Over the past 10 years, Eagle Telemedicine has seen dramatic change in the way the healthcare industry and the public accept what we do. Once viewed as something out of a sci-fi movie, the concept of telemedicine is as familiar to most people today as a Skype or Facetime call with a friend or loved one.
In previous posts, we’ve discussed the strategic challenges of gaining consensus among hospital leadership to start a telemedicine program. Part I and Part II covered hurdles such as the crisis-planning mindset and fear of change. In Part III, we address the tactical challenges involved in laying the foundation for a successful telemedicine program.
In this blog series, we’re outlining some of the major hurdles to starting a telemedicine program in the hospital setting. Part I dealt with the failure to see the strategic value of telemedicine, and how to overcome it. Here are four other strategic hurdles we have encountered in the quest to gain consensus at the medical staff and board level. Resistance comes in many forms—personal, political, institutional—but it can be overcome with a thorough understanding of telemedicine’s myriad benefits.
Many U.S. hospitals are realizing strong returns on their investments in telemedicine. Staffing gaps are filled, patient transfers are reduced, and Leapfrog scores as well as other metrics are on the uptick. And by the way, their staffing costs have gone down. Despite the success stories, other hospitals struggle, for a variety of reasons, over the question of whether to implement telemedicine. In this new series of blog posts, we’ll cover the strategic and tactical challenges that often arise when a hospital is considering a telemedicine program, and we’ll offer tips on how to meet them. In this first installment, we discuss some of the strategic challenges involved in making the case for telemedicine and encouraging its adoption by a hospital or health system.
Solid technology is the foundation of any successful telemedicine program, but there is another vital factor, of course: physicians. At Eagle, we hear a lot of praise for the ones who are part of our team, for their ability to make a personal connection with patients, families, and staff―no matter how great the geographical distance between them. That connection doesn’t happen by accident.
Telemedicine is a rewarding field to be in for many reasons. We make healthcare easier to access for patients and their families. We’re saving doctors from burnout. We help hospitals find a sustainable solution to complex challenges. It’s extremely gratifying to be part of an industry that does so much good. Take, for example, the recent upsurge in the number of rural county hospital leaders who raise legitimate concerns about patient transfers and don’t know how to stop the outflow, or “outmigration” as we’ve heard it referred to.
Telemedicine’s value to hospitals is demonstrated every day. In Emergency Departments (EDs), where stroke patients get the timely treatment they need in their local community hospitals without having to be transferred to a distant referral hospital. On the floor, where rounding stays on a timely schedule. In the boardroom, where examples of patient and staff satisfaction, as well as bottom-line benefits, are frequently heard. The ICU is another area where telemedicine is significantly changing how healthcare is delivered―for the better.
With our history of providing telemedicine services to hospitals for nearly a decade, it’s interesting to see the change in the industry, the growing acceptance of telemedicine by patients, providers and—slowly but surely—payers. It’s also interesting to observe the changes in how we talk about what we do. Ten years ago, we spent much of our time talking with hospital executives about why they needed us. Today, it’s more a question of when.
You’ve probably seen and heard the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” used interchangeably these days, both online and in conversation. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a physician or other healthcare professional or Jane or John Doe. The line between these terms is blurring. Nonetheless, there is a distinction.
Telemedicine’s acceptance among patients and providers is rapidly growing across the country. Many factors have made it possible: the quality and value of programs like Eagle’s, the dependable “always on” technology that can deliver physician expertise to hospitals anywhere, and the widespread acceptance of technological devices in our lives today. All these things have helped make telemedicine a sensible choice for more and more hospitals.