What Are the Essential Components of an Enterprise Telemedicine Platform?
An enterprise telemedicine platform should assist health systems in achieving some of the strategic goals they’ve set for their organizations. While a telemedicine solution should enable an organization to conduct virtual consults, it should go beyond the basics to empower health systems to optimize organizational and clinical outcomes.
Healthcare executives who have immersed themselves in telemedicine strategy know that success lies beyond some of the obvious components such as clinicians and audio/video capabilities. While carts, cameras, physicians, and EMR compatibility/integration are important, critical success factors need to include cross-departmental buy-in, implementation, scalability and, most importantly, measurable outcomes. Focusing on operational tactics alone can lead to underperformance against expectations.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform is More Than Technology
An enterprise telemedicine platform should offer a specific set of characteristics to ensure success. Adam Cohen, VP of Growth Development at SOC Telemed (SOC), assists healthcare organizations in realizing their strategic goals through telemedicine. Cohen leverages expertise gained in the launch of SOC’s industry-leading telemedicine platform, Telemed IQ, to share the essential components of an enterprise telemedicine program.
“We aren’t just discussing technology—a telemedicine platform is a comprehensive telemedicine solution, including clinicians, where the practice helps drive technology development and direct operations,” says Cohen.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform Should Optimize Outcomes
Initial telemedicine programs were defined as any sort of audio or video technology that facilitated connections between patients and off-site clinicians. Success was measured solely on the quality of connectivity. The requirements have changed dramatically and telemedicine now needs to influence clinical, operational and financial outcomes. Telemedicine platforms must contemplate a variety of choices in real time using business principles, hospital requirements, and advanced algorithms:
- Who are the available clinicians?
- Are they appropriate for the case?
- Does the clinician have privileges at that location?
- Does the hospital prioritize using staff before outsourced clinicians?
- Do these priorities change depending on the time of day?
An enterprise telemedicine platform goes beyond mere connectivity to actually influence certain variables throughout an organization to improve clinical outcomes. It should also drive operational efficiencies and optimize financial investment.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform Should Drive Clinical Quality
Hospitals or health systems that employ a telemedicine platform should be able to trust that the service and technology will enable the highest quality clinical performance.
For this, an enterprise telemedicine platform should be backed by tried and perfected workflows and telemedicine best practices that standardize care delivery encounter to encounter and across locations. The platform should also be elevated by the marketplace leadership and medical expertise of the provider. Proof points include Joint Commission Accreditation, a robust and documented clinical quality process, and clinical leadership with expertise in both specialty practice AND telemedicine.
Clinical quality is driven by data insights; an enterprise telemedicine platform should enable healthcare organizations to pursue evidence-based clinical protocols with robust reporting, analytics, and benchmarking.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform Should Be Scalable
Telemedicine is not a one size fits all model. An enterprise telemedicine platform should meet health systems where they are on their telemedicine journey and then mature with them over time without requiring operational changes and technology overhauls. A telemedicine solution that is scalable means that clinical use cases, physician staffing, and operational and financial priorities change over time. Both the vendor and the system must be dynamic enough to adjust with changes in strategy and still drive the outcomes needed.
“A platform should support a growing program and take on new volumes and other challenges without being hamstrung by poor design or economics that are rendered obsolete by growth,” explains Cohen.
From the entire infrastructure to the technology used to manage operations and access to capable and credentialed clinicians, a genuinely scalable technology platform should promote (rather than hinder) the growth of a user’s telemedicine program. If well-designed and supported, the addition of new locations, facilities, departments, specialties or clinicians should be seamless instead of a significant operational undertaking.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform Should Be Flexible
A telemedicine platform should serve to facilitate, complement and enhance an organization’s existing program; not dictate its parameters. SOC believes that no two telemedicine programs are alike; hence, the technology should be flexible enough to support a hospital’s individual service lines and unique workflows.
For the technology to be flexible, its build should be seamless, enabling an organization to choose how they need and/or want to be organized. Should a hospital wish to request a consult by calling it in, the technology should support call-in consult request. Perhaps they want EMR integration or to use any web-enabled device to request consults. A flexible system can provide these options, supporting customizable telemedicine programs specific to an organization’s needs.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform Should Innovate
An enterprise telemedicine platform should be backed by a partner who invests heavily in innovation to deliver improvements to its partners continually. A great partner shares these innovations with its customers at no additional cost instead of charging for every iteration, or not investing in advancements at all.
When an organization chooses to implement a telemedicine program, there can be considerable investment in time, money and resources: staffing, technology, training and management. Staff may need to be hired, technology purchased, and time spent on training and management. So, what happens five years down the road when the technology is already outdated? Should the organization have to reinvest in updating these systems?
No. To continue to propel telemedicine to the forefront of general medicine, SOC believes it is the responsibility of technology providers to invest in the future of the industry at large. How? By continually providing next-gen solutions—software and hardware—that empower medical providers to push beyond the limits of how telemedicine is used today.
An Enterprise Telemedicine Platform Should Be Hardware-Agnostic
Focusing on hardware in the telemedicine conversation is a mistake. With the rate of hardware obsolescence so high, a telemedicine platform tethered to a specific piece of hardware is a risky investment. SOC believes that a platform should provide hospitals the ability to deliver remote care however they choose. A platform should offer users the freedom to conduct telemedicine using carts, monitors, tablets and/or smartphones, without pigeonholing them to a single hardware or brand.
This untethering from a specific delivery device allows for more freedom than ever before. For example, a recent emergency situation occurred when severe hurricane flooding prohibited hospitalists from getting to a North Carolina hospital while the number of patients more than doubled the day immediately after impact. By using a telemedicine cart already on site, SOC quickly stood up a temporary telemedicine delivery program that expedited remote acute care during this natural disaster.
While telemedicine is quickly advancing the way programs are evaluated and designed, many vendors are lagging behind. Healthcare decision makers need to educate themselves on the components discussed above. Organizations must reorient their consideration of telemedicine or be at risk of losing out on the benefits: better clinical outcomes, increased patient access, and an improved bottom line.
If you are interested in learning more about our enterprise telemedicine platform, Telemed IQ, contact us for a working session with your organization to discuss your telemedicine objectives and see how we can help.