It’s often not economically viable for a health system to employ specialists for every conceivable condition in every care delivery environment.
In fact, many healthcare systems have generalists staffing community-based health clinics and urgent care facilities while frequently leveraging telehealth to provide in-house specialty services to their outreach clinics.
But what happens when the health system doesn’t have the necessary specialist capacity to address the needs of the patients who need care in these ambulatory care environments? Most will look to partner with a third-party provider that has the resources for the needed specialty.
And why not? This strategy will fill the healthcare system’s gap in care capacity while maintaining the relationship with their patients. This should be a no-brainer, right? Well, not exactly.
Implementation Challenges: Resources, Scheduling and Access
The first challenge healthcare systems experience when trying to implement this type of partnership for care delivery is resource management and scheduling. The clinician in organization A doesn’t have access or visibility into the availability of appropriate clinical resources in organization B.
At times, a system will invest in transfer centers to bridge the gap between each organization’s care coordination solutions. This transfer-center approach adds program expense and could take more time to access the needed expertise but may be effective in reaching the appropriate, available specialists.
Now comes the next challenge: access to the patient’s electronic health record (EHR) and/or relevant image studies. Partner organizations may not use the same EHRs, and even if they do, they usually do not have access to the referring system’s EHR.
Having the ability to see the relevant patient information at the time of a consultation is necessary to deliver high quality care. And, updating the patient’s EHR after the remote encounter is critical for continuity of care, as the patient progresses on his/her care pathway.
How Things Are Changing
Thanks to health system demand and the ensuing push for data integration standards – health data interoperability has become essential for successful telehealth implementations.
Leading telehealth companies understand that no one company can address all needs in the market. As a result, they design solutions that work with solutions from other health IT and telehealth vendors to create smooth, coordinated provider experiences and share the data needed for quality, connected healthcare.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.