Migrating To Telemedicine Can Be Implemented Quickly, Effectively
We’ve seen a distinct shift to telemedicine since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – and rightly so – but are we utilizing it in the right way? At MAXhealth, we’ve looked closely at virtual visits and how to improve them. As a network of primary care medical centers in Florida, we’ve had much to think about while revamping our programs, including the average age of our patients, the percentage of patients with chronic diseases, and our patients’ existing knowledge of telemedicine.
After completing tens of thousands of telehealth appointments, or “TeleVisits,” our team is offering some of the best ways we have determined to keep chronically ill patients stable, while encouraging the rest of our patient population to maintain important wellness visits.
Tip #1: Ensure Your Telemedicine Program Is Complete
Telemedicine gives patients ongoing access to their care team so they can obtain the information required to maintain good health and address health concerns in real time, including testing for the coronavirus. How does your telehealth program measure up? Consider refreshing your website with a front-page introduction to telemedicine and step-by-step directions for scheduling, accessing, and managing appointments.
Tip #2: Be Vigilant With Vulnerable Populations
Doctors who practice under a value-based care model need to be particularly careful about ensuring vulnerable patient populations receive preventive care and important monitoring services. With a robust telemedicine program in place, physicians can facilitate patient engagement for those unable to travel to medical centers. That makes it much easier to support existing patients, as well as new ones, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Tip #3: Recognize That Sometimes, In-Person Appointments Are Crucial
In our case, we continued to have our doctors and nurses see patients for in-person visits – with the use of personal protective equipment, of course. We recognize that some in-person appointments are crucial, whereas we simultaneously increased the scope of our telemedicine services. For our practices, this mix has paid off.
Before we implemented changes, our patient population was in a fear-induced state of paralysis, unwilling to come in for doctor visits but uncertain about what to do next. As a result, we experienced a steep increase in appointment cancellations, and in a matter of just a few days, we went from 3,000 patient visits per week to less than 700.
In response, we ramped up our telemedicine program and made a concerted effort to communicate clearly with our patients about the advantages of converting appointments to TeleVisits, and we have now completed tens of thousands of these virtual visits.
Tip #4: Educate Patients
As part of the telemedicine “migration,” it’s important to educate patients about how telehealth works and reassure them that a virtual visit with their doctor will be as thorough and as valuable as an in-person appointment – even if you have already said so.
Again, it’s important to take a closer look at your website. Consider adding clear, step-by-step registration instructions, new landing pages, and information about how to change an existing appointment to a telehealth visit. In MAXhealth’s case, our website upgrades were accompanied by outbound phone calls and a coordinated blitz of emails to patients.
Tip #5: Don’t Underestimate Patients
The vast majority of patients can acclimate to the telehealth paradigm, and as this format of delivering care becomes more prevalent, your practice will be better prepared to add new patients into the mix.
Moreover, patients who experience telemedicine often report a preference for both the convenience and the uninterrupted attention they receive from their providers. And for some patients, a virtual appointment can be less stressful – a cure for “white-coat syndrome.”
As we change how our practices operate – and uncover better ways to work together – we will continue to share best practices with fellow physicians, clinical staff, and administrative teams. We encourage you to reach out to share insights.