Table of Contents
- Is telemedicine a trend, or here to stay?
- What is telemedicine?
- 5 benefits of telemedicine video conferencing for professionals
- Boosting the productivity of your practice
- More opportunities for revenue
- Encouraging visits from people who may have trouble coming in in person
- Staying engaged with your community
- Protecting your practice from unnecessary exposure during the pandemic
- 5 benefits of telehealth visits for patients
- Saves patients time
- Improves access to care
- Improves convenience without reducing the quality of care
- Improves access to preventative care
- More control over their appointments
- Limitations of virtual patient visits
- Internet connection
- In-person testing
- Need for follow-up appointments
- Getting ready: How to prepare for a telemedicine visit
- Make sure you have a strong internet connection
- Use an external webcam
- Choose a space for the appointment that is well-lit with few background distractions
- Test your camera and microphone before connecting for the appointment
- Review all materials before the appointment starts
- How to pick the right telehealth software
- How to use NexHealth telemedicine software
- How to prepare the patient for the visit
- 14 tips for a successful telemedicine video conference
- Proper camera distance
- Proper camera angle
- Notifications and sound
- Setting expectations
- Proper lighting for you and the patient
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Explain your needs
- HIPAA-compliant forms
- Data entry
- Summarizing takeaways
- Explaining next steps
- Post-appointment outreach
- How to follow up with patients after a virtual visit
- Send a visit summary
- Collect payment
- If the problem was solved in one appointment
- If they require a follow-up appointment
- Last considerations
Is telemedicine a trend, or here to stay?
Telemedicine has become an important tool during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even at the beginning of 2020, patient usage of telemedicine had reportedly increased by 33 percent compared to the previous year. Even back in 2018, over half of patients said they’d try telemedicine, and most who had tried virtual visits (77 percent) reported high satisfaction.
Now, since the pandemic, and increased reliance on telehealth, 83 percent of patients say they plan on continuing to use virtual appointments even once COVID-19 resolves. If you’ve been waiting to see the trend subside, instead of getting on board with its ongoing growth, it’s time to incorporate this option into your practice. Telemedicine is here to stay.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine, under the wider umbrella of telehealth, is the practice of connecting patients with health care practitioners using technology like video conferencing, simultaneous and asynchronous online communication, and other telecommunications methods from a distance.
5 benefits of medical teleconferencing for professionals
Boosting the productivity of your practice
Telemedicine allows you to fit in more appointments and also slot in sessions with patients on shorter notice than would be required for an in-person visit.
More opportunities for revenue
Because you’re helping patients book appointments on short notice, you’re also able to fill your appointment slots more easily. Your patients won’t have to worry about taking off too much time from work or commuting to get to an appointment. You also have the opportunity to attract patients to get care that they may otherwise postpone getting because of the increased ease.
Encouraging visits from people who may have trouble coming in in person
Making appointments easier through telehealth availability reduces one of the barriers to scheduling and keeping appointment times. Increasing availability of appointments and offering automated reminders both aid in reducing no-shows.
Staying engaged with your community
Having availability for on-demand, virtual appointments can make your practice seem more available to your patient base, and the increased accessibility to your office can keep you more engaged with the people in your community.
Protecting your practice from unnecessary exposure during the pandemic
Shifting appointments that don’t need to be held in-person to an online setting means that fewer patients will be in your office, limiting their exposure and yours during the pandemic. Beyond the pandemic, virtual appointments mean limiting patient exposure to other contagious illnesses they may encounter in the office.
5 benefits of telehealth visits for patients
Saves patients time
Telemedicine appointments are a convenient way for patients to be seen by their practitioners that removes the time normally spent commuting and waiting in the office. On average, patients can save over 100 minutes per visit.
Improves convenience without reducing the quality of care
A recent study showed that virtual visits improve the convenience of scheduling an appointment without compromising on the quality of care. In fact, 62 percent of respondents found the quality of care to be the same, and 21 percent found it to be even better than an in-person visit.
Improves access to care
For patients in rural areas or ones with time constraints, telemedicine can help them get access to care when they need it, also allowing for short turnaround times between when they first call for care and are seen for an appointment.
Improves access to preventative care
Telehealth appointments can serve as triage sessions, where doctors can intervene on patients’ issues before more serious help is needed. An initial virtual consultation can help improve overall health outcomes.
