Platform Services

The Fundamental Keys to Telehealth Success: Forecasting Demand & Clinician Staffing

March 19, 2021 By

There are many telehealth providers across the nation enabling modern healthcare delivery in an online world. Whether on-demand urgent care, scheduled primary care, or no-hassle pharmacy care, what all telehealth providers know is this: clinician staffing is a challenge.

Modern healthcare delivery should not be geographically restricted. What sets the successful telehealth providers apart right now is their ability to scale in all 50 states. Figuring out your clinician staffing nationwide is key to delivering on your promises to patients and keeping your telehealth operation running. Do you really want to turn away patients because you weren’t able to meet demand in their state?

Though forecasting for staffing may seem like a simple supply-demand analysis, there are many factors that go into predicting clinician staffing — factors that change and must be monitored on an ongoing basis. It’s part art, part science, part skill.

Why forecasting with exactness is important

Forecasting for staffing is one of the chief activities among what we call the “complicated, behind-the-scenes stuff” of telehealth. Your ability to predict patient volume in each state, in real-time, and correlate that demand to the physician supply is, well … the crux of your business.

Too few clinicians, and you risk angering and alienating customers that expected faster service. Too many clinicians, and you risk a dissatisfied workforce that may feel underutilized and leave to pursue other opportunities.

So, what are the elements that go into a forecasting algorithm? Having forecasted and modeled clinician staffing in all 50 states for ourselves and for our partners, we’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to staff with exactness. Here are some of the factors we consider.

State population

This one likely goes without saying — the more patients in a state, the more clinicians you’ll need. In a populous state like California, you’re definitely going to need more clinicians than you would in Rhode Island.

State demand

While this may seem like it rolls into state population, potential demand is different from actual demand. McKinsey & Company recently found that there’s a 30% gap between consumer-expressed interest in telehealth and consumers’ actual usage. Plus, competition is compounding among telehealth providers. Unless you’ve got some reliable demand data already, this may require testing the waters.

Patient promises

More than any other element, forecasting hangs on the promises of service offerings that you’ve made to customers. Have you advertised that patients can chat with a doctor anytime? Maybe you’ve established a specific turnaround time for patients to get a visit. It’s about meeting your service level agreements (SLAs). Always remember your promises and plan to slightly overprepare on the staffing side so that your brand, and inherently your staff, remain trustworthy in patients’ eyes.

Modality

In step with customer promises is the modality of your telehealth offerings. Are you asking clinicians to provide asynchronous or synchronous care? Do they need to be available by video, phone, text, or a combination of the three? Are all of your doctors comfortable doing so? Consider not only the appointment, but also the administration. Factor in the time that it takes to get clinicians up and running when you hire and train.

Doctors’ availability

Though many clinicians have fully switched to telehealth, most clinicians are still in some sort of hybrid model of in-person and virtual care. Many of them are still trying it on for size and may only be willing to commit 10-20 hours per week to your business. As the provider, you have to think about if you want to set any minimum thresholds of availability or if you just need as many clinicians as you can get on your roster. And this goes back to your patient promises. If you’ve got a same-patient-same-doctor approach, thresholds may need to be a staffing factor. If you’re more urgent care style, then your model may allow for more flexibility in clincians’ schedules. And if you’re primarily filling prescriptions, this factor may not even hold much weight in your forecasting model.

Forecasting demand and staffing clinicians are daunting tasks, requiring reliable data, analytical tools and, above all else, experience. But the good news is: we can help. SteadyMD has mastered clinician staffing and oversight in all 50 states and can help place your telehealth operation in a prime position to be a market leader, enabling you to provide the quality service your patients deserve.

Find out about how SteadyMD powers telehealth in all 50 states and how we can help you develop a custom model to meet patient demand nationwide.