How to Recruit and Onboard Telehealth Providers
Healthcare organizations across the country face stay-at-home orders that make it difficult to deliver in-person care. But even outside of the urgent need for providers to provide care to critically ill patients with COVID-19, patients need access to care when they are ill or injured by other causes.
“Telehealth is a key tool to help us continue to provide care to patients,” said Michael Archuleta, Chief Information Officer for Bridgecare Health Network. “If we do not build asynchronous telehealth tools that serve our patients, we will not succeed in this new digital age of healthcare.”
But recruiting and onboarding telehealth providers come with unique challenges for healthcare organizations. Here’s how organizations can quickly and efficiently recruit the telehealth providers they need.
Recruit for Digital Readiness
When it comes to telehealth, organizations may be inclined to focus on recruiting for specific technology skills. But digital readiness is a much better indicator of the ability to deliver healthcare remotely. Rachel Dixon, Executive President for Prime Health, encourages organizations to assess applicants for the behavioral competencies associated with digital readiness, such as flexibility, curiosity and agility. “You can teach technology and workflow, but just like with any other practice transformation work such as integrated care, you have to find providers that can adapt to change and work as a team,” she says. And keep in mind, digital readiness is about mindset, not age. “Providers of any age can have these skills,” Dixon says.
Recruiters should also be looking for the ability to work in a team environment. “The first thing that healthcare organizations need to be aware of is that telehealth is a team sport,” Dixon says. “It’s not just the clinical providers, it’s the scheduler, nurses, the whole team, that makes it work.”
Incorporating virtual telehealth simulations into the interview process can help healthcare employers assess applicants’ ability to adapt to new methods or ways of working, Dixon says.
Equip Providers With the Knowledge and Tools They Need
While onboarding providers in a digital climate presents challenges, it’s still critical for organizations to make clear to providers their clinic culture expectations, Dixon says. Make sure to address expectations around team interaction, workflow, communication and other values and norms at your institution.
Healthcare organizations can often privilege doctors. “But in telehealth modalities, operating as a team is critical for providing quality patient care,” Dixon says. Use the onboarding process to create a culture of equality among the team that makes it clear that each team member is equally valued and essential to patient care.
For telehealth providers, though, onboarding should include putting safeguards in place to ensure provider cybersecurity and reliable access to patients. Archuleta recommends using this period to ensure patient privacy protocols, such as secure login and online ID verification for providers, are in place. You also want to make sure telehealth employees working remotely use strong passwords and multiple-factor authentication to ensure patient information is protected, he says.
Provide Opportunities to Work Out Issues Before Seeing Patients
Incorporate simulations into your onboarding process before serving patients. Dixon recommends offering demonstration sessions to allow providers to run patient care scenarios as a team. These demos allow providers to address common issues or questions that can arise with telehealth services, such as how to implement crisis and emergency protocols in a virtual setting, what if the technology fails, or what to do if a telehealth patient needs to be put on a mental health hold. “Going through these scenarios in advance can help address concerns before they see patients and work out any issues or problems within the team,” Dixon says.
Providing scripts of virtual bedside manner, called “website manner,” can also help ensure that new providers are aware of the organization’s expectations for communicating and interacting with patients virtually. “Sometimes technology can interfere with our normal social protocols,” Dixon says. That’s why it’s important that providers are trained to spend the first few moments of the telehealth session introducing themselves and going over the process for the visit with the patient.
Telehealth has been a trend in healthcare for several years, but the COVID-19 crisis has made offering telehealth services an urgent mandate. Employers who focus on recruiting and onboarding telehealth providers who are ready to deliver high-quality patient care virtually will be well equipped to not only weather this storm but to transform their practice for the digital future.