Telemedicine software has exploded in use since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
No longer a “nice to have” for healthcare providers, telemedicine software is now a must-have tool for reducing staff and patient exposure to coronavirus during medical appointments.
Even beyond its use during the global pandemic, telemedicine itself is becoming an essential part of accessible medical care. In fact, many states now require private insurance companies to reimburse providers for care via telemedicine.
Before the pandemic, we may have assumed that most medical appointments needed to be conducted in person because of well-established norms and practices.
Many of those norms are now obsolete. The timing has never been better to adopt telemedicine software to improve patient experience, protect staff, and increase patient retention.
What is telemedicine software?
Telemedicine software is an EHR-integrated platform that allows medical professionals and patients to conduct virtual appointments and communicate in real time over video chat and text.
Telemedicine companies offer secure, HIPAA-compliant video chat so that doctor-patient confidentiality is properly maintained.
If you read nothing else: some key takeaways from this article
- Virtual medical appointments can replace in-office care for routine assessments and practices, like diagnosis and treatment of common minor conditions, prescription drug refills, etc.
- Telehealth software can increase access to care for elderly and disabled patients by reducing travel costs and time
- Telemedicine software is the backbone of an efficient pre-office screening process that improves preventative care and opens up access to your clinic
- Telemedicine software improves continuity of care through regular symptom check-ins
- Your telehealth software solution needs to integrate with your electronic health record (EHR) system to create a seamless experience for your staff and patients
- Your telehealth solution should be web-based, without an app download
- HIPAA-compliance is non-negotiable for telemedicine software
- Reliable, friendly customer support is important when you’re choosing a telemedicine software solution – you want specialists on your side
The benefits of telemedicine software for patients and providers
The benefits of telemedicine software are higher quality care and increased practice efficiency. Here’s what you can do when you embrace telehealth software as a norm for your clinic.
Replace in-office care and increase patient volume
While there are limits to patient care during a virtual appointment, remote care capabilities cover many routine assessments and practices that now seem needless to have been conducted in person. Virtual appointments may cover:
- Symptom evaluations
- Diagnosis and treatment of common minor conditions such as yeast infections, rashes, allergies, etc.
- Prescription drug refills
- Sick notes
- Medical referrals
- Lab work orders
- At-home care advice
Every successful virtual appointment is one less touchpoint between your clinic staff and your patients – meaning less exposure to infectious diseases like COVID-19.
During the pandemic, many providers reported higher patient volume due to shorter appointments through telehealth software. Staff who are at home adhering to social distancing measures are able to conduct virtual appointments to identify patient needs at scale, ultimately triaging those patients who need an in-person appointment versus those who don’t.
Better manage ongoing care for elderly or disabled patients with remote visits
Elderly and disabled patient volume is increasing. By 2030, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, there was a 37.7% increase in the number of beneficiaries with disabilities using telehealth between 2014 and 2016. In 2016, people with disabilities made up 65% of beneficiaries using telehealth.
Telehealth software can increase accessibility to care in ways that were unprecedented before technology. Traveling to a doctor’s office for an elderly or disabled person can be costly, time consuming, and frustrating for their primary caregiver.
When you embrace a telehealth solution, you’re better serving your elderly and disabled patients by:
- Eliminating unnecessary clinic visits
- Reducing medical and travel costs
- Providing increased, ongoing support to patients and their caregivers
- Prolonging independent or community home living
- Decreasing waiting room time for appointments
- Decreasing exposure to infectious diseases such as COVID-19
Conduct pre-office visit health screening
Screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms via telemedicine software is essential for protecting your staff and other patients who do need to visit your office – but the use cases for digital health screening expand beyond the pandemic.
Also known as secondary prevention, health screening can identify health problems before a patient requires acute care.
Telemedicine software is the backbone of an efficient, remote triage system that increases patient retention by opening up access to your clinic. Through pre-office visit health screening, your in-person appointment time may be shortened because you’ll already have gathered information on:
- Family health history
- Previous treatment plans
- Sexual health
Health screening can also translate to more services offered by your clinic, like:
- Mental health assessments
- Nutritional advice
- Smoking cessation guidance
- Caregiver support
- Breastfeeding guidance for new mothers
Treatment plan and symptom check-ins between in-office visits
Telemedicine software unlocks improved continuity of care through symptom check-ins between in-office visits, which is especially important for elderly and/or disabled patients who need close monitoring.
An important use case for treatment plan check-ins through telemedicine software is for mental health. You’ve likely prescribed antidepressants to a larger number of patients during the pandemic, and those patients require constant monitoring to make sure they’re receiving the correct antidepressant at the appropriate dose.
Telehealth software can act as your patients’ lifeline during precarious times, and your staff will be able to collect more data through more touchpoints that don’t require an office visit.
Key features to look for in a telehealth platform
Many telehealth software platforms come with additional features like personalized marketing messaging, patient reviews, and activity reports – which is great. But here are four must-have, non-negotiable features for the ideal telemedicine software platform.
EHR and practice management software integrations
A telehealth software solution that doesn’t integrate with your electronic health record (EHR) system is no solution at all. It’s a hassle.
Telemedicine software shouldn’t be implemented as a sole component of your tech suite; instead, envision your ideal telehealth solution as one piece of an integrated whole that seamlessly plugs into your EHR system and other practice management software.
When you’re choosing telemedicine software, prioritize packages that include online booking, appointment reminders, online payments, and recalls for better patient retention.
Each integrated piece will complete the telemedicine experience for the patient from end-to-end, and automate routine tasks for your staff who may be working remotely for a while yet.
No downloads for patients and healthcare providers
Would you download an app if your healthcare provider asked you to? Maybe. But the chances are less likely if you’re over 60.
Your telehealth solution should be a web-based solution, meaning your patient receives a link via text or email that connects to video chat within a browser on their smartphone, desktop computer, or tablet. Neither the patient nor your staff should require a separate app to conduct an appointment.
You already know this, but we’re required to state it: your telemedicine software should be HIPAA compliant.
Free services like Google Meet are not designed for remote patient care. You can use a version of Google Meet that is HIPAA compliant, but you’ll need to pay for the Google Suite, sign an agreement with Google, and take additional steps to ensure compliance. Missteps can leave your practice exposed to potential violations.
Try NexHealth Telehealth for free during COVID-19. HIPAA compliant and designed for healthcare providers.
Reliable customer support
No matter how tech-savvy you are, adopting new technology requires guidance. You want to focus on running your practice, acquiring new patients, and protecting your staff – not fiddling with tech hiccups.
Choose a telemedicine software provider who will dedicate a customer support person to answer questions, troubleshoot, and onboard your staff when you may not have time.
Your software provider should be an expert in the field of telemedicine. You wouldn’t refer a patient with severe acne to a gynecologist, so why rely on generalist tech giants to help you make the most of your telemedicine software?