Telehealth as a Means of Keeping Care In-Network

Guest post by Lee Horner, president, Stratus Video

Lee Horner
Lee Horner

New applications of telehealth that enhance existing provider-to-provider communications are revealing a new way for healthcare organizations to ensure patient care remains in-network. As hospital M&A activity accelerates and organizations strive to glean the most value from their investments in technology and human resources, telehealth is recognized for its role in keeping communications and care in-network.

Telehealth is increasingly being leveraged to offer providers immediate in-network specialist expertise and to reduce ad hoc out-of-network referrals. These kinds of applications make the in-network choice convenient for providers and patients while driving increased patient engagement and more integrated care across the broader care team.

Providers are seeing that telehealth applications can be complementary – instead of disruptive – to their workflows and provide them with a new approach to practicing medicine via technology.

Immediate Communications with Colleagues

Video-based technology can help providers optimize their current workflows by facilitating faster and more flexible consults with on-demand access to in-network specialists. A provider’s network of experts can be built into the technology, which enables a provider to immediately reach the designated, first available specialist for answers. Instead of wasting valuable seconds and minutes looking for the names and contact information for specialists, providers can use telehealth to expedite provider-to-provider interactions which accomplish the critical objectives of doing what is both right and timely for the patient’s situation.

For example, a provider may be examining a patient and realize that the patient’s condition requires specialist expertise.  With telehealth, the provider can immediately reach out to an in-network specialist. The specialist accepts the virtual consult request, from anywhere and on any device. During the virtual consult, the specialist can evaluate the patient and communicate the appropriate next steps.  All stakeholders – the provider, the specialist, and the patient – benefit from the immediacy, efficiency, and effectiveness of a virtual consult conducted in real time.

The broader healthcare organization (whether a medical practice, a hospital, or a health system) will benefit from an increase in in-network referrals. By leveraging the organization’s network to drive better patient outcomes faster, providers can deliver lasting value for the healthcare organization and enhance its overall reputation.

Increased Patient Engagement

Technology can also help providers optimize their current follow-up processes and easily check in with patients after a hospital stay or outpatient procedure. Providers can use telehealth to offer patients appropriate follow-up care at their own home via video. This allows providers (or providers’ in-network resources) to reach out to patients based on those patients’ preferred contact methods (e.g., email or text) and languages (e.g., Spanish, German, etc.) to remind them of their upcoming video visits. The result is increased patient engagement in their ongoing treatment plan. Travel time, related transportation expenses and appointment no-shows are minimized due to this efficient method of follow-up care.

For example, a provider can facilitate a virtual visit with a patient to ensure understanding and adherence. During a virtual visit, the provider (or related in-network care team members) can evaluate the patient’s progress, answer questions in real time, provide patient education, and re-emphasize the treatment plan – all while the patient stays comfortably at home and the provider remains conveniently in the office. All stakeholders – the provider, the care management team members, and the patient – benefit from timely conversations which can drive better adherence and overall outcomes.

By using telehealth to remain in touch with discharged patients, providers can reinforce the mission and vision of the healthcare organization. Moreover, the broader healthcare organization will benefit from an increase in patient and provider satisfaction.

Enhanced Coordination of Care

Technology can help providers improve coordination across the overall care team. Providers can use telehealth to conduct real-time video conferences in order to drive team-based collaboration and integrated care. Providers are able to quickly connect all care team members – nurses, care coordinators, case managers – regardless of the various office or facility locations.

For example, a provider can initiate a video call with the care team members to discuss the patient’s transition of care from one care setting (e.g., hospital) to the next (e.g., skilled nursing facility). During the video conference, all team members can provide input and align on next steps for the patient’s care while minimizing travel time and costs. All stakeholders – the provider, the care team members, the facilities, and the patient – benefit from flexible conversations which focus on optimizing the patient’s care at every touchpoint.

The broader healthcare organization will benefit by being able to re-distribute staff around key transition points while reducing the need to rely on an external or supplemental workforce. Enhancing the continuum of care is important to healthcare organizations and providers as they can collectively benefit from ensuring that the standard of care supports their mission in serving patients and strengthens their respective reputations in the community.

Summary

As providers strive to be more patient-centric, telehealth can help them expand their reach and resonance within their patient community and their own network of healthcare colleagues, regardless of distance. By encouraging providers to leverage video-based communication methods, healthcare organizations can better meet their objectives to deliver timelier, more cost-effective, and more impactful care.

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