The future of virtual care: How to establish a telehealth plan of action

Telehealth has experienced unprecedented growth as the COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare providers globally to reimagine the way they treat patients. Before the pandemic, policy barriers inhibited the widespread use of telehealth, but a relaxation of those policies at the start of the pandemic ushered in the mass adoption of virtual care platforms, and many of these new care models are expected to continue well into the future. 

Such rapid growth may lead hospitals and healthcare system leaders to feel unsure of how to best leverage telehealth technology moving forward. During a June 24 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Pulsara, telehealth platform experts discussed how healthcare providers can be ready to face the future of telehealth.

The speakers were:

  •       James T. Woodson, MD, founder and CEO, Pulsara

  •       Tim Hakamaki, senior vice president of product, Pulsara

 Here are five strategies they discussed: 

  1. Provide staff with standardized training on telehealth processes. Right now, there is no single method or industry standard on how to train healthcare staff on scheduling, documentation and billing processes. Establishing a comprehensive plan to ensure all staff members understand the virtual care model allows for improved efficiency and HIPAA compliance.

  2. Increase interoperability. The patient care journey can often involve several different care teams. Pulsara's telehealth platform creates a single patient channel where clinicians can build their healthcare team on the fly. By implementing what Dr. Woodson calls "flexible interactions between organizations," hospitals and healthcare systems can improve their efficiency and alleviate confusion among patients.

  3. Ensure your telehealth platform streamlines workflows. Hospitals and health systems should examine their telehealth programs to ensure it includes all necessary events for claims generation, dynamic team creation and documentation. They should also perform regular quality assurance and improvement checks, and track all relevant events after a patient's telehealth appointment within the platform and send all data to the EHR. "The workflows in a telehealth system should be designed in such a way that simply providing the telehealth should support the necessary events for claims generation and processes," said Mr. Hakamaki. 

  4. Prioritize HIPAA compliance. The HIPAA requirements HHS waived during the pandemic will likely be reinstated. It's imperative that hospital and healthcare systems use software built for clinical settings to maintain HIPAA compliance. Telehealth platforms like Pulsara are designed to track virtual visit time stamps, locations, durations and clinicians involved to balance security and usability. Healthcare providers should also sign a HIPAA business associate agreement, obtain advanced security certificates, enable end-to-end encryption and only allow authorized users to access personal health records.

  5. Allow for flexibility. Healthcare providers should establish multiple secure ways to communicate synchronously and asynchronously and be able to easily add team members, such as translators, to events. They also should always be tracking their telehealth program's operations and use an analytics-driven approach to maximize telehealth revenue and billable encounters.

To learn more about Pulsara, click here. To listen to the full webinar, click here.

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