Telemedicine bridges the specialty services gap experienced by rural providers. With telemedicine capabilities, health care providers in rural locations can consult with medical specialist using the Intranet, Internet and real-time video technology. More than 3,000 patients in the Wabash Valley have benefited from these services, and Critical Access Hospitals implementing telemedicine services have been able to demonstrate an improvement in hospital-based efficiencies, enhancing timeliness and quality of care.
Is Telemedicine Right for my Facility?
A strategic operational structure helps ensure the success of telemedicine services. Planning for this structure should consider the unique issues and culture of the organization. Key issues to consider include:
1. Where will the telemedicine services be based?
a. A centralized telemedicine department/service area that schedules, implements, and monitors programming.
b. Individual departments with independent management systems and resources.
c. Combination (equipment dispersed throughout the organization with centralized
d. scheduling and monitoring
2. Who will head telemedicine services?
a. Specialized and/or dedicated staff
b. Dispersed responsibility as part of various position accountabilities
3. What resources will be necessary for the telemedicine program?
a. Technical infrastructure support
c. Scheduling and monitoring systems
e. Human resources
4. What structures need to be developed and/or revised?
a. Policies and procedures
b. Protocols for various applications
c. Credentialing and privileging
d. Cultural modeling (i.e. leadership enforcement of telemedicine utilization)
e. Training and competency documentation
f. Compliance with accrediting and licensing agencies
5. What business and financial planning needs to take place?
a. Strategic planning
b. Revenue streams
c. Return on investment
6. What other part of your organization may telemedicine affect?
7. What issues will the telemedicine create? (i.e. fear of competition by local providers)
Evaluating Effectiveness of Telemedicine Programs
Evaluating effectiveness will be different for each organization, department, and program. An evaluation needs to focus on a specific set of outcome measures chosen by leadership. These outcome measures may include: health outcomes (disease management), cost outcomes (return on investment), patient and provider satisfaction (utilization, perceptions), health systems delivery (workflow, referral patterns), and/or policy issues (regulatory requirements, reimbursement).
How May I Learn More?
Contact Stephanie Laws at the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health to learn more about Telemedicine and how it may help your organization to meet its mission.
Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health
Phone - (812) 238-7439
“Telemedicine has allowed our patients to receive the care they need right here in Sullivan, IN. In our current challenging economic times, the more dollars we are able to retain locally the better off our community will be.”
- Michelle Smith, CEO