The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting healthcare systems and the way they operate. Adjustments need to be made to treat patients during this crisis without exposing them to the disease.
The most effective transition for your healthcare operations currently is to transition to telehealth services. It is a process to make that transition, but it is a doable process, as both Aspire Counseling Services and Psychiatric Wellness Center have discovered. Both healthcare organizations made the transition to telehealth services during this crisis and are effectively treating patients.
The first step to transitioning to telehealth services is to determine a solution for hosting your tele services.
One of the first things you need to keep in mind is HIPPA compliancy. Currently, there is no mandate in place for HIPPA compliancy for telehealth services, so healthcare facilities could use Skype or Facetime and services like that. However, the industry shift to telehealth services is being expedited due to this crisis and HIPPA mandated regulations are sure to be implemented soon. That is why it makes sense to use a hosting service that already offers HIPPA compliancy. It also reassures your patients that your organization cares about their privacy and takes secure measures with their healthcare records. Some HIPPA compliant services include Zoom and Alleva.
Once you have chosen your tele host services, you need to obtain the equipment needed to access the software.
Laptops and tablets must be acquired for all employees that will be providing the services. The software will need to be installed and set-up on all devices. Your staff will need to undergo training on proper use of the software and how to use it effectively and efficiently. The training should include a complete review of your telehealth program policies and procedures.
You will need to develop a telehealth program policy that includes clinical, technical, and administrative guidelines for treating patients.
The legal guidelines for your state need to be addressed, as well as best practices. Some basic protocols and rules should be put into place, including condition to be treated using telemedicine, guidelines for diagnosing, documentation needed to properly assess patient’s condition, parameters for when condition may be treated, and guidelines for prescribing. The policy manual should also address how to inform patients of the process and protocols including confidentiality, prescribing, and coordinating care. It should also address dedicated space and uninterrupted audio/visual rules for healthcare providers to follow during telehealth visits. A contingency plan should be included for emergencies, including potential contacts for local emergency medical services or mobile psychiatric evaluation teams.
So now that you are all ready to treat patients through telehealth services, you need to inform your patients of the new services available.
There are a variety of ways you could accomplish this step. You could use an email blast if your office was effective in obtaining updated emails from your patients during their visits. You could simply place a pop-up banner on your website informing them of the process. If you have a presence on social media, postings on there can be effective. Media advertising is another option for reaching out. Calling all your patients, especially those who had previously scheduled appointments, would also keep them informed. The most effective way to let all your patients know about the change is probably a combination of all the above processes.
Once you are up and running providing telehealth services, you will want to monitor the process for needed improvements.
Feedback from patients should be sought, so you can be sure you are meeting their needs and expectations. Staff should provide feedback on what is working well and areas that need improvement. Adjustments will need to be made to increase efficiency and effectiveness. This will be an ongoing process that is extremely important, especially during the initial stages.
The transition to telehealth services has been occurring in the healthcare industry, but with the current pandemic crisis it has now become a necessary way of conducting business. It may seem like an overwhelming change for your organization, but now is the time to embrace that change. Follow the above steps and you will make the transition effectively, just as Aspire Counseling Services and Psychiatric Wellness Center have. For more information on how to maintain relevance in these trying times, turn to Genesis Medical Management.
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