Implementing a new inpatient telemedicine program can be a daunting task for any hospital, but with careful consideration, hospital administrators can identify key return on investment (ROI) factors for prioritization. The top four ROI factors for any hospital, as described by Eagle Telemedicine, are improved clinical metrics, patient and family satisfaction, impact on transfers, and physician retention. Admittedly, all four aspects can benefit from a telemedicine presence; the question is how large an impact will be felt.
Improved Clinical Metrics
Clinical metrics are used to monitor patient care and safety, as well as overall costs and economies of scale. For instance, a hospital without a focused acute stroke program may have a TPA rate as low as 2 percent of acute stroke patients, which indicates a decreased quality of care for patients and families. By implementing a 24/7/365 teleStroke program, however, hospitals can qualify as Joint Commission Certified Primary Care Stroke Centers. Similarly, tele-ICU programs can help hospitals attain higher Leap Frog scores.
Patient and Family Satisfaction
Patients and their families have reported a number of perceived benefits associated with inpatient telemedicine programs, such as being able to access specialty care from their community hospital or viewing the community hospital as a destination for receiving healthcare, rather than just an ER transfer center.
Impact on Transfers
Transfers can have a significant impact on revenue retention. Being able to keep patients in-house with a telemedicine program increases patient care, family satisfaction, and revenue. For example, if a hospital’s teleCardiology process allows the hospital to keep two more patients in-house each week instead of transferring them, then at an average DRG of $7,500 per patient, this could translate into over $750,000 in incremental revenue for the hospital each year.
Traditionally, daytime hospitalists take call coverage at night, at times succumbing to fatigue that could lead to quality of care issues. Losing a staff physician who would rather not take call and replacing him/her with locum tenens could cost $100,000 over a half-year period. Adding a teleNocturnist program eliminates the need for hospitalists to be on call at night while improving the quality of care and reducing unnecessary transfers during the nighttime hours.
Whether partnering with a specialty practice, another hospital, or a telemedicine company, community hospitals are finding that inpatient telemedicine opens up new options and results for both patients and healthcare providers.