older man on a telehealth appointment
The benefits are too big to miss
by Ty Bello

What are the essentials of strong telehealth and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for the post-acute care industry? What benefits must providers look for, and how should a telehealth platform and ERP platform be integrated together?   

In a June 2021 article in HomeCare, I discussed the benefits of telehealth for the complex rehab industry. But providers from across the post-acute care industry—including home health, hospice, home medical equipment, complex rehab, infusion therapy and occupational, speech and physical therapy—are all investigating opportunities to adopt telehealth.

Consider your own health care consumer journey. It wasn’t all that long ago that you made appointments with your physician or other care professionals via a landline phone and received appointment reminders the same way. Today, patients can (and do) interface with medical providers via text, cellphone, email and web-based portals. The advances in this arena have been tremendous over a short period of time. Today, telehealth has the same potential for speedy development and adoption, especially since the COVID-19 public health emergency has increased the creation and execution of technology.

At press time, national association sources have shared that members in both the House and Senate have said that discussions about telehealth policy are taking place and that telehealth remains a priority on the Hill. Legislation is expected soon, but there is nothing definitive yet. The Expanded Telehealth Access Act (HR 2168) is still on the table; this legislation authorizes physical and occupational therapists as practitioners for telehealth beyond the public health emergency.

Features & Benefits of Telehealth

The evolution of telehealth is unfolding before our eyes. The benefits vary slightly among post-acute providers but are generally centered around the patient and those charged with care. A telehealth platform should maximize patient interaction and the impact of care. Features must produce benefits for both provider and patient. Providers can use telehealth for assessments, evaluations, followups, compliance and education.

As you consider a telehealth platform for your organization, review its capacity to provide remote scheduling for appointments. Today, the scheduling of appointments is predominantly handled by providers, but as telehealth expands into home health, physical therapy, speech therapy, ocupationtal therapy and more, the need for patients to be able to self schedule will become a reality. If the platform you are looking at does not offer this option today, ensure that it can expand in the future.

There must also be support for low bandwidth and slow internet. The ability to work from a mobile hot spot or a dial-up connection in rural areas is critical. The platform should demonstrate these capabilities, but the provider must also qualify both the patient’s bandwidth and internet connection before any telehealth call to avoid care issues.

The post-acute space should also be able to store some level of patient history. This will be an advantage for those who are seeing a patient multiple times for therapy and treatment management.

Integrate Telehealth With Your ERP

Having the ability to integrate telehealth with an ERP system will produce additional long-term benefits to the provider, patient and payer source. Some of these benefits include reduced health care costs, increased speed of diagnosis and treatment, increased patient compliance, reduced readmissions and increased communication along the continuum of care. The practicality of this sort of ERP and telehealth integration seems like a natural progression. The combination of these workflows will also impact patient satisfaction.

This integration would give clinical staff a patient engagement framework in which information gathered would integrate seamlessly back into the ERP. The ERP workflow would then take hold of this interaction and carry it through the workflow process.

The post-acute care industry does not currently share enough about its process with referral sources. Telehealth is something new that providers can offer in tandem with direct patient care. This is valuable information to share with referrers. As your team of sales professionals engage the referral community, remind them about the second phase of sales: partnering with the referral community for improved outcomes. The fact that homecare providers can offer telehealth is a differentiator for those who have already adopted this patient communication platform.

But providers need to do more than just inform partners that they are providing telehealth. Because some may see it as just the latest buzzword in post-acute care, a referral source may dismiss your efforts. Sales professionals who know the process can speak to how telehealth actually benefits the patient and their family and how the referral source will capture market share. Do not put yourself in the “me-too” box of providers. Educate and train your sales team to truly understand the nuances of integrated telehealth and how it makes a difference in patients’ lives.

Select the right telehealth platform to integrate with your ERP. Then, make sure the referral community has a clear understanding of the capabilities and how this will impact the referral process and patients’ lives.

Ty Bello, RCC, is the president and founder of Team@Work, LLC. He is an author, communicator and registered coach. Contact Bello at ty@teamatworkcoaching.com or visit teamatworkcoaching.com.