The Essential Resource Guide to Hospital-Enabled Virtual Care | Clinician Champions, Team Structure, & Training - Part 3 of 5
Previous Blogs in this Series
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
– Mark Twain –
As your hospital considers telemedicine as a means to deliver expanded and convenient healthcare, it is important to gain an understanding of the key players in a virtual care program and the optimal team structure for successful implementation before moving forward.
In Part 3 of this series, we will address the importance of a clinical champion for your virtual care program and provide the key qualities and roles of a successful telehealth champion. Guided by research from AMA, we will also explore telehealth team structure, as well as the roles and responsibilities within a virtual care implementation team and telemedicine staff and care teams. We will conclude with a definitive array of best practices and training resources, answering questions such as:
- What should telehealth training include?
- What are the best telehealth training methods for implementation, or continued education?
- What educational resources, schools and programs are available telemedicine training?
Your Guide to Clinician Champions, Team Structure & Training
Who is your virtual care champion?
A telehealth or virtual care champion, sometimes known as the clinician champion, is the rudder that steers as well as the sail that propels virtual care implementation and improvement operations. Champions are enthusiastic individuals who promote and support your virtual care program. They wholeheartedly believe that a virtual care program will benefit the organization, improve patient care, and increase healthcare access for those who would otherwise not receive care. In a whitepaper by Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center, comprised of hospital surveys addressing identification and development of telehealth champions, one respondent commented,
“My experience has been that the clinical champion believes in the value of telemedicine for health care delivery. Having said that, the secret is to convince clinical staff that this is a win/win situation for both the patient and provider. Administration is ultimately responsible for thoughtful development and implementation of telemedicine services. If done properly, the clinical staff is engaged in an efficient and effective healthcare delivery model that benefits patients, providers and the organization as a whole.”
A champion will often reveal themselves during the initial phase of telehealth considerations by consistently pushing the need for a telehealth strategy. Sometimes telehealth champions develop over time, as Eugene Somphone, MD, says in the Healthcare IT News article, Telehealth heroes: meet the physician champions of video visits, “I was initially drawn into telemedicine, not by choice, but because our health plan decided to offer the service as an embedded benefit,” he said. “However, once I learned more, I immediately recognized the tremendous potential in terms of convenience, access and cost. I wanted to be on the forefront of this revolution in healthcare. “In either case, key champion characteristics are essentially the same, and a consistent theme that consistently draws in champions is seeing the immense value in improving patient health care delivery virtually.
9 Key Components of a Virtual Care Champion
- Energetic proponent for virtual care
- Persistent, forward thinker
- Respected leader with an ability to effectively engage clinical staff and executive team members
- Non-stop learner who is excited to educate others
- Driver of adoption and/or growth
- Driver of virtual care success metrics
- Mentor to staff and users
- Coordinator and communicator of virtual care needs between departments, including clinical staff, IT and management
- Wholehearted believer in the benefits of virtual care to patients and the organization
7 Key Roles of a Virtual Care Champion
- Works with key decision-makers to gain buy-in for virtual care initiatives
- Develops and maintains the virtual care program in alignment with the organizational strategy
- Upholds and educates staff on the core values of the telehealth program for the organization
- Networks with hospitals, clinics, other virtual care champions and telehealth support organizations to gain and share industry knowledge and resources
- Implements ongoing training sessions to empower staff and maximize program efficiency
- Regularly facilitates continuous improvement through discussions and feedback sessions with telehealth staff
- Analyzes performance and defines virtual care success metrics
Components of your Telehealth Teams
Implementation Team Structure
According to the AMA’s Telehealth Implementation Playbook, which includes a vast amount of helpful resources such as worksheets, guidance on team engagement, kickoff meeting agendas and more, telehealth strategies should organize their stakeholders into four distinct teams for implementation: core, leadership, advisory, and implementation.
