The Ultimate Guide To Setting Up A Telemedicine Business
Integrating telemedicine within your medical practice gives you unmatched flexibility. Recent statistics show that a total of 22% of physicians have already used telehealth to see patients, up 340% from 2015. By 2022, between 340,000 and 590,000 physicians are expected to be using telehealth services.
While telemedicine is surely going to be a huge part of the future of healthcare, the prospect of setting up a telemedicine platform can seem daunting for many healthcare practitioners. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.
How to get started on telemedicine? What level of technical prowess do you need to have? How to integrate it within your clinical workflow? What legal and regulatory requirements do you need to follow? How does insurance and reimbursement work out?
We are going to cover all this and more to help you successfully integrate telemedicine within your practice and seamlessly transition into virtual care.
Define the goals firsthand
Having clearly defined goals and objectives before starting your telemedicine practice sets you up for success right from the start. What exactly are you looking to accomplish by setting up your telemedicine business? What purpose does telemedicine solve in the bigger picture?
The benefits of telemedicine are multifold. Increase in revenue, improved flexibility, improving patient satisfaction levels, increasing the geographical reach and reducing wait-times and no shows are all worthwhile goals to pursue. Defining the goals from the outset helps set up measurable KPIs to determine how successful your transition to telehealth is.
Decide between existing market solutions and custom telehealth platform
There are a number of telehealth solutions available in the market for you to choose from. However, having a custom building a telemedicine platform ensures that the software ticks all the right boxes for your practice.
Since it is designed specifically for your requirements, you can have your healthcare development partner incorporate features to overcome your unique challenges, rather than relying on generic prefabricated platforms. Whether you want to have a solution that seamlessly integrates with your existing EMR system or want a standalone platform, custom development offers you all the flexibility that you need.
Telemedicine platforms include both, the real-time video conferencing solutions as well as store and forward telemedicine solutions. Majority of the commercially available telehealth solutions only cater to the real-time telemedicine. If you plan on including custom features such as specialist referrals or storage and transmission of medical data, custom built telemedicine solutions are the way forward.
When looking for a partner to develop a telemedicine platform, it is best to keep the following in mind.
- Ease of operability for both patients and the providers
- Intuitive user interface design for low learning curve and enhanced user experience
- PHI safety and compliance to HIPAA regulations
Another advantage of having a custom built telemedicine solution is that it can be designed to integrate with your existing clinical workflow. Your processes do not need to be given an overhaul when you adopt telemedicine for your medical practice.
Determine the service utilization plan
How does telemedicine fit into the bigger picture? Do telemedicine visits completely take over your conventional practice or do you have specific time-zones for telemedicine consultations?
Since there is no predefined blueprint for telemedicine adoption, there are no wrong answers here. You can tailor an approach that meets your unique requirements and come up with a telemedicine utilization plan customized to your needs.
You can use telemedicine to offer consultations during the time when your clinic is primarily unavailable. Conversely, you can also block off certain periods of time during the normal schedule to offer only telemedicine consultations. You can decide to go all the way and focus solely on telemedicine visits or limit its usage only for follow-up consultations. The choice is completely in your hands.
Involve your staff early on
Healthcare facilities seldom function in silos. If you are planning to transition to virtual care on a full time or part time basis, staff involvement is mandatory. Having the team by your side during the initial phase can turn out to be a great resource when defining the program. Staff that is involved in the setup stage is much more likely to be invested in its success.
Train your team member to transition to a virtual setup to ensure a satisfactory experience for your patients while guaranteeing seamless operations internally. Your team members should have the skills and knowledge for troubleshooting and resolving the commonly occurring issues that may potentially arise.
Research the state policy for practicing telemedicine
State laws, payer policies and reimbursement rules for telemedicine vary greatly from one state to another. In the absence of a uniform national policy for telehealth, individual state parity laws need to be taken into consideration when setting up a telemedicine business.
According to Elizabeth Westbrook, government relations advisor at the law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, “Healthcare and health IT are regulated, not just by the federal government, but by state governments as well.Not only can state laws vary wildly, but many states have licensure laws that actually prohibit or at least hinder healthcare delivery across state lines where clinicians have not attained certain credentials or corporate structures have not been appropriately established. So anyone looking to launch a telehealth business needs to consider the laws of the location(s) in which they will launch and whether their business will be tenable in more than one state.”
Cross state licensure is another crucial aspect of telemedicine that you need to consider. Almost all states in the US require the practitioner to be licensed within the state before that can cater to the residents of that state. So if you are planning to offer your services across the state borders, knowledgeable of the regulatory requirements is an absolute necessity.
The legislations for streamlining healthcare delivery through telemedicine are also underway. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act is designed to expand telehealth services by removing geographic barriers and expanding the list of telehealth-eligible providers. The Telehealth Enhancement Act will promote not only Medicare but also other federal telecommunications programs through expanded telemedicine coverage.
Read about the insurance and reimbursement rules
How do I get paid for telemedicine visits? Would telehealth consultations be covered under the patient’s insurance? These are some of the common questions that plague healthcare providers thinking of launching a telemedicine business.
Just like the regulations, insurance company policies also vary from state to state. The regulatory and reimbursement landscape is constantly evolving and with the coronavirus pandemic having driven telemedicine to the mainstream, a number of initiatives by CMS, medicaid as well as private insurers to get telemedicine visits covered under health insurance are underway.
Stay on top on privacy and security considerations
Healthcare data is subject to stringent privacy and security protections. If your telemedicine platform collects, stores and transmits protected health information (PHI) in any form, you need to ensure that you stay compliant to the HIPAA law.
Encryption of data, choosing a HIPAA compliant cloud service provider to host patient data, signing BAAs (business associate agreements) with all partners are some of the things you must do to stay compliant under HIPAA. Choosing a healthcare development firm that is well versed in HIPAA regulations and follows the best practices to ensure safety of PHI is the way forward when developing a telehealth portal for your practice.
Don’t miss out on the marketing
Unless your patients know that availing telemedicine services is an option for them, they won’t choose that option. Marketing and raising awareness about your telemedicine business is something that health practitioners usually miss out on.
Leverage the potential of multiple marketing channels to maximise your reach. While word of mouth marketing may spread organically, digital marketing can prove to bring in great response. Announce the launch of your telemedicine platform on your website, blog and social media channels to make sure that the message reaches your patients, both existing as well as the future ones.
Collect the feedback and implement it in your practice
Gathering feedback from the patients as well as the employee is an opportunity to let you improve upon your services, ensure patient engagement and employee satisfaction. Insights obtained from both these groups can be implemented into your telemedicine workflow.
Don’t forget to measure your progress against the goals you had set up in the beginning of starting your telemedicine journey. As management guru Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured, gets managed”. Knowing how far you’ve come on your journey will help in continuing what you’re doing right and improve upon the things you may be getting wrong the first time.
Need help in choosing the right development partner for your telehealth offering?
The technology partner that you pick can accelerate your chances of success. Relevant experience in the field of healthcare software development is a must. Additionally, they should be mindful of compliance and regulatory requirements in the field of healthcare. Focus on user experience and level of support during and after the development of your telemedicine platform is also something that you need to consider.
With 9+ years of experience in developing custom healthcare solutions across a range of segments and numerous success stories in the portfolio, Arkenea checks all the boxes you should be looking for when choosing a development partner for your telemedicine business.
Ready to talk about your development requirements? Contact us for a free consultation today.