The Healthcare Business Podcast: A Successful Telehealth Transition

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On this week’s episode of The Healthcare Business Podcast Kamaar and George sit down with Tina Alecia to talk about the state of the healthcare industry and how it has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tina Alicea is the CFO of HOPE Compassionate Healthcare in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as a strategic business consultant for her self-made organization, Think Big Biz. Over a decade of experience has given her profound insight as an administrator, which she accumulated throughout numerous roles including a former CFO position at Silver Sate Health Services, as well as VP of operations role for Centene Corp. She also founded and developed First Person CC, a 501c3 non-profit Community Medical Center in Downtown Las Vegas. Whether she’s working numbers or helping operations on the floor, Tina’s passion for the healthcare industry is clear, and her all-encompassing knowledge is a resource for anyone willing to listen.

Kamaar and George got to learn about Tina’s experience leading HOPE Compassionate Healthcare since the beginning of the pandemic. Her story, like many others, is a pristine example of how COVID-19 threw off progress and growth, but her and her teams’ subsequent response display the attributes of a dedicated, professional, and resilient organization that others can learn from.

The Benefits of Telehealth

While HOPE Compassionate healthcare, like many others, went through challenges and tribulations in the first months of COVID-19, they seemed to have found their flow. Especially when It comes to telehealth. Telehealth or telemedicine is a newer, pandemic-driven trend where patients meet with their doctors virtually through video conferencing rather than walking into a clinic. This has become popularized amidst social distancing culture, but it’s proven to be effective and convenient.

Tina shares that this transition to virtual visits probably would not have happened if it weren’t for the pandemic. Her Chief Medical Director is, in her words “up there. He’s pretty old school.” While the new technology took a bit of time to get used to, he got the hang of it: “I don’t think without COVID he would have bought into it. …But with it he sees the value now and it’s integrated in our program.”

There are many ways that telehealth can benefit both patients and providers. While it can’t replace some patients’ needs for in-person visits, it can more effectively serve smaller purposes. Tina talks about how it has helped HOPE’s patients: “Because we’re OB GYN… we really couldn’t do our prenatal visits over telehealth. But we could do follow ups. We could do lab results, we could do refills, we could do things like that, which gave our patients a sense of knowing that they were always going to be connected to us and that we weren’t going to use the COVID excuse for not returning calls or for not getting back to them.”

Telehealth can also help cut back on travel time and increase accessibility. Whether patients live far away from a clinic, have limited timeframes to visit closer locations, or have limited access to transportation, virtual visits can save a lot of time and effort while still giving patients the attention they need. This is especially relevant for people who live in rural areas, or for elderly folks who depend on other people or public transportation. Of course, these kinds of visits only apply for certain types of appointment, and can never replace the hands-on examinations that doctors provide, but they work for minor appointments such as follow-ups or for setting prescription refills.

The Future of Telehealth

George asked Tina a very important question: “What do you think about the future of telemedicine in terms of adoption [and] in terms of reimbursement? Are you are you bullish on it?”

Tina is here for it. “There are very many things in the healthcare arena that telehealth telemedicine is excellent for.” One of these things includes behavioral health. “Behavioral health out of the gate could do telemedicine all day long. It’s a good thing for behavioral health. And they use it. It reimburses exactly the same- it has a different modifier- but it reimburses exactly the same as if they were in the office.” For other matters, it can be just as effective: “…follow up exams… lab, lab results, things like that. Those are all positive things, referrals, meeting a referral, you know, unless the doctor needs to put their hands on you right now. …then telemedicine is a great avenue for that. And you get that kind of undivided attention.”

Of course, telehealth isn’t a stand in for all services. “There’s always going to be areas where telemedicine isn’t going to be able to comply. Listening to a baby’s heart rate, doing an ultrasound, any kind of blood work or blood testing, you know, anything… that requires the doctor to put their hands on the bat” The advancement of technology, however, has allowed some wiggle room for minor medical operations. Tina says that some programs have blood pressure readers and thermometers that hook up to computers and input information directly into an EHR or EMR. This is especially good for seniors who need minor but routine checkups but may have limited transportation options.

Telehealth Integration

Like anything, changing the norms take a bit of an adjustment.

George asked how doctors are supposed to balance virtual meetings and in-person visits, and Tina shared an excellent response that speaks to how creativity can facilitate changes.

“We actually have a TV in one of the exam rooms. It’s our smallest exam room, but we put a TV in there. So the doctors walk right into the exam room like they’d walk into any exam room, [and] instead of looking at the patient on the bed, they look at the patient on the monitor. So we try to make it convenient for them to get that same feel.”

Another factor that helped aid the transition between in-person and digital appointments was the right software. Tina talked about how their internal EMR – NAble MD- allowed for video conferencing and made the transition

If you and your company are looking for help finding and implementing the right software, reach out to Engine Systems and let our consultants help you find and integrate the best option. And to stay updated on all things healthcare, subscribe to The Healthcare Business Podcast.

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