Telehealth Staff & Care Team Roles & Responsibilities
During the implementation phase, you will want to carefully select the members of your care team. Though it is completely dependent on your hospital’s needs, according to AMA, care team and staff members for telehealth often include the following Telehealth Clinical Roles and Responsibilities:
- Navigates and conducts telehealth visits
- Is familiar with telehealth and suggests virtual care as an option to patients when appropriate
- Performs, documents, and bills for eVisits
- Conducts necessary follow-up care
- Nurse/Care Manager
- Is aware of the conditions that warrant a telehealth visit
- Educates and informs patients when an eVisit is an option
- Supports care management such as outreach, follow-ups, and coordination
- Coordinates with physician/provider when an eVisit patient is checked in
- Medical Assistant (MA) or Patient Care Tech (PCT)
- Supports patient troubleshooting pre-visit and during visit
- Supports nurse/care manager in setting telehealth visit expectations
- Supports nurse/care manager by coordinating with physician/provider when an eVisit patient is checked in
- Front Desk Staff/Scheduler
- Is familiar with telehealth and provides the option to patients when appropriate
- Schedules eVisit appointments on the physician/provider calendar per the appropriate protocol
- Sets financial expectations with the patient at the time of scheduling
- Project Manager
- Creates and runs KPI reports
- Monitors feedback
- Knowledgeable in all aspects of revenue
- Submits and reconciles explanation of benefits
Telemedicine Team Training
In Becker’s Health IT article, 10 Best Practices for Implementing Telemedicine in Hospitals, Shelley Palumbo, Chief Administrative Officer of the Center for Health and Technology at UC Davis Health System, says, "Training is a key component of a successful program." Ms. Palumbo expands on this further by saying, "Telehealth technology isn't that difficult to integrate, but it doesn't eliminate the need for training. Each of our practitioners goes through a hands-on program to learn how to use the equipment prior to seeing patients via telehealth. This enables practitioners to become comfortable with the video and audio components and discuss any remaining questions or concerns."
Training is essential for your staff and, more importantly, for the safety and satisfaction of your patients. Training should be provided to all staff members who are expected to participate in virtual visits, telehealth, or virtual waiting room engagements, including the telehealth coordinator, care team members, and technical, billing, coding, and compliance staff. Whether you are just getting started with implementing telehealth or virtual waiting rooms, or you are looking for resources to further educate and train your staff, there are a variety of resources available to help.
What should telehealth training include?
According to Exploring Critical Success for Telehealth Implementation, training should include a variety of the following:
- Referral protocols
- Equipment usage and troubleshooting
- Patient presentation techniques
- Coding and billing
- Medical records
- Patient consent
- Process flow
What training methods should be used?
According to the NRTRC, in their extensive white paper Telehealth Network Training, there are a variety of methods hospitals and clinics use to train their staff. Care facilities are encouraged explore several options and ultimately choose a method the staff is most responsive to and that proves to be most effective.
The following are a few examples provided in Telehealth Network Training:
- Connection Trials
- Site-to-site testing to ensure all staff is comfortable with the connection process, as well as ensuring the functional readiness of your network
- Staff Introductions
- Staff members should make test connections regularly, particularly with remote employees. This will allow the opportunity for staff to become acquainted with each other and to set expectations to ensure smooth encounters.
- Mock Encounters
- Staff should perform mock patient sessions, supervised by trainers and administrative staff, to evaluate efficacy. These trial runs provide administrators an opportunity to witness key elements of a virtual visit so they can revise or implement new protocols.
- Play Days
- Periods where staff can test and utilize new virtual care equipment. This relaxed environment builds familiarity with new products and can assist with identifying necessary process improvements prior to practice use.
- Auxiliary Equipment Testing
- To build familiarity with telehealth tools, have experts regularly demonstrate for your team how the auxiliary equipment works Site Visits
- If you have remote staff, consider site visits to see their operating conditions, share news, discuss and address environmental challenges, and strengthen communication. This is also a great opportunity to identify other training needs.
How often should training be held?
Training is a critical component to the health of your eVisit program. The frequency completely depends on your hospital’s needs, and it is the responsibility of the telehealth administration to decide the best schedule for training. If your program is experiencing a high turnover rate, frequent training may be necessary, perhaps weekly or even monthly. If you have a well-established, stable telemedicine program, quarterly or annual training may be suitable.
Sample Training Programs for Staff and Continued Education
Listed below are a few recommended options for telehealth training. You should also connect with your regional telehealth resource center HERE, who can help you identify training programs or find specific resources to suit your needs.
- Thomas Jefferson University Telehealth Facilitator Certificate - In this five-week online program designed by the National Academic Center for Telehealth at Thomas Jefferson University, you’ll be prepared in the role as a telehealth facilitator. You will learn how to:
- Facilitate conversation between patient and provider
- Manage the interface between doctor and patient and address all technical challenges that may arise
- Ensure a sound and successful, professional medico-legal, culturally sensitive experience for the patient
- Successfully facilitate, evaluate, and advocate for Telehealth
- The University of Arizona Telemedicine Training Program – In these one-day fast track courses accredited by the American Telemedicine Association and taught by national experts in virtual care and business of telemedicine, you will learn about developing a telemedicine program and telemedicine clinical applications.
- TRACK 1: Developing a Telemedicine Program content overview:
- Clinical services
- Telecommunications and infrastructure development/operations
- Distance education
- Business aspects
- TRACK 2: Telemedicine Applications Content Overview:
- Utilize telemedicine applications
- Create work plans for patients
- Create interdisciplinary teams
- Determine clinical settings
- Apply telemedicine in various clinical scenarios
- Implement payment policies for reimbursement
- Facilitate telehealth training for staff
- TRACK 1: Developing a Telemedicine Program content overview: