The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for the increased availability of telehealth consult and telemedicine services. However, even as the intensity of the pandemic has slowed, the popularity and use of virtual healthcare services have continued to skyrocket, and telehealth technology has advanced far past a simple telephone consultation with a medical provider. To see what kind of technology would work best for your practice, consider watching a free demo here.
Below, we’ll explain everything you should know about telemedicine technology, including the best ways to prepare for and conduct a telehealth consultation to ensure a smooth, positive, and hassle-free experience.
Preparing for Virtual Visits: Telehealth Requirements
Reliable Connection in a Private Space
A strong, fast, and reliable internet connection is very important if you’re going to offer telemedicine services or virtual patient care. No patient wants to spend their telehealth appointment watching a glitchy video feed or asking their doctor to repeat themselves over and over. Plus, your patients need to hear every word of your treatment recommendations. With a spotty internet connection, they could miss vital information and unknowingly harm their health.
You’ll also need a private telemedicine setup and quiet space for each virtual healthcare appointment. Of course, HIPAA laws are in full effect. Patient-practitioner conversations are 100% confidential. Make a list of telemedicine protocols for your care team to follow so you can remain fully compliant with all privacy laws. Or, use a white-noise machine when conducting telemedicine appointments to prevent primary care staff or in-house patients from overhearing confidential information if they happen to walk by.
Testing Camera, Microphone, and Speakers Beforehand
Every physician wants patient consultations to run smoothly. A form of specialty care like telemedicine service relies heavily on technology. To avoid these problems, spend a little extra on a high-quality webcam or audio headset.
Another way every healthcare provider can prepare for virtual visits is by thoroughly testing their equipment before each appointment. Double-check the performance of the camera, speakers, and microphone to catch any issues ahead of time. For example, the sound or volume of a video consultation needs to be at an appropriate level so the patient can hear everything clearly. Then, grant correct access for both the camera and microphone. Check to see that the microphone is on and doesn’t have a slash through it, which would mean it’s muted.
Preparing Medical Records or Test Results
Just as you would prepare for an in-person healthcare appointment, a telemedicine visit should have the same level of care and thought. However, with virtual healthcare, having patients fill out physical documents may not be feasible. Instead, consider upgrading your technology by switching to a digital patient record system.
Did you know that almost half (46%) of healthcare providers haven’t updated their office technology in over two years? Fortunately, we have a solution. Our Weave Digital Forms make it fast and easy to collect patient information, insurance coverage documents, health care consent forms, and medical records before a virtual appointment. Not only does it save time for your staff, but it also helps ensure that patient information is accurately captured and saved by automating parts of the data entry process for patient records.
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Conducting Virtual Visits
Every physician knows that patient satisfaction is vital to a successful healthcare practice, and that includes a virtual telemedicine or telehealth consult program. As such, you should conduct every consultation in a professional manner and ensure clear communication between you and your patient. Next, we’ll explain more about how you can improve the quality of your telehealth services, as there are different factors to consider compared to an in-person appointment.
How to Communicate Effectively During a Virtual Visit
Clear communication is essential between doctor and patient, and even more so with virtual care. Start every virtual health consultation with these goals in mind:
- Enhance the patient’s short- and long-term care plan
- Involve the patient in their treatment plan, including physical and mental health
- Evaluate the patient’s current status
- Discover if any health problems are occurring or worsening
- Identify any improvements and encourage self-care
- Answer any patient questions regarding their medical care
Even though you’re not providing in-person care, many of the same rules apply when it comes to your “webside manner.” Don’t forget the basics: make eye contact, smile, and be polite. Introduce yourself if you don’t have a pre-established relationship. Schedule enough time to diagnose/treat the issue and answer any questions the patient may have at the end of the session, whether they want to know about insurance coverage, their next appointment, or the medication you’ve just prescribed.
Providing Accurate Diagnosis
Some situations and patient symptoms are not appropriate for telehealth services, particularly when they require emergency care services. However, a virtual appointment can still provide a wealth of information to a qualified healthcare professional. It may surprise you to learn just how accurate a doctor can be with a remote diagnosis. According to the American Medical Association, diagnoses between telehealth visits and in-person appointments match up nearly 90% of the time!
Before you conduct the appointment, take a deep dive into the patient’s medical records and familiarize yourself with their background. If the patient has another related EM (evaluation and management) service provider (like specialty care), make an effort to coordinate doctor-to-doctor, as it can enhance the quality of their care.
Here are a few recommendations to help improve the accuracy of a virtual consultation and diagnosis:
- Ask the patient to perform healthcare-related behaviors in their home surroundings
- If you have permission, discuss the patient’s symptoms and general health with their family member
- Consider asking another healthcare provider (like an in-home nurse) to be present in the patient’s home during the visit
- Assess the patient’s surroundings and physical appearance
Preparing for and Answering Questions
Many people have difficulty opening up to their doctor, which can make it challenging to complete an accurate examination and diagnosis. One effective method of getting around this is asking patients open-ended questions. Instead of asking a person if they took their medications (which will always beget a yes or no answer), ask them what medications they took that day and when. Try your hardest to engage your patients and communicate with them in a friendly yet professional way.
As we said earlier, you should also leave time at the end of a virtual consultation for the patient to ask you questions. Have a pen and paper handy to make it easier for you to take notes regarding their demeanor, physical condition, appearance, and more. If another person on your staff will be talking with patients and asking/answering questions, have telehealth protocols in place to prevent any miscommunication or lapses in care.
Truth About Telehealth Services
So, what’s the truth about telemedicine? Is it worth the investment? Well, paid telehealth software doesn’t provide much of a return compared to free alternatives. Yes, they were invaluable during the pandemic, and it’s wonderful that they’ve increased access to care, but they may not always be the best choice for every doctor, provider, or patient.
Once you have all the telemedicine requirements and licenses in place, you’ll still need to buy equipment such as computers, webcams, headsets, high-speed internet, and more. Also, it can be harder for a physician to provide an accurate diagnosis through a virtual consultation, particularly when prescribing weight-based medications.
Instead of offering just one telehealth service, consider providing a more diverse range of healthcare choices for your patients. One option is using broader healthcare communication tools and patient engagement resources, like Customer Relationship Management or CRM.
Basically, a CRM platform is a cutting-edge solution for administering healthcare services that combine many different data sources into one centralized system. Doing so allows you to gain a deeper and more comprehensive view of a patient’s health and care. You can analyze data, pinpoint growth opportunities, benchmark progress, improve the quality of your health services, and so much more.
Weave: Offering Advanced Healthcare and Telemedicine Solutions
Are you interested in learning more about how to leverage advanced software and maximize ROI from your telehealth consult services? We have the answer. At Weave, we offer an all-in-one medical software solution to help you keep in touch with patients, provide virtual healthcare services, handle scheduling, analyze data, and so much more. Contact Weave today at 833-572-2139 to schedule a demo and learn how our medical software solutions can grow your practice.