More control over their appointments with on-demand options
Nothing is more frustrating than playing phone tag. Setting up online scheduling with telemedicine appointments gives your patients the feeling of having more control over their health, while improving convenience of scheduling.
Limitations of virtual patient visits
While virtual visits come with a lot of benefits for patients and providers, they can’t solve every problem.
If your patients don’t have a reliable internet connection, it can make conducting a telehealth visit very difficult. If their internet is intermittent or too slow, it can negatively impact or completely prevent your patient from having a virtual visit.
If lab work, X-rays, or other in-person testing or diagnostic work is needed, your patient will still need to come in after their virtual visit.
During a virtual patient visit, you rely on the individual to take their own vitals. They may be able to weigh themselves, take their temperature, and even get pulse and blood pressure information if they have at-home equipment. However, you are limited in what you can assess virtually by what they have on hand.
Need for follow-up appointments
In some cases, you may be able to solve the issue your patient is facing in one online appointment. However, it’s important to explain to them what can and can’t happen in a telehealth visit, and what expectations your patient should have for a visit of this kind.
Getting ready: How to prepare for a telemedicine visit
Here are a few tips for virtual visits to guarantee the appointments with your patients run smoothly on both ends.
Make sure you have a strong internet connection
Just like you would encourage your patients to do, it’s preferable you have a wired ethernet connection when talking to your patients. Make sure they know how to reach you if communication drops, or what the protocol is if you lose connection at any time during the appointment.
Use an external webcam
While your phone and computer have built-in cameras, chances are, the quality won’t be as good as if you use an external webcam. If you use an HD webcam, you will be seen more clearly by your patients, which will improve their overall experience.
Choose a space for the appointment that is well-lit with few background distractions
If you’re taking the appointment in your home, do it in a closed office with few distractions behind you, where background noises will be at a minimum. Make sure the light source in the room is shining on your face, not backlit. This way your face will show up clearly on camera. You may also want to use a ring light or something similar that you can hook around your webcam for better lighting.
Test your camera and microphone before connecting for the appointment
You can waste important meeting time by just making sure you can hear your patient and also be heard and seen. Before the session begins, test your camera and microphone and be sure you’ve given the software permission to access both. Sometimes your computer will override settings and choose the incorrect audio inputs and outputs, or choose the native camera on your computer versus a webcam you plug in.
Testing all connections before the appointment starts will cut down on any time wasted due to technical difficulties when you’re with your patient. It also shows that you are prioritizing the appointment and not the setup when it’s time to focus on them.
Review all materials before the appointment starts
Since virtual visits are relatively short, allot time before the appointments to review the notes that the patient submitted when scheduling, along with any other relevant records and test results before it begins to make the time you have together as efficient as possible.
How to pick the right telehealth software
When you’re choosing the right telehealth software for your practice, you should keep a few things in mind. The right telehealth HIPAA-compliant video software should be easy to use. It’s preferable if your patients don’t have to install new software. The platform should be easy enough for your patients and staff to operate, understand, and easily train others to use, while remaining affordable enough to scale with your usage.
While many telehealth platforms focus solely on hosting appointments, think about what else you might want for features. Do you want a service that allows messaging, appointment reminders, and secure forms? NexHealth integrates with your current practice software and goes beyond the typical HIPAA-compliant telemedicine video conferencing software offerings.
How to use NexHealth telemedicine software
NexHealth telemedicine software is easy for your patients to use. Simply send them the link via email reminders, and they will be able to access the room without downloading additional software or having to set up an account.
On your end, the process is also straightforward. You can easily review appointment activity, payments, messages, and reviews left for your practice right as you log in. You’ll be able to see pending and accepted appointments on your calendar, confirm the status of appointments, and send messages back and forth with your patients, all through the portal. You’ll also be able to see when your patient has confirmed and checked in for an appointment on their end before you start the session.
With the push of a button, you can send appointment reminders and confirmations to patients, automate messaging to go out to a targeted group, or request payment for a recent service. With easy-to-manage workflows and templates, none of these processes involve starting at the beginning.
NexHealth telemedicine software goes well beyond the appointment itself. You can send your patients intake forms via email or SMS, designate communication preferences, and simplify the entire booking and payment process. Since the software is so easy to use on your end, all you’ll have to worry about is getting your patient up to speed on how to meet with you, which also only takes a couple clicks.
How to prepare the patient for the visit
You’ve also got to prepare your patients for how to do a telemedicine visit the same way you’ve prepared your space. Send an appointment reminder detailing the preparations mentioned above, as well as any information on how to access the room. Set expectations for how early the patient should log in prior to the appointment time, and let them know where to direct any questions they may have prior to their session.
