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Service Lines for Telemedicine: Should CEOs Consider It?

Stethoscope on a financial report. Business analysis and audit.

Service line organization is a modern approach to planning, managing, evaluating, and improving hospital performance. Service lines allow hospitals to evaluate different practice areas and focus on strategies that afford high-quality care while being more cost-efficient. Service lines for telemedicine practices can be used to facilitate the same goals. Below, our dedicated telepsychiatry experts discuss some of the ways in which establishing service lines for telemedicine can benefit healthcare providers.

Evaluating the Benefits of Your Telehealth Practice

One of the principal purposes for establishing a service line is to evaluate a hospital’s performance in given areas. While telehealth crosses traditional service line delineations–it need not be restricted to certain types of conditions, for example–it is an evolving venue for the delivery of treatment to patients, and one for which many hospitals lack recent data.

The use of telehealth in hospitals across the United States has exploded since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals with no interest in establishing a telehealth practice prior to the pandemic were forced to finally appreciate just how useful telehealth can be in providing service without encountering many of the dangers inherent in and barriers to traditional treatment. Hospitals with a new telemedicine practice (or those who are employing telemedicine across all practice areas) need metrics to analyze, evaluate, and improve upon their telemedicine practice. Telemedicine need not, and should not, be something that evaporates when we are no longer in the middle of a national (or international) emergency.

Service lines are used to measure the success of practice areas–cost, patient outcomes, liabilities, etc.–as against other practice areas within a given care provider. Establishing a dedicated telemedicine service line ensures that a service line leader is tasked with specifically evaluating the provider’s telemedicine practices. If there are weaknesses, redundancies, regulatory concerns, or other issues, service line evaluation can help to shore those up. On the other hand, service line leaders can help build an understanding of which kinds of telehealth interventions can be useful for which types of patients at different stages of their care and recovery. Where telehealth is found to be the most efficient and effective means of providing care, it can be expanded into other departments at similar stages of care.

Responding to Evolving Payer Demands

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers are rapidly moving toward more value-based payment strategies that incentivize high-quality, low-cost, efficient care. Telemedicine promises to fit easily into the next generation of healthcare practices. Service line analysis can be used to evaluate data across departments in order to shore up inefficiencies as well as demonstrate to payers that they are taking those steps. Payers are more than happy to cover telehealth services so long as they fall within these efficiency-promoting models. Payers, in fact, are eager to incorporate telehealth into the service line models as they see telemedicine as a means to lower the total cost of care and improve patient outcomes overall.

Through telehealth service line promotion and analysis, healthcare providers can ensure that their healthcare business is evolving along with new payment models and incentives. Patients will receive higher-quality care at lower cost, and payers will reward providers for focusing on efficiency, quality of care, and cost-saving measures.

If you are a healthcare provider or employer who would benefit from a variety of licensed, qualified, and effective psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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