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Wednesday, November 29, 2023
HomeHealthcareTelemedicineThe Hidden Complexities of Telehealth at Scale: Clinicians & Clinical Operations

The Hidden Complexities of Telehealth at Scale: Clinicians & Clinical Operations

By Guy Friedman, CEO, SteadyMD

A big misconception in telehealth is the assumption that companies can hire a doctor and immediately start seeing patients virtually across the country. To get to that point, it’s far more costly and complex than most realize. To launch these services effectively, a digital health company must be able to deploy clinicians who are fully licensed to practice in the state where the patient is located, armed with the right technology to yield a quality experience for both the clinician and the patient. What many who embark on launching telemedicine services will realize is that they don’t have the resources or expertise necessary to accurately forecast demand and plan clinical capacity at the right levels to streamline clinical operations at scale and build their own telehealth service.

This is why the opportunity for digital health companies and traditional healthcare organizations to outsource their virtual care needs has become such a crucial consideration. As someone who has experienced and overcome the full gamut of telehealth obstacles and challenges firsthand, I feel compelled to share the often overlooked complexities that lie within the process.

Hiring, Licensing, Onboarding & Managing Clinicians Across States

Most digital health companies share the same core goal as traditional brick and mortar healthcare organizations: increase quality and access to care for as many patients in as many places as possible. However, most companies that are new to telehealth don’t realize how complicated it is to recruit, license, onboard, and deploy the clinician workforce necessary to service multiple states.

Step 1: Recruit qualified clinicians who are fully licensed to practice in your respective state(s) OR be willing to cross-license said clinicians yourself, which can take anywhere from a few months to a year or longer (and $1,000’s in fees). Overall, telehealth providers are looking at a 2 to 3 year regulatory process and a multi-million dollar investment to create this clinician workforce across all states in which they want to serve — a process which is peppered with complicated, extensive regulatory work that varies from state to state.

Step 2: Ensure each state-level forecast is matched to the licensure of the clinicians you’ve onboarded, while also load balancing the supply and demand at the state, day-of-week, and time-of-day levels. This requires optimizing your clinical workforce across hourly, full-time, part-time, and on-demand contractors.

Step 3: Maintain a team to manage the many nuances of this clinical operation, including hiring, ongoing oversight, and continued training — all of which will cost your company a great deal of time and resources that could be better spent refining and growing your core product or service.

Implementing Scalable Clinical Operations & Ongoing Oversight

Like most businesses, any organization hoping to build out its telemedicine offerings often has ambitious growth goals and will jump into action when there is an opportunity for expansion. The question those who’ve opted to build out their telehealth service on their own must ask themselves then becomes: “Can the systems we created scale quickly enough to meet that increased demand?”

This is where some healthcare companies choose to partner with telehealth infrastructure experts to set themselves up for scalable success right from the start. The ability to essentially pull a lever and unlock the capacity to meet any rising demand from new patients, clinicians, and contracts is invaluable. Scaling patient care requires the continued adaptation and revision of telehealth practice protocols to match the ever-evolving legal and regulatory changes of the industry. In order for anyone offering telehealth services to expand into more states (or nationwide), they must be aware of the regulatory requirements and clinical protocols outlined in each state, which is difficult to do without a large investment in legal and regulatory resources.

Suffice it to say, it’s important that organizations hoping to offer telemedicine consider the best use of their resources when it comes to building out their clinician workforce vs. buying into an existing network of trusted clinicians. More than ever before, people are turning to telehealth solutions for their healthcare needs, and countless healthcare providers across the entire care spectrum are urgently looking to add virtual care services to their practices in order to meet this rapidly rising demand. The good news is, there are resources available to make it possible for organizations to launch and scale robust telehealth offerings quickly and seamlessly without having to do all of the heavy lifting internally.

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