Over the last two decades, our lives have been slowly taken over by technology. From mobile communication to bills payment to food ordering, people are constantly looking for ways to simplify their lives.
Today, patients crave the same type of convenience when it comes to healthcare. They want an easier way to reach their provider and stay engaged in the medical process without exhausting themselves and their time. Healthcare providers, on the other hand, are also struggling to effectively reach patients in rural areas. This is where telehealth comes in.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technology to deliver healthcare, health education, and other health-related services remotely.
Mobile health apps, remote patient monitoring, and live video conferencing are examples of technologies used in telehealth.
Benefits of Telehealth Program
If you’re wondering whether adding telehealth to your practice is worth the time and effort, keep reading. Here are some of the top reasons for adopting telehealth for your practice.
Expand your patient base
Telehealth can overcome barriers to health services caused by the distance between a healthcare provider and a patient. It allows physicians to connect with patients outside of their geographic region.
In today’s healthcare world, convenience is key. Adding telehealth to your practice makes you more accessible to patients and give your practice a competitive advantage over similar practices in your area.
Elderly, working parents, patients from remote areas, and those who are less ambulatory during post-operative recovery can receive the best possible care even when hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities are hundreds of miles away from their home. The convenience it affords can help you retain current patients and attract new ones.
Saves patient’s time and money
Patients in rural areas need to travel for several hours just to reach specialists in urban areas, not to mention the time spent hanging around in the waiting room. The cost of travel, childcare, parking, and taking time from work can easily add up. Some patients would skip treatment entirely due to the burden of excessive travel.
Telehealth is a cost-efficient alternative to in-office visits, especially for patients with a chronic condition that requires frequent appointments. It allows patients to receive care in their own home instead of traveling long distances. That means patients save on time as well as transportation costs and child care.
With telehealth, appointments can be scheduled before or after work or during lunch hours. No more hanging around in waiting rooms. No need to worry about taking time off from work either.
Stay connected with patients during challenging times
As the number of COVID-19 cases skyrockets across the globe, people are asked to stay at home and maintain social distancing. But for patients with a pre-existing medical condition, doctor’s visits cannot be postponed indefinitely.
Since a telehealth visit can be done form the patient’s home, there is no risk of being exposed to the coronavirus or other pathogens. It keeps patients safe by keeping them out of doctor’s offices and emergency departments.
With the ease and convenience of telehealth, you can see your patients and provide follow-up visits, reinforcing treatment adherence, and offer specialty services during challenging times.
Integrating telehealth into your practice
Patients want the ease and convenience found in telehealth programs. In fact, one study revealed that 80% of patients want access to virtual care. Despite the increasing demand, many doctors are still reluctant to try telehealth in their practice.
Many healthcare providers are worried that telehealth is too complicated and time-consuming to implement in their already busy practices. But the truth is integrating telehealth into your practice doesn’t have to be complicated.
Review laws and policies
States have their own laws around telehealth licensing, consent, and reimbursement. Call your state medical board to determine what laws govern this service.
Make sure you have the right equipment
As mentioned above, telehealth uses telecommunications technology to provide healthcare from a distance. It is likely that you already have a computer, phone, and internet connection.
If you’re using a desktop computer, then you’ll need a webcam and microphone in order to do any sort of video conferencing. HIPAA-compliant software required for privacy and encryption should be installed on your computer or laptop.
Select a platform
Not all telehealth platforms are created equal. That said, it’s important to do your homework before choosing a telehealth platform.
Ease of use, reliability, and affordability are just some of the key factors to consider when selecting a platform. Also, it is vital to ensure that the platform is:
- Integrated with your EHR solution
- Secure and HIPAA compliant
- Equipped with a method for verifying patient eligibility for reimbursement
- Easy for staff and patients to use
Test it out
Once you have the technology set up, perform some trial runs. You want to make sure that you and the staff are comfortable and properly trained in using the technology. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it effectively with your patients.
Encourage your staff to log in on the telehealth app and practice accepting and arranging visits. Get comfortable starting and ending calls, inviting others onto the platform, and adjusting audio and video. You can also try it out with a couple of patients and get feedback.
No matter how expensive your equipment or how reliable your software is, it won’t help your patients if your staff does not know how to use it.
Set-up your workflow
To prevent misunderstandings, make sure that all your staff is on the same page. Bring them up to speed and include them in your training and workflow discussions.
Start by asking these questions to ease telehealth into your workflow:
- When will the visits occur?
- Who will be involved in scheduling telehealth appointments? Who is responsible for coordinating follow-up care?
- What information do you need to gather from the patient before a meeting?
- How will you bill patients?
Market it to patients
Inform potential clients who may benefit from this kind of technology. Let them know that video visits are an option. Be sure to explain the advantages of telehealth and how it works.
You can post articles on your website, put up signage in your office or you can bring it up to patients during in-person visits.