5 Common Telemedicine Mistakes to Avoid

Telemedicine programs and services can be problematic to implement. Administrators and C-suite executives need to consider best practices and common mistakes to assist smooth integration of telemedicine into hospital functions and staff routines. Here are five common mistakes to avoid.

1. Isolated decision-making. Sometimes administrators or hospital decision-makers act in isolation. According to Herb Rogove, DO, FCCM, FACP, president and CEO of C3O Telemedicine in Ojai, Calif., isolated decision making can cause employee confusion and mistakes on the "front line" while administering care to patients. "Whenever I developed a new program as an onsite physician director, all areas that were impacted were at least knowledgeable about the program if not involved from the beginning," says Dr. Rogove. "Stakeholders should know why the program is being implemented, how it works, why their parts are important to its success, how it will benefit them and their patients and how to educate their staff," says Dr. Rogove. Sharing the key parts of the telemedicine process better enables the program to integrate with pre-existing processes in patient care delivery.

2. Lack of communication to hospital staff. If a hospital implements a telemedicine program and does not make staff fully aware of how it will change their daily routines, problems can arise. "When an onsite program has a problem, it is often traced back to poor communication for a 'new' program once it is implemented," says Dr. Rogove. It is important to make sure all the physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals are fully aware of the program including the start dates. "You never want to hear that no one told a staff member how the telemedicine would integrate their daily routines," says Dr. Rogove. "It is essential to communicate the details of the telemedicine program including access, the rules and what the telemedicine physicians will be doing."

3. Too many telemedicine programs, services. Starting with the basics, meaning one telemedicine service or program, is important for telemedicine success. According to Andrew Watson, MD, a surgeon and avid user of telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, beginning at a rudimentary level is a telemedicine best practice that should not be ignored. "It is important to make sure you have the correct connections and platforms in place, one program at a time." Do not try to implement videoconferencing for consultations, virtual exam rooms and virtual diagnostics at all at once; starting with just one will be more successful.

4. No trial runs. Similar to implementing too many services at once, scalability can be a problem with telemedicine if you do not test the technology. One program on a small scale may be successful but when it grows, problems occur. "Remain realistic with the telemedicine reach. You have to walk before you run," says Dr. Watson. "Start small and stay small until you are sure that you have the capabilities to scale to larger sizes." Every expansion of telemedicine services should be tested and re-tested with trial runs. The technology needs to be sound before wide scale implementation.

5. Overlooking technological constraints. Many times physicians and staff make basic mistakes using telemedicine technology. "It is important to remember simple utility limits to the equipment such as not pointing the camera at the window and putting mobile devices on standby," says Dr. Watson. Little mistakes can negatively alter the telemedicine experience for the patient.

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