Since COVID-19 erupted in the spring, consumer adoption of telehealth has skyrocketed, from 11 percent in 2019 to 46 percent as of April 2020, and the numbers keep growing. Payers and providers alike have shifted from the need to ramp up telehealth service capabilities to meet consumer demand to preparing for and managing the second surge of COVID-19 cases already hitting certain areas of the country. For organizations that launched a solution early or embraced their existing telehealth solution as a lifeboat to survive the pandemic, it may be time to take a step back and assess your strategy to ensure your telehealth offering is able to support your organization for what is to come.
In an effort to help jumpstart the conversation, here are three key areas of opportunity we believe healthcare leaders can leverage to stay ahead of the continued market shifts.
Evolve from lessons learned
Opportunity: We recommend starting with a simple question that may have a complex answer: What lessons have you learned that can help prepare your organization to move forward?
As local governments and businesses are opening up around the country, we are seeing COVID-19 numbers rise. And, with school systems preparing for in-person schooling within the coming weeks, there’s a greater need for healthcare organizations to be hyper-aware of the impacts COVID-19’s second wave will have.
Solution: One potential area of growth we recommend pursuing is developing business and marketing plans to better integrate telehealth services with in-person visits - or other healthcare services such as labs and pharmacy - to create a more seamless patient experience. As noted by the CDC earlier this month, it is possible to simultaneously contract both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, and with flu season right around the corner, comes the need to incorporate follow up testing as part of your telehealth program. A hybrid model of care offers a level of comfort for those not 100 percent comfortable being onsite for their appointments and can help increase revenue streams by offering multiple touchpoints for receiving treatment.
Review your existing infrastructure
Opportunity: While you may have a great telehealth program in place, there is always room for improvement. What you should be considering is if your current technology infrastructure can support your organization’s goals as identified within the “lessons learned” phase?
Solution: It may be worth looking at how it connects with other technologies to both align other aspects of the patient experience and to market your telehealth solution over others to members or patients. Website access is often the easiest marketing tool to drive them towards your solution, but we also advocate for safeguarding downstream alignment with EHRs, scheduling tools for follow ups with labs, etc. The key is to ensure the functionality across the technology stack provides a consistent and positive user experience from start to finish to meet their expectations of your brand.
Optimize reimbursement for growth
Opportunity: CMS is continuing to lead the charge in regulatory changes that expand reimbursement for telehealth services. To encourage remote visits and reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure, we suggest leveraging additional revenue streams.
Solution: Consider your overall business structure and how telehealth fits in. Other “virtual” or “tele” services that were cost centers such as nurse lines could potentially be converted to “telemedicine” to reduce cost and increase revenue. Not only does this type of offering showcase a commitment to quality care that meets current market concerns, but also has the potential to increase revenue and drive patient loyalty.
Don’t lose sight of the long term
COVID-19 will continue to have an impact for the foreseeable future, but the key is for health systems to adapt and implement new, fresh ideas from learned experiences. As you review your existing business model and how your telehealth strategy fits, we can help devise a sound strategy to be more agile, flexible and support your organization as you navigate through uncharted territory.