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 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.
“I couldn’t do what I do without them.” That’s how one Nurse Practitioner (NP) at a critical-access hospital in rural Kansas sums up the backup support she gets from hospitalists in the Eagle Telemedicine program at her facility. Rebecca Carter, APRN, was a champion of the telemedicine program when it began at Anthony Medical Center (AMC) in Anthony, Kan., in January 2015. Today, nearly three years later, she is a stronger champion than ever.
When do you ever stop being a pioneer? As long as there are new frontiers to explore, you don’t. It’s the reason that nearly 10 years after we founded one of the first inpatient telemedicine companies, we’re still pioneering the industry: There are always new frontiers. Micro-hospitals, for example.
We’ve discussed in previous blog posts how changes in the provider population are creating opportunities for telemedicine. Because today’s dwindling supply of physicians places a greater premium on work-life balance than their forebears did, telemedicine answers a hospital’s ongoing challenge to provide consistent nighttime coverage. The patient population is also changing. And that means new opportunities for telemedicine, too.
When we entered the telemedicine field nine years ago, we knew we had a winner on our hands. What we couldn’t predict was how the field would evolve over the following decade.