Telemedicine Staffing

Shifting to telemedicine to meet the demand of COVID-19 inquiries from anywhere

Virtual medicine is globally acknowledged for its remote capabilities that simultaneously provide safety precautions and timely advice.

By remotely connecting patients with physicians, nurses, medical specialists and other hospital staff, telemedicine is keeping the public safe from in-person exposure to COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

With scheduling software that provides real-time aid during medical emergencies and beyond, Intrigma drives efficiency by avoiding understaffing and overstaffing. This enables more patients to be seen efficiently and safely through focused care initiatives.

Covid-19 Telemedicine Solutions:

  • Generate open shifts and notify physicians, nurses, and medical support staff of changes in staffing needs.
  • Creating dedicated Covid-19 staffing units to deal with overflow.
  • Match projected patient volumes with provider efficiency metrics.
  • Enabling shift-splitting to promote flexibility in filling open shifts.
  • Credential tracking and management dashboards. 
  • Tracking overtime for future potential government reimbursement, and setting up specific pay structures for open shifts.
  • Work from centralized, real-time, mobile calendars to add and edit open shifts.
  • Integrate schedules into secure messaging systems, extending trust between users and medical facilities.

To learn more about customized Intrigma solutions, contact our Customer Support team to discuss your healthcare scheduling needs. If you would like to download our Free Scheduler

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Scheduling and the future of telemedicine

Scheduling and the future of telemedicine

Recently, telemedicine has grown rapidly thanks to advancements in technology and the strain of the recent pandemic. After an initial significant spike in virtual visits beginning in March of 2020, telemedicine now appears to be plateauing, inspiring speculation about the future of telemedicine.

The future of telemedicine

Telemedicine has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years, and more improvements are on the horizon to make life and care easier for both patients and providers.

Advancements in diagnostic technology

Now that major payors are recognizing and reimbursing telemedicine, major corporations are making investments to rapidly expand telemedicine and related benefits. Advancements in cellular phone technology are making so much more possible today, and have even translated into more mobile application-based telemedicine services.

Patients can already transmit physical findings via high-resolution photographs, record and transmit EKG strips, and check heart rate and pulse oximeter readings. Future application-based telemedicine services will likely expand on these at-home diagnostics.

Specifically, tools are already being developed that utilize cell phones and additional hardware to allow remote doctors to listen to heart and lung sounds, examine ear canals, and diagnose peripheral arterial disease. Patients can access these diagnostic tools at mobile health stations and obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Remote patient monitoring is also occurring in some health systems to reduce staff exposure to COVID-19. Live streaming and data collection from bedside monitoring systems let providers monitor multiple patients and determine when staff are needed at the bedside.

Further, it lets patients with minor symptoms remain at home. Home-based symptom monitoring allows the patient to enter their symptoms through an application-based monitoring portal. Any sign of decompensation by the patient triggers a phone call from a nurse, who will triage the patient and advise them on their next steps.

Expansion from acute to chronic care

Currently, a large percentage of telemedicine addresses acute issues. Patients see a virtual doctor to diagnose ear infections, coughs and minor injuries. While this is expected to continue, there is also a need for expansion for chronic disease management. Physicians are already addressing health concerns like hypertension, diabetes and autoimmune diseases in the virtual arena, but look for more of this in the near future.

Some major health systems are already developing hospital-at-home models, in which stable but chronically ill people can receive treatment at home for exacerbations that traditionally would have resulted in a hospital stay.

Improved reimbursement rates

Historically, reimbursement for telemedicine services has been low. Currently, 31 states have parity laws that mandate health insurers to pay for telemedicine services. Look for this number to expand. However, providers still find themselves with low reimbursement rates, and many insurers have not published their policies for reimbursement. This is evolving, with some of the larger insurers recognizing telehealth services and promising competitive rates.

Many changes have also been made in Medicare coverage restrictions as a result of the CARES Act in response to COVID-19 and the increased demand for telemedicine services. Previous barriers, like state line restrictions for providers and the need for a pre-existing patient-provider relationship, have been waived. Intrigma also offers credentialing management to help expedite the addition of new staff.

Telemedicine growth and the effect on your providers

Although telemedicine is shifting healthcare as we know it, the results have thus far proven positive for both patients and providers.

Remote care is safer care

Telemedicine creates a safe zone between the patient and the provider, so your providers no longer need to expose themselves to every virus and illness that afflicts their patients. Along the same line, if your provider is diagnosed with COVID-19, they can recover at home and still care for patients. This reduces losses in work time and compensation, and it reduces the spread of disease.

Appropriate use of resources

An estimated 75% of in-person visits, including expensive and time-consuming ER and urgent care visits, could be handled just as effectively by phone or virtual visit. If the ER is not overcrowded with patients seeking care for minor ailments, this resource can be more appropriately used for the sickest of patients. This, in turn, reduces healthcare spending and can increase volume for your providers. If patients utilize telemedicine instead of the ER, your providers offering virtual visits will be in greater demand.

Improving profit margins

With the shift to telemedicine, providers are questioning the need for expensive offices and support staff. Many providers are partnering with telemedicine platforms to streamline care. This can reduce time and financial losses due to late patients and patient no-shows. Generally, providers can see more patients via telemedicine than they can in person, so this increased volume combined with less overhead translates into a healthier bottom line.

Improved patient care and outcomes

Providers often find telemedicine benefits their patients. Especially in remote areas, patients may lack access to primary care and specialty services. Your telemedicine provider’s ability to connect with patients regardless of their location improves access and empowers providers to help more people.

Telemedicine and scheduling

Modern scheduling software can streamline telemedicine visit scheduling. Your scheduling software should be able to differentiate between in-person visits and virtual visits as well as minimize workflow disruptions. Additionally, you should be able to adjust staffing according to patient volumes and specify visit time slots to the visit type.

