Part 2 of 5: step-by-step business case & grant funding
Previous Blogs in this Series
As the health care industry faces historic financial losses and a recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital leaders must quickly identify value-focused initiatives and seek out the financial resources to fund them. While hospital project budgets are at risk of being cut, we can proactively look back at the last recession for gaps and where to invest.
The poignant words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. give humble guidance on where to reflect on the past to shape the future: “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
During the recession of 2007, shrinking household incomes were a key factor that contributed greatly to the strain on the healthcare system, and it was not until 2011 that the health care industry fully returned to its pre-recession values. Data suggests that many patients did not seek medically necessary care due to financial hardship. What is unique about our current state, is that this recession is a two-pronged issue. With a 13% unemployment rate and COVID-19, patients are not only affected financially, but also fearful of seeking care in the current hospital environment. The answer is increased access to care, and virtual care has proven to be the solution patients and hospitals are looking for.
Since its inception in 1897, “tele” health has been considered an avenue to offer care to avoid unnecessary office visits. In the early 1970s, NASA in partnership with the Papago Indians, further laid the foundation by developing remote healthcare techniques that are still used today. Since then, telehealth has found its stronghold primarily in rural settings to increase health and mental health access for patients. Now, due to the pandemic, the barriers to telehealth have all but collapsed. As an example, the FCC has established the $200 million "COVID-19 Telehealth Program" grant as part of the CARES Act. The government has also temporarily lifted many restrictions on virtual care. Telehealth, virtual care, and virtual waiting rooms have quickly become a win-win for both patients and hospitals, due to the low cost for patients and increased market for hospitals. In recent months, hospitals have seen incredible transformations around virtual visits, with some reporting 1000% growth.
In Part 2 of this blog series, we will be addressing some of the key advantages to launching a telehealth program within your hospital. We will look at historical recessions to expose some of the gaps and the solutions a virtual care program produces. We will also provide resources to equip you with the tools need to prepare your virtual waiting room or telehealth business case, and we will lay out the funding opportunities to support your project.
Your Guide to Building a Business Case and Accessing FundinG
Why should hospitals invest in virtual care NOW?10 Key Benefits of Telehealth & Virtual Care
- Improves clinical efficiency
- Reduces patient and provider cost
- Increases revenue
- Reduces barriers to treatment
- Improves health outcomes
- Improves patient satisfaction
- Reduces risk of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI)
- Increases provider market
- Improves provider satisfaction
- Minimizes risk to healthcare workers
According to a white paper from Fair Health, telehealth surged from 2016 to 2017 by a drastic 53%. Beckers Hospital Review echoes this finding in an article The business case for investing in virtual care by posing the question, “What if someone told you that if your health system leveraged the right type of virtual care platform you could add 2,000 new patients by offering a virtual care service line?” The article further states, “an analysis from the Advisory Board estimated that as many as 20 percent of virtual care patients would theoretically convert to being full-service patients of a hospital or health system at an estimated annual revenue increase of approximately $3,000 per patient.”
Despite telehealth’s growing popularity, expansion was stifled by limits in coverage, payment, policy issues, and Medicare dictating geographic use and practice settings. However, with onset of the COVID-19 national public health emergency, immediate flexibility was created around telehealth to supply patients with safe access to care, thus boosting virtual care in 2020. Carrot Health’s white paper Combating COVID-19 with Virtual Care and Predictive Analytics documents a leading telehealth platform that experienced a 3,600% increase in use over the first 11 days of the COVID-19 pandemic and over 400K total visits in March 2020 alone.
Telehealth flexibility during COVID-19
- Telehealth waivers from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
- Cost-sharing for patients in federal health care programs
- Billing and reimbursement
- Additional flexibilities during COVID-19
Creating your TELEHEALTH business case
As the new norm for health care shifts, virtual visits, virtual waiting rooms, and telehealth have become the “meet patients where they are” solution hospitals need. This abrupt demand, however, has left many hospitals wondering where to begin. Fortunately, The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers has provided a step-by-step guide with questions to consider as you plan , as well as a sample business proposal that you can view HERE.
- Executive Summary – Concise overview.
- Introduction and Background – Why do you need telehealth? Identify key players. Goals.
- Need and Demand Assessment – Buy in strategy from stakeholders.
- Internal and External Assessment – SWOT analysis and readiness assessments.
- Service Plan Assessment – Champions, technology platforms, reimbursement, and delivery.
- Marketing – Program name, marketing segmentation, promotion and pricing, position in network.
- Technical Plan – Equipment, staff, and integration.
- Regulatory Environment – Assess state by state laws, licensing, and security.
- Management Plan – Organizational structure.
- Financial Plan – ROI, revenue, and expenses.
- Presentation to Stakeholders – How will you present your plan.
- Training and Testing – Training needs and install.
- Operations Plan Component – Daily routine, client encounter and team member requirements.
- Evaluation and Feedback Component – Key indicators, setting targets, measure outcomes and results.
- Conclusion and Recommendations – Summarize why telehealth is the right choice.
Telehealth grant funding and future ROI
The recent pandemic has undoubtedly placed historic financial strain on America’s hospitals, affecting both supply-side and demand-side as we head into a recession. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), COVID-19 caused an estimated $202.6 billion in losses for America’s hospitals and healthcare systems in just a 4-month period. HealthAffairs, who analyzed the 2007 recession and its impact on the hospital finances in Hospital Financial Performance In The Recent Recession And Implications For Institutions That Remain Financially Weak, stated, “hospitals need financial resources now to implement changes in the delivery of health care so that they can start restructuring organizational programs and activities.” Hospitals need revenue to support projects for new types of care, such as virtual care, telehealth, and virtual waiting rooms. The upcoming financial struggles will certainly affect a hospital’s delivery system reform and value focused purchasing initiatives, so the question is…
Where should hospitals invest for the best ROI amid a recession?
Virtual care is a good place to be. According to Brookings, a large reason healthcare funding shrinks during a recession is due to declining household incomes. Evidence shows a segment of the population simply avoids or puts off health care altogether, leading to lower health spending and obvious health risks for patients. With virtual health, doctors can meet patients where they are, increasing access to care. Furthermore, the lower cost of a virtual visit encourages patients to get the care they need, when they need it, and offsetting some of the negative financial and health impacts caused by a recession.
Where can our hospital get funding for telehealth?
There are several grants available for virtual care programs as well as various resources surrounding COVID-19, which you can explore by clicking the links below. When you search these databases, be sure to include various phrases such as “telehealth” or “COVID” to maximize your opportunity for funding.
- COVID-19 Telehealth Program - In April 2020, the FCC released $200 million in emergency funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program for eligible nonprofit and public health care providers to help offer connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, there is still $90 million in funding available.
- Health Resources and Services Administration Telehealth Programs - The Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT), provides a list of active and inactive grants.
- Telehealth Resource Centers – Choose your state to contact your telehealth resource center for state-specific funding opportunities.
- Nonprofits, Foundations, and other funding opportunities
- Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
- The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Hearst Foundations
- Novartis US COVID-19 Initiatives
- USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program
- American Academy of Pediatrics Grants
- HRSA Federal Grant List
- National Institute of Health Grants
- National Science Foundation
- GRANTS.GOV Database Search