Telehealth may SLOW outpatient revenue and patient access in the post COVID-19 era??

In the past year, telehealth has proven an invaluable tool for maximizing patient access. Telehealth claims have grown nearly 3000% in the past year. Virtual visits, in particular, have been a saving grace for patients and providers alike during the pandemic.    

What happens post COVID-19? How will we effectively balance in-person with virtual visits while keeping our schedules full?

We know to stand out and win patient loyalty in the long term, providers must continue to offer telehealth services, including virtual visits, to meet the demand post-Covid.  

As visit volumes continue to grow to pre COVID-19 era levels, however, there will be little room for inefficiencies in scheduling and completing a blend of telehealth and in person services.

Effective strategic and operational integration with virtual services will be critical.

Without an intentional, well-coordinated integration strategy, telehealth programs could inadvertently create barriers to patient access resulting in reduced capacity, volume and revenue. 

An effective telehealth program strategy should optimize effective financial and operational performance while balancing patient demand and provider preferences.

Here are 3 steps for continued outpatient growth in the post COVID-19 era: 

  1. Define the scope of services offered virtually versus in person and how that scope may change over time as your needs and capabilities change.

    Consider which specialties, types of service and locations are telehealth priorities for you and your communities. Start there and expand or modify scope over time.

    Facilitate equity in health accessibility through telehealth for the underserved and rural populations.

  2. Optimize provider schedules to maximize both patient accessibility and provider productivity by aligning patient demand with organizational goals and provider preferences.

    Gather provider input and preferences to define models that support productivity, quality and efficiency at the group, specialty, or department level.

    Incorporate clear and consistent schedules for virtual versus in person visits with inherent flexibility to accommodate provider preferences.

    Implement standardization and consistency to drive efficiency and productivity, while allowing for provider level flexibility to enhance satisfaction and wellbeing.
  3. Maximize the investment made in telehealth technology while supporting efficient staffing models.

    Staff for the ideal process, not just for the technology you invested in, and…

    Challenge the technology providers to offer automated solutions to repetitive, expensive to staff processes. (Staffing the virtual waiting room? Educating patients on how to download and use the app? There are technical solutions for these issues.)

To explore how Intersect Health Systems can help you optimize your telehealth program for patient access and productivity, contact us today. 

By Dalia Haroune

Dalia Haroune is President at Intersect Healthcare Systems and is passionate about improving prevention, early intervention and access to high quality care through physician strategy, alignment, and telehealth services. For over 20 years, she’s helped health care organizations achieve their financial, strategic and quality goals. Dalia earned a Master in Health Administration from Washington University and a Bachelor of Science in Cell Biology from the University of Illinois.

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