumers. A recent survey found that 27 percent of consumers have never heard of virtual healthcare; another 36 percent have heard of it, but know nothing about it; and 32 percent know only a little.1 That same study also found that while 78 percent of consumers are open to virtual care services, only 21 percent have actually received health services virtually.
So it stands to reason that educating members on the virtual care resources available to them is a crucial first step in boosting utilization and success. As you examine the processes behind member outreach, consider:
- How, when and how often are members informed about telehealth options?
- What tools are in place to motivate them to use telehealth?
- What channels are available for them to use (phone, video, chat, email, text, mobile app)
These are all questions that must be thoroughly considered and thoughtfully executed.
Next, optimize processes
Once your members know telehealth is available to them, what steps should be taken to ensure it is the most efficient and satisfying interaction it could be?
As you examine your processes, consider everything from technology to training to personnel. For example:
- If a member calls your advice line, who (or what technology) answers the phone? What skills and training should that person have?
- What data about the member is available to aid in the call?
- What questions should be asked?
- How and when should the call be escalated to another colleague, such as a doctor or behavioral health professional?
Every question triggers its own process, and every process can add up to a well-executed, cost-effective consult or an expensive and frustrating member experience.
Finally, think through follow-up
Whether it’s in person, over the phone or online, patient care doesn’t end with a single encounter. Even for things like the flu or a rash, the best outcomes occur when there’s follow-through. But how do you go about it in the most efficient way possible? Do you schedule a follow-up appointment during the initial consultation? When, where and how does that follow-up take place? For example, can you send the member a text to remind them to pick up their prescription? Will you send the member an email with additional resources? Again, these processes should be planned and executed with the aid of technology, training, best practices and experience.
Don’t go it alone
Telehealth is here and it’s gaining ground every day, especially as consumer awareness grows and expectations increase. But the devil is in the details. At Carenet Health, we’re focused on defining and redefining best practices for exceptional healthcare consumer experiences. We’re applying data, technology, compassion and motivational conversation techniques to empower insight and action. And we’re leveraging 30 years of experience bringing the big picture into focus, without losing sight of the details.
Our innovative Virtual Clinic is all about simplifying the behind-the-scenes processes—a streamlining that delivers substantial cost-savings.
In fact, with the efficiency of our model, health plans can offer telehealth at no-cost to members, right now—which stands to increase utilization and significantly decrease non-urgent ER, urgent and primary care visits. Contact us today to set up a call with our CEO to discuss.
1. C2 Solutions. Is Telehealth becoming the new norm in patient care? Accessed March 2, 2019, at https://www.poweredbyc2.com/2015/06/11/is-telehealth-becoming-the-new-norm-in-patient-care/
2. Accenture. Voting for virtual health. Why 21st century consumers want more than 20th century healthcare. Accessed March 2, 2019, at https://www.accenture.com/t20171219T022421Z__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/PDF-43/Accenture-Health-Voting-for-Virtual-Health.pdf#zoom=50