If your behavioral health agency first launched telehealth in response to COVID-19, you may have created a rushed, bare-bones program to meet short-term needs. However, to maintain a successful telehealth program in a post-COVID world, you need a robust plan for your telehealth workflow.
Because telehealth appointments are a little different from normal, in-person visits, they require a different approach to ensure that both staff and clients have the best experience. This may include how the physical workspace is arranged, how appointments are made, and communications between providers and clients. The telehealth workflow should not disrupt the organization’s overall operations.
A telehealth workflow includes three phases:
The minute details of your telehealth workflow should be adapted to your telehealth platform and the unique needs of your agency and clients. In general, however, your workflow will include those three steps.
The pre-visit period for telehealth includes several components:
Your organization should first document your current clinical and administrative workflow to understand where telehealth fits in. This may include client training, appointment logistics, consent, troubleshooting, and billing.
You may want to get client feedback to better understand their needs and how telehealth could help them. Ask your clients about what times of day would work best for remote appointments, and whether they have any concerns that might prevent them from using telehealth.
Although HIPAA and other standards have been relaxed during the COVID-19 public health emergency, telehealth visits should follow all the same state and federal requirements as onsite visits. This includes fraud and abuse laws, privacy standards, and licensing requirements.
Staff must be adequately trained and prepared to set up telehealth visits. This includes an understanding of:
When developing a telehealth workflow, providers should conduct a few practice sessions with coworkers first. It may be a good idea to involve your telehealth solutions vendor so they can help identify and address areas of improvement. Practice runs will help refine the process before it is fully implemented, reducing frustrations and improving the experience for your staff and clients.
All clinicians and support staff who interact with clients during a telehealth visit should maintain the same professional standards as they would for in-person care.
Clients should feel that they are getting much the same experience through telehealth as they would onsite. Providers and staff can ensure this by:
At the start of the visit, providers or welcome staff should greet clients and identify themselves to the clients, especially if the visit is audio-only. Confirm the client’s identity and ask whether the client’s equipment is working properly.
Because on-screen communication styles may vary from in-person interactions, it is critical that providers follow best communication practices during a telehealth visit. During a telehealth call, make sure that you:
Providers can also ask their telehealth vendors if they provide training or materials on how to conduct a successful telehealth visit.
The telehealth visit should be documented like an in-person visit. However, the documentation should note that it was a telehealth visit. Be sure to include client consent, which may have been given verbally or signed and submitted electronically.
As you proceed with your telehealth program, be sure to collect data that will help you track any goals you have set for the program. Request feedback from team members and clients about the telehealth experience and how it may be improved. Continue to evaluate the program, identify areas that can be improved or adjusted, and determine what your telehealth program’s future will look like.
Depending on the goals of your telehealth program, it can take at least six months to show clinical results. Before then, it is important to observe other measures of success, such as staff and client satisfaction, client engagement, and reimbursements received.
After the COVID-19 public health emergency, many providers and clients will choose to keep and even expand their telehealth programs. The right partner can help ensure your telehealth program’s long-term success. Contact Streamline Healthcare Solutions today to get more information on how you can start implementing telehealth services.