October 22, 2020 | Eddie Stahl, MA, MXT, PC, BSAH

3 min read

Tips for Starting Telehealth in Hospital Employee Health Departments

We’ve seen hospital employee health (EH) programs adopt telehealth for good reason. Virtual technology enables safer, healthier workplaces that promote productivity and satisfaction. Hospital workers have specialized safety and health needs that can be fulfilled, in part, with telehealth. Before we talk about how to put a telehealth system into place, let’s first ask why.

Why are EH Departments Considering Telehealth?

Employee Health is charged with preserving the health and wellbeing of the hospital workforce that fulfill critical duties to ensure patient safety and desirable outcomes. The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged hospitals to care for patients and contain the spread of COVID-19 among patients and hospital employees. Therefore, telehealth has been playing roles in continuing critical health services without overwhelming hospitals and accelerating costs.      

Telehealth is faster and more cost-effective, sure, but isn’t in-person healthcare better? Until recently, there was little research on the efficacy of telehealth, but a recent study from Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO) sheds some light on the question. FOTO, a Net Health company, found that patients who used telehealth for rehab had equally good functional status outcomes and were equally satisfied with the care they received. The study also revealed that those who used telehealth averaged two to three fewer visits.1 These findings suggest that telehealth may produce the same results with more efficiency in a rehab context.

Earlier this year, Medicare eased restrictions on telehealth, which now makes implementation simpler and lowers the cost.2  Telehealth can help EH triage health workers’ needs on different levels of injury and illness and resolve milder cases more quickly. In addition, telehealth can address routine surveillance and compliance cost effectively while allowing time and resources for more serious or complex cases.3 As a result, EH departments can benefit from telehealth technology in the long-term by having more flexibility and speed.

How to Set Up a Telehealth System

Employee Health has always been on the frontline of hospital worker safety and wellbeing. With the renewed focus on healthy teams, it’s clearer than ever that it starts with a strong, agile employee health program. Here are three steps to setting up a telehealth system:

1. Create workflows that work for EH. 

Telehealth is different than face-face encounters, so it’s a good idea to develop workflows. Train staff that will be executing the telehealth encounters and do a run-through with them to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Also, document the process so the staff have something to refer to later.

2. Create or modify encounter types. 

Telehealth encounters may not correspond exactly with face-to-face visits. Therefore, EH directors may need to develop or modify encounter types, which make sense for the telehealth environment. For example, an EH may want to create an encounter type for a healthcare employee’s first use of telehealth. Then, there may be another encounter type for health workers with an established relationship to telehealth. Such organization of encounter types will help staff distinguish different types of encounters and help with reporting in the future.

3. Enable a videoconferencing system. 

For now, Medicare is allowing virtual platforms that don’t conform to HIPAA privacy regulations. For now, it’s fine to use common apps like Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. However, we expect this lenience to change, especially in light of security and privacy vulnerabilities of these platforms. Therefore, it makes sense for Employee Health to start with a HIPAA compliant platform. 

Net Health provides a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform with our Agility® software solution for Employee Health Departments.  A telehealth application combined with an employee health tracking system can save time and reduce costs. learn more about Net Health for Employee Health.

References

1. Net Health, “Groundbreaking Net Health Study Compares Telehealth Rehab Therapy with In-Clinic Visits,” September 22, 2020.

2. Lee V, “U.S. Health Care Is in Flux. Here’s What Employers Should Do,” June 15, 2020. 

3. Gavidia M, “Virtual Care Essential Among Employers, Healthcare Providers in Protecting Health, Well-Being,” April 13, 2020. 

 
 
 
 
 
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