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Fall 2023 - Innovation

Utilizing Virtual Services and Workforces

The future of healthcare is here. Identifying new tools that will best serve both employees and patients — and learning how to use them efficiently — is critical for moving forward.

Technology is moving fast, increasing business opportunities and efficiencies by enabling hybrid work environments and outsourcing virtual workforces. Considered a major pivot in healthcare just a few years ago, 76 percent of hospitals now connect digitally through video teleconferencing or other technologies,1 normalizing what was, pre-pandemic, nearly unchartered territory.

Today, virtual workforces fill critical healthcare needs, and sometimes, despite the infrastructure costs, do so more efficiently and cost effectively than on-site employees. But, setting up successful virtual workforces comes with a unique set of challenges, one of which is establishing and maintaining workflow cohesiveness when the team is geographically scattered. Other challenges include validating that training is not only completed but learning objectives are also met; meeting the immense, non-negotiable demands of IT infrastructure; and measuring the effectiveness of these collective efforts as they work in tandem.

Traditional in-house workforces are a thing of the past. Reimagining the team to adapt to the opportunities and demands of a virtual environment and equipping them to do so is critical to long-term success.

Reimagine the Team

These days, people can work from just about anywhere. Surgeons perform operations via robots; providers meet patients on computer screens; and much of the support staff can just as easily perform their tasks from a home office as a cubicle. Services such as scheduling, billing, marketing and training can all be transitioned to a virtual environment. The flexibility this affords can be a real benefit to businesses since it allows for attracting the best talent available anywhere, not just the best talent available locally.

But, virtual work environments also present cohesiveness challenges because team building can’t happen as organically online. There is also the question of productivity and trust with remote workers — trust on the part of the manager and trust on the part of the employee(s). That trust can be harder to earn in a virtual environment. Therefore, expectations on both sides of the aisle must be clearly articulated, provided in writing and signed by all parties, including the evaluation process.

4 Ways Telehealth Technology Improves Clinical Workflow

  1. Smart scheduling maintains office flow.
  2. Online intake forms make it easier to collect patient data.
  3. Telehealth allows for virtual waiting rooms — and visits.
  4. Going paperless means less manual data entry, as well as fewer errors.

(Source: Curogram. How Telehealth Technology Improves Clinical Workflow. Accessed at

Retool the Training

Training can be done just about anywhere, too. Numerous online employee training services cover HIPAA, CPR and more, making outsourcing training to a virtual environment easy. In fact, third-party vendors can create customized training that includes verification of learning assessments and enables remedial and refresher trainings as needed. Some companies’ employee training may already be outsourced, but other opportunities might be available.

And, it’s not just employees who need training: Patients using web-based applications may need help learning how to navigate new patient portals or e-communications. Therefore, facility managers should consider implementing patient training for tasks such as how to access electronic health records, how to schedule an appointment online or how to join an online appointment.

Regardless of how much or how little work is outsourced, training should always include an optional human component. When questions are raised or extra hand-holding is needed, it is important to remember that different learning styles require different interventions. As effective as outsourced training is, for some, the personal touch is sometimes most effective.

Consider IT and Cyber Concerns

Cyber risks are receiving much well-deserved attention, particularly as healthcare is increasingly under attack. Network security threats are everywhere, from legitimate looking but nefarious emails from a familiar company or person to text messages with embedded code that take hold of the device used to access network files. The manner in which data is collected, managed, stored and secured is as vitally important as the accessibility and interoperability of that data. As workforces move outside the physical walls of an organization, the challenges of keeping networks safe increases exponentially.

When deciding to expand virtual operations, facility managers should consider utilizing data governance, virtual private networks, multi-factor authentication, third-party vendor agreements and employee policies that clearly define acceptable and unacceptable use of company equipment. Outsourcing digital security services to third-party vendors with the specific expertise needed to set up systems and protect them from dangers such as malware and ransomware can help bolster an already stretched IT department while ensuring essential workflows remain uninterrupted.

Prioritize Patients

Even before the pandemic, it was widely thought that the traditional model of healthcare was unsustainable. With too many patients and too few providers, new care alternatives such as those found in big box stores or community care centers were filling gaps with great success. Post-pandemic, the challenges of healthcare have continued. Patients attempting to return to the exam table have been met with exacerbated capacity challenges due to provider burnout after a tremendously difficult few years.

But patients still need access to care. Think about utilizing new models that can help offset demand versus supply: Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are emerging as great options. Virtual appointments between patients and providers are convenient for patients, and they save time and money. Wearables (digital medical devices such as electrocardiogram monitors, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and more) with real-time remote patient monitoring send reports to a third-party, specialized team. These new models of care can be beneficial for both providers and patients, saving time and lowering costs. In fact, patients can be seen more quickly, and telehealth care can cost less than in-person care.2

While these time and cost savings seems like a win, it takes digital literacy and interest on the part of staff and patients, as well as broadband access for these tools to be effective. Staying on top of licensing requirements if choosing to offer telemedicine to those out of state, regulatory and insurance requirements, as well as coding and billing to ensure proper payment for telemedicine and remote patient monitoring is a necessary part of doing business.

Evaluate Metrics

Even the best-laid plans must ensure evaluation tools accurately measure accountability, connectivity and effectiveness. Whether training current workforces in a new virtual world or asking on-site staff to operate daily tasks alongside a virtual team, it should be ensured that patient and employee satisfaction is not diminished by efforts to increase efficiencies. This can be accomplished by a detailed look at data trends.

Patient and employee surveys should include objective questions such as the software’s ease of use, as well as unbiased, real-time analytics measuring trends such as how many patients actually choose to seek virtual care options or whether doctor-prescribed patient wearables are performing, etc. While there are measurements for just about everything under the sun, use caution when deciding what data to collect, both from a legality standpoint, as well as information overload. Also, always remember that for many patients, data can’t replace the personal connection of partnering with a provider to manage their health.

Careful Planning Is Key

Planning is crucial. Some effective, in-person workflows may be less effective when transitioned to a virtual environment. Take time to consider which important business elements and functions might best translate to a virtual world — and how they might adapt to a virtual environment— before jumping into one.

Still, telemedicine and virtual workforces are here to stay, with some expectations that this $87.8 billion dollar industry will grow to $285.7 billion by 2027.3 But with this upward trend also come challenges that must be met head-on for success. Careful planning for the how’s and why’s of this newly envisioned virtual work environment, as well as employing the tools to make this vision a reality, are just the start. With the help of outsourced expertise, virtual services and workforces may provide healthcare operations the efficiencies needed to advance further into the digital age.


  1. American Hospital Association. Fact Sheet: Telehealth. Accessed at
  2. Chaiyachati, KH, Snider, CK, Mitra, N, et al. Economics of a Health System’s Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine for Its Employees. The American Journal of Managed Care, 2023;29(6):284-290. Accessed at
  3. McBride, A. How Virtual and In-person Care Merge for a Healthier, Sustainable Future. Ernst and Young, Jan. 24, 2023. Accessed at
Amy Scanlin, MS
Amy Scanlin, MS, is a freelance writer and editor specializing in medical and fitness topics.