It's an undisputed fact that a strong hospital medicine program improves continuity of care and benefits your hospital, patients, medical staff, and community. However, physician shortages and increased costs — particularly in smaller facilities and remote areas — sometimes make implementing such a program nearly impossible.

That's where telemedicine can play an important role. It is ideally suited for small-to-medium-sized facilities with an average daily census of fewer than 60 patients.

This innovative care delivery model, administered by a telehospitalist, allows hospitals to provide more cost-effective hospital medicine services and offer an end-to-end solution for seamless care coordination while maintaining care quality, documentation compliance, and patient satisfaction.

That's a mouthful, but, simply stated, the telemedicine approach makes it possible for smaller facilities to supply quality diagnostic and treatment services in a more cost-efficient, timely manner while still providing personalized patient care.

How a Telemedicine/Telehospitalist Service Works

Thoroughly vetted, board-certified physicians provide telehospitalist services remotely with an approved technology device in a dedicated, compliant, secure space at home. (We should note that Schumacher telehospitalists must be board-certified in internal medicine, have at least two years of experience, be licensed in every state they’re supporting, and credentialed at every facility in which they’re working.)

A typical telehospitalist is assigned three to five facility sites from their home “hub” — an ideal number for optimum patient engagement and high-quality care. By collaborating with on-site nurses and other medical staff, the telehospitalist can take floor calls, ED calls, handle admissions, and provide virtually the same physical exam as performed at the bedside.

They can see the patient, give a brief admission note, and start the plan of care immediately, so no time is wasted. Plus, the growing familiarity with two-way video interactions, such as Skype and FaceTime, mean patients are growing more accepting of this form of communication.

Different from an on-call model, the telehospitalist is a nocturnist, working overnight shifts exclusively, reducing burnout within the HM staff. Typically, nursing and support staff are more comfortable contacting a dedicated nocturnist rather than a provider who may have worked multiple shifts and is now away from the hospital on-call.

Benefits to Your Hospital Medicine Program

With this understanding, it should be apparent a telemedicine program can benefit smaller hospitals in a variety of ways, including:

Recruiting - Because the telehospitalist works from home and is not required to relocate, recruiting and filling much-needed positions becomes easier. The home-based care model also simplifies scheduling and reduces staffing costs.

Provider Retention - Not only does the telehospitalist service make recruiting easier, but it also reduces burnout, enhances work-life balance, and increases provider retention. With younger physicians more reluctant to work overnight shifts, this proves to be a real advantage.

Balance - Telehospitalists provide backup for surges and support, better utilization of resources, and improved coverage models that balance demand and capacity.

Care Coordination - Round-the-clock provider access for admissions, discharges, and quality audits helps reduce LOS with expedited admission times, timely patient discharges, and improved care quality.

Patient Experience - Immediate access to a hospitalist and ability to remain in the community for care improves patient satisfaction.

Strategic Alignment - Distribution of provider services to the locations with the highest need allows patients to be cared for locally versus being transferred to a distant facility, delivering positive community impact.

Conclusion

Telemedicine is the next frontier in leveraging technology to extend quality care to patients. From initial market evaluation to service implementation, Schumacher Clinical Partners can help clients establish or accelerate telemedicine services for optimal business success.

If implementing a telemedicine program is of interest to you, let us know. We are quickly expanding our telemedicine services and can help identify if this program offering is a good fit for you based on your growth, cost and quality goals.

Thinking you may want to learn more about telehealth and how it's changing the industry? Our consulting team can show you how telehealth initiatives are accelerating business success, and develop a customized strategy using a proprietary Telemedicine Maturity Model that measures your readiness to implement telemedicine services.

As one of our lead telehospitalist providers recently stated, “The interaction between on-site providers and the Telehospitalist is a perfect blend of what a hybrid program should be. It's smooth and easy just like any other classic Hospitalist program. The feedback from patients is a mixture of excitement and surprise initially, and as the interaction progresses, that of comfort and appreciation.”