Path Forward Blog
Healthcare Practices and Working from Home
How to be ONE Healthcare Practice in Many Places
Work-from-home mandates and the nearly overnight adoption of telehealth introduce new challenges for all sizes of healthcare practices.
- How can a practice operate both consistently and efficiently from many different login locations for the long-term?
- What should practices put in place to ensure the same professional, high-quality patient care experience every time?
The Work-from-Home Learning Curve
In our rush to social distance, we lowered the bar in terms of expectations. Patients, providers, and staff were all learning telehealth together, celebrating flawless login experiences, and rejoicing when both the audio and video worked! At first, the work-from-home interruptions were considered amusing. Thousands of viral videos, like this one of a newscaster’s poor wardrobe decision, are evidence of the work-from-home learning curve.
A Permanent Remote Practice Configuration
Telehealth is here to stay. Now, a couple of months in, and presumably, we have successfully addressed most of the issues. We’re all a lot savvier when it comes to telepresence in general. Now it’s time to raise the bar back to pre-COVID-19 expectations and establish a permanent remote care model that ensures continuity of high-quality patient care.
Here are three considerations for setting up your healthcare practice to work efficiently, whether your staff and providers are logging in from one location or 200 locations.
#1. Rotating Care Teams
We see many practices moving to a rotating clinic schedule. Essentially this means rotating the physicians who are in clinic on a given day. It seems simple, but there’s more planning involved than just creating a calendar of different clinic teams. Some practices we work with are preparing for this plan to be used in only cases of emergency or COVID-19 outbreak within their offices.
It’s important that on the days that teams are not in-clinic that they can be equally productive working from home. Proper equipment configuration and high-quality collaboration tools make it possible for a clinic team to see a day’s worth of patients when working from their respective homes.
Current business climate dictates that a remote model plan needs to be long-term, making it worthwhile to invest in the right collaboration tools and equipment:
- Instant Messaging: Consider a platform like Microsoft Teams that enables real-time messaging. This tool is helpful for quick interactions because it is faster than email and less disruptive than a phone conversation. Right now, several vendors are offering 3-6-month free trials of Microsoft Teams.
- Audio-Video Conferencing: For more comprehensive care team interactions, video conferencing is an excellent collaboration tool. Many practices we work with are using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Ring Central. Ring is also offering free trial subscriptions.
- Telehealth-enabled Equipment: The equipment configuration is simple but critical. The most secure option for working remotely is always to use a practice-provided device with the proper security settings. This is especially true for mobile equipment, including phones and laptops. In addition, it’s worthwhile to invest in providing multiple monitors for each care team member’s home office. Having at least two monitors, in addition to a laptop, enables more productive workflows. For example, allowing a provider to seamlessly flow between applications (EHR, imaging, pharmacy, etc.)
Even as the country moves through the phases for reopening, social distancing parameters are still in effect. Implementing a rotating care team model allows practices to operate while still reducing the number of people physically at a site on any given day.
#2. Seamless Telehealth
Practices know how to set up a patient-friendly and workflow efficient exam room, but how does that translate to a telehealth visit? Medical practices need to be able to maintain the same high-quality patient experience, regardless of the type of interaction with the patient.
We’re helping many of our clients convert exam rooms into permanent telehealth suites. Providers can seamlessly toggle between seeing patients in-person and via telehealth throughout the day. These spaces are set up for optimal efficiency, providing simultaneous access to EHR and telehealth platforms using multiple monitors, high-quality webcams and microphones while also ensuring privacy and reduced background noise.
#3 Tech Support for Patients
Recognizing that telehealth is going to be an integral part of the #comebackstronger strategy for practices across the U.S., we need to consider patient readiness. A significant number of patients will need additional support to be able to fully engage with telehealth.
As a solution, many practices are training individuals in their patient contact center or tapping into their IT teams to provide tech support for patients. In addition, we’re advising practices to publish clear instructions on their website. Providing easy to follow visual steps with screenshots seem to work best, and it saves time to share this information with patients before the scheduled visit.
It’s Not the Time to Test your Patients’ Patience
Millions of patients are ready to reschedule office visits and elective procedures. Now is a critical time for establishing trust in your practice’s ability to operate from multiple locations seamlessly. Being able to do this means optimizing how your staff and providers work from home and how they adjust between seeing patients in clinic and conducting an effective telehealth visit. The good news is we’re already through the initial decision to move to telehealth. Now it is time to make sure every patient experience is representative of the high-level of care your practice is known for.