Telehealth’s Missing Link: Training and Support

Recently we’ve talked about criteria when evaluating telemedicine platforms – how the right solution will be provider agnostic, compliant, and evidence-driven. These are the priorities we hear every day, whether we’re having a conversation with hospital CEOS, school district superintendents, or correctional healthcare officers. If your goal as a provider is to practice responsible, outcome-focused medicine, you likely understand the importance of a sophisticated virtual health platform.

But there’s a common blind spot that both vendors and customers sometimes miss. Training and support – or the lack thereof – can make or break a virtual health program. In a recent interview with Managed Care magazine, Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy, listed training as a major implementation obstacle. “There’s a lot of investment on the provider side setting up protocols—training their staff, understanding how they’re going to do all this,” Kwong said, “and that takes some time and also takes some knowledge of how to guide folks through that.”

Today, in the first of a two-part series, we’ll talk about the kind of education and support needed for a successful telemedicine implementation – and why a positive culture of change is so crucial to its ROI.

When Virtual Programs Fail

Telemedicine implementation isn’t generic, like setting up a new plug and play router. Your solution must align with the strategic goals that sparked your virtual health program in the first place. A clinical team treating disaster survivors, for instance, needs mobile equipment. A Veterans Administration facility looking to reach veterans in rural areas will need equipment that can address common military afflictions, like teleaudiology tools to treat hearing loss.

The vendor plays a valuable role here – or at least they should. If they’re thorough and experienced, the vendor team will ask about your needs, your goals, and your challenges so they can steer you toward the best use of your budget and help you maximize your clinical outcomes. On the provider side, leaders need to foster an environment conducive to new technology adoption and new care delivery protocols. Skillful change management can be just as influential in determining whether a virtual health program thrives or dies. Without both dynamics, organizations risk poor utilization and wasted investment.

Unfortunately, that exact scenario plays out way too often. Maybe it’s a hospital administrator calling us to replace another vendor’s offering because the equipment is collecting dust in a back office. Sometimes we meet specialists at trade shows who let their virtual program disintegrate because the only person who understood the software left the practice. We even got a call from another vendor’s customer who wasn’t getting the help he needed and asked our field techs to save his telemedicine solution. (We upgraded and customized his equipment and then helped him implement it correctly.)

Creating an Optimal Environment for Telemedicine Adoption

Here’s something every good telehealth program begins with: communication and collaboration. Your success should matter to your vendor. They should be committed not just to selling equipment but to helping you maximize patient offerings and revenue. When things break down – and they will – your support team should jump in to get you back up and running ASAP with technical support and quick replacement turnaround.

At the same time, your leaders will play an important role in creating a learning culture and driving positive change management. As the saying goes, “Performance is personal before it’s organizational.” Encouraging not just platform adoption but telemedicine excellence means ensuring everyone – patients, nurses, front desk staff, doctors and other stakeholders – has the tools to feel confident and comfortable using the new solution. Even the best training and onboarding lessons won’t stick unless there’s a top-down commitment to embrace change.

Now that we’ve explained why it’s so important, you may be curious just what kind of training and support you should expect from your vendor partner. In Part II, we’ll explain how we work with our customers and why it impacts clinical performance. We’ll also share suggestions for cultural changes you can make to ensure your telemedicine deployment succeeds. If you’re looking to create or expand your virtual program, you’ll understand the difference the right education can make.

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