How to integrate virtual care solutions into your practice

Based on our efforts to transform the health care system, my team and I have come to identify three steps to ensure a smooth transition when integrating virtual care solutions into a traditional practice. We offer the following pieces of advice that any physician should be able to use:

 Step 1: Look at your existing workflows

Although change can be beneficial in certain instances, current workflows exist for a reason. Our experience suggests avoiding disrupting them unless it’s necessary. The likelihood of successfully adopting a virtual care solution is highest when the technology is complementary to, or an extension of, your existing workflows. Begin by finding gaps in your service offering or opportunities to facilitate access, and identify patients in your roster that could benefit from your adoption of virtual tools.


Step 2: Allocate the appropriate time and resources

Managing logistics and detailing the required resources for the scope of the project is crucial. Assigning the appropriate level of human resources is just as important for success as investing in training time for staff. Make sure your IT support or similar collaborators are up to speed on what you’re planning. Many practices have also reaped benefits from developing super-users who can help instruct others and act as internal champions for adoption. We’ve also seen instances where clients required their staff to spend a percentage of their time using the new technology―first in training sessions and then in live sessions with patients.

It’s worth considering that some digital solutions require additional hardware and software, and can lead to extra costs or implementation requirements. To counter that, our company’s software platform is accessible from regular consumer devices―i.e. tablets, smartphones, computers―and is designed to be easy to deploy and use. Finding a solution that allows your team to use existing devices can help circumvent extensive capital investment before full adoption, thereby avoiding a significant hurdle for many looking to implement digital solutions.

For best performance, another consideration is ensuring any new hardware or software is optimized with your clinic’s IT systems. For example, if you are operating under an institutional network firewall (this would be the case for most universities and major hospitals), coordination between the recipient IT team and the virtual care solution vendor may be required. Confirming proper performance before full integration and roll-out to staff and patients will help streamline adoption. 

 

Step 3: Technology pilot and roll-out 

For better or worse, many have labeled Canada as the land of health care pilots. Yet a pilot is an important step to successfully roll-out a virtual care solution―or any new project for that matter. It’s an opportunity for your team to complete the required training, troubleshoot unforeseen issues and develop a group of invested super-users. Note that a pilot does not have to be overly protracted. It could be as short as a few days or weeks. Not only will you know your pilot is successful when targets are met and key learning have been gleaned―but also when participants don’t want to give up the technology after the pilot has run its course! 

By setting up timelines to do so, you could even plan a progressive roll-out to a broader audience in stages. Meanwhile, your super-users would continue to act as champions and an internal resource to drive your initiative forward. Once you reach the implementation stage, it’s best practice to communicate the value of this new initiative to key stakeholders and your target user base. We also recommend you provide a channel for internal feedback concerning deployment and adoption issues. Collecting this feedback will help facilitate continual program improvements and better planning for future virtual care integration projects.

Despite the inherent challenges of change management and technology adoption in the industry, we have seen many examples of successful pilot projects in virtual care that have flourished into full programs.

 

This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The opinions stated by the authors are made in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries including Joule.  Feel passionate about physician-led innovation? Please connect with us at jouleinquiries@cma.ca.

About the author

Aldous Vijh

Aldous Vijh is the Product Marketing Manager at Innovative Imaging Technologies (IIT), the Montreal-based software firm behind the Reacts collaborative platform. He has dedicated the last 20 years to helping with the development and adoption of innovative health care, web and professional services applications with organizations ranging from small agencies to Fortune 500 companies and advocacy groups such as the Canadian Medical Association.

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