Can Telemedicine be a Revenue Driver for Your Community Hospital?

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To save you the time of having to read anymore, the simple answer is yes. However, if you want to learn how, I encourage you to keep reading.

Since, the term telemedicine is so broad, let’s narrow it down for the purpose of this post. The type of telemedicine referred to in this article is represented by live two-way video communications, where the patient’s validated real-time diagnostic data can be collected.

Examples would include:

  • A patient in an emergency room with stroke like symptoms seeing a tele-neurologist
  • An urban based cardiologist following up with their patient who is located in a rural clinic
  • A family practitioner evaluating a patient in their home with the help of a traveling nurse

These models are best represented by the types of hospital based telemedicine practices in use today.

Historically, the profitability of a telemedicine service line varies greatly. Large tertiary health systems have generated the highest revenues by offering partner hospitals low or no cost technology with 24-7 specialist access. The tertiary system’s goal is to receive the highest acuity patients in transfer to their facility. A single patient could easily represent more than $100,000 for their continuum of care.

This model is in contrast to the many hundreds of rural and community based hospitals that have invested in telemedicine technologies through grants, gifts or capital purchases. Unfortunately, these investments have not seen the ROI of their larger competitors. In fact, many smaller hospitals have multiple different types of telemedicine systems lying dormant in closets and hallways throughout their facilities. These telemedicine systems are akin to the treadmill that functions more as a clothing rack than a source of regular exercise.

The reason so many telemedicine systems sit unused today is multifactorial and include:

  • A poor understanding of the complexities of integrating a telemedicine practice with that of a traditional practice model (IT, billing, scheduling, etc.)
  • The value proposition and experience for the patient was not properly assessed
  • Access to available clinicians to provide telemedicine services was limited

There are five keys to success for creating a financially viable telemedicine program. These include:

  1. Identify and understand the value propositions for all of the stakeholders involved in the telemedicine program (patient, provider, IT, partner hospital etc.)
  2. Find a model where the ROI is sustainable without a grant or gift
  3. Find and recruit internal champions, especially amongst physicians
  4. Create a model that mimics your traditional clinic model as much as possible (same EHR, scheduling, billing, etc.)
  5. Do not be afraid to bring in physician resources from outside of your existing provider base

Being sensitive to these five points will go a long in developing a self-sustaining telemedicine program. It will also provide you with a foundation for a scalable model as additional service lines are added.

This is the first in a series of posts to help you create, grow or enhance your telemedicine infrastructure. Follow us on social media or reach out directly to learn more on how we can help achieve your telemedicine strategic goals.

Rural Healthcare Growth through Telemedicine - Infographic

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