Intrigma’s Efficient Scheduler allows your providers to balance work and life. They can build their own schedules, change or swap shifts, access schedules remotely and for multiple sites, and fill open shifts quickly. The software reduces the amount of time spent building and revising schedules and tracking overtime, paid time off and vacation requests.

Intrigma’s solution can also help you track patient volumes and adjust staffing in real time to avoid costly overstaffing and frustrating understaffing. Additionally, providers who are working from home can request time slots that respect their family time but still let them be productive and care for patients.

Telemedicine is not just a trend, but a rapidly expanding medical technology that has become mainstream and is here to stay. As healthcare evolves, scheduling software must keep pace to ensure patient and provider satisfaction. To learn more about how Intrigma’s scheduling solutions can help your providers provide efficient telemedicine services, contact Intrigma today.

Telehealth versus Telemedicine and the role your scheduling software plays

The year 2020 brought telehealth and telemedicine to the forefront of healthcare. In fact, the latest estimates predict that virtual care visits will exceed one billion in 2020. While both have existed in some capacity for decades, the unique challenges faced in the healthcare industry this year have made the virtual healthcare environment more mainstream than ever before.

Many differences exist between telehealth and telemedicine, but both can be performed effectively while addressing the healthcare deficit, and high-performing scheduling software can help streamline the delivery of telemedicine and telehealth services.

What is the difference?

Telehealth is a broad term that refers to any medical support or communication provided to patients from a distance or in a remote capacity. This can include scheduling appointments, ordering prescription refills, making lab results available to patients and providing support for referrals. Telehealth is not a service but an attempt to improve patient care and communication between the patient and the provider’s office.

Examples of telehealth include patients’ ability to make an appointment online or directly message their provider’s office staff. If a patient has a question about a symptom, they can log into the patient portal and quickly send the office a message. Staff can then give a simple answer via the portal or direct the patient to make an appointment to be seen in person or virtually. Nurse on-call is another telehealth offering, where patients can chat with a nurse after hours for medical advice. Many telehealth offerings do not involve a medical provider at all (and therefore are not billable). In fact, many telehealth offerings do not even involve patients. Telehealth can also refer to services like staff training, continuing medical education and provider credentialing.

Telemedicine, on the other hand, is a service that is meant to provide individualized care to a patient through an encounter that is accomplished using audio and video support. The virtual appointment does not differ a lot from a face-to-face appointment. The provider and patient can still have a real-time conversation, the provider can evaluate the patient with some limited aspects of the physical exam and the patient has the chance to ask questions.

Telemedicine services are billable and are recognized by Medicare as a reimbursable service, as long as the service meets certain federal guidelines in regards to safety and quality. In many remote areas, telemedicine has increased access to healthcare providers that many patients would have gone without. Rural areas often have a shortage of specialists, and telemedicine is quickly making this less of a barrier to care for patients.

Key elements of telemedicine

It is important to realize that a telemedicine encounter must incorporate the same aspects of care as an in-person visit to be effective. Providers must still conduct a detailed history and review of systems. They must still perform and document a physical exam, although it may be somewhat limited by the patient’s remote location. Providers must also consider diagnosis and differential diagnoses, and then prescribe a treatment. Additionally, they are still responsible for patient education – if anything, it is more important in the virtual health encounter to spend time on education to ensure the patient understands the treatment plan.

All of this can be time-consuming, so providers’ schedules have to accommodate virtual visits. Many providers like a balance of in-person and virtual visits, so it is imperative that a scheduling software solution can differentiate the two and be flexible when assigning time blocks for appointments.

The effectiveness of many organizations’ scheduling software was recently put to the test during the COVID-19 crisis. Many medical services were canceled or delayed in an attempt to protect crucial healthcare resources and respect social distancing guidelines. As a result, this has created a healthcare deficit.

Those patient needs that were delayed did not just disappear, and now that some restrictions are being lifted, patients are trying to catch up with appointments and procedures. Many offices are finding themselves overwhelmed with requests for virtual appointments, prescription refills, orders for procedures and testing, and prior approvals. The last thing an office needs when demand is so high is a scheduling system that is not flexible and is difficult to use. If office staff is spending hours making changes to schedules, it is time for a change.

How can your scheduling software streamline the delivery of telemedicine?

First and foremost, your scheduling solution must meet the unique demands of your organization. Whether you are a small physician group, or a major health system with thousands of providers spread across multiple locations, Intrigma has scheduling software to meet your needs. Intrigma’s software is innovative, flexible and can be manipulated quickly if the needs of your organization change.

Intrigma customers found this scheduling technology and flexibility essential during COVID-19. When a surge in virtual visits occurred, that translated into understaffed clinics, overworked providers and less patient care. With Intrigma’s scheduling software, providers were able to swap shifts and pick up empty shifts efficiently to close the gap and provide patients with proper care. Additionally, providers who were working from home needed to have real-time access to the schedule without coming into the office, and Intrigma’s mobile app reminded them of shifts and important announcements so miscommunication was easily avoided. Having a scheduling software that does not support flexibility like this can put patients at risk and unnecessarily stress out providers.

Providers also find Intrigma easy to use and voice their satisfaction in being able to participate in building their own schedules while meeting patient needs – this is a big driver behind provider satisfaction.

Scheduling is complicated, and telehealth and telemedicine add more complexity. There are many details that need to be considered, and without innovative software, this task can be time-consuming and costly to the organization. Don’t let patients fall through the cracks and go without care because of scheduling glitches. If your organization is considering a change in scheduling software, the time is now. Patients depend on their healthcare experts, and experts need a scheduling solution that is dependable as well. Contact Intrigma to get started.