14 tips for a successful telemedicine video conference
In addition to the advice listed above, here’s what you need to consider so your video consultation goes off without a hitch.
Proper camera distance
The camera should be showing your head and shoulders, cutting off somewhere around the top of your shoulders and the middle of your chest. Make sure the camera is far enough away from you so that your patient gets this picture of you.
Proper camera angle
Your camera also needs to be placed at a good angle so that it’s not distracting to your patients and so that it looks like you are engaging with them. The closer you get it to eye level or a bit higher, the better. If you place your camera too low, your patients might be looking up your nose. If you place it too high, it may appear to them like you’re not maintaining eye contact when you are looking at your monitor to see them. Somewhere at, or just above, eye level is perfect. Position your camera somewhere in the middle of where you’re sitting, as well, so your body isn’t off to one side.
Notifications and sound
Turn notifications on to alert you when your patient is ready to see you, and don’t forget to turn the volume up on your computer. That way you won’t leave them waiting and they won’t jump off the call before you arrive.
Reiterate what the appointment is for and what you’re going to try to accomplish with it. Remind patients that there is the potential for follow-up, in-person appointments if deemed necessary, before you start your consultation in full.
Proper lighting for you and the patient
If you can’t see your patient or they can’t see you, adjust the lighting before continuing. Encourage your patient to get a light source that is shining on their face and not behind them. You should do the same. If you need additional light from your patient when assessing them, ask them if they have a flashlight handy.
During the appointment, if your patient seems to be distracted by something in their environment or yours, work on engaging them and staying focused yourself on the appointment. Don’t draw too much attention to the distraction. If it’s on your end and you can see what it is, remove the distraction if possible.
Sometimes the video can stutter on one end or another, and buffering may lead to your patients missing some words you say or hearing you talk too slow or too fast, making things confusing. Stop every once in a while to confirm that your patient is understanding what you’re saying. Reiterate your points, ask if they need any clarification, or have them repeat back to you what you’ve said. These are all good ways to make sure your point is getting across.
Use your body language to express to your patient that you are engaged in the session. Keep your arms unfolded, maintain eye contact the best you can, and nod to indicate you are hearing the patient. Keep your face friendly, and lean in slightly to the camera. Folding your arms, leaning away, or averting your gaze can all read to your patient like you are disinterested or unengaged with the appointment.
Explain your needs
Once you discuss the reason for your patient’s visit, explain what you need from them to make the most of the appointment. For example, if your patient comes to you with a complaint about their eye, you may need them to get very close to their camera and move their eye in different directions as part of your virtual physical exam.
Make the intake process easier by providing digital HIPAA-compliant forms for the patient to fill out. NexHealth offers digital forms you can use prior to or during your appointment.
It can be harder to take notes when you’re also trying to manage new communication, so be prepared to do so before the appointment starts by having a notebook next to you or via digital note taking with your software open in another window or monitor. If you have to take notes and turn your head away from the camera, explain what you’re doing, so your patients know you’re still paying attention to them
After you’ve observed, taken notes, and gotten what you need from your patients, tell them what you have concluded from the visit. In the example from the earlier step, if they said their eye is bothering them and you took a closer look, tell them what you see – conjunctivitis, for example, or that you need to know more to make an accurate diagnosis.
Explaining next steps
Once you get to the end of the appointment, be clear about what happens next. If you’re filling a prescription for your patient, tell them when they can expect to pick it up. Explain any care instructions you have. If you need to schedule a follow-up appointment, tell your patient how to do that.
Because your patient isn’t going to get a print-out of an after-visit summary like they would in the office, or have a chance to meet with scheduling, provide an update after the appointment for anything that happens next. Give your patients an opportunity to ask any questions they may still have as well.
How to follow up with patients after a virtual visit
Send a visit summary
Whether they need to come in for another appointment or not, send them a visit summary via email or in their patient portal that recaps the purpose of the appointment, what was discussed, what the determination was (if anything) and the next steps. In short, offer the same kind of after-visit summary they would receive in the office, just not a print out.
Allow your patients to pay their bill quickly with NexHealth’s digital payment capabilities.Your patients don’t need a login or password to pay, just their banking information sent using their smartphone or desktop computer. Using NexHealth, 80% of patients pay within 10 business days of receiving their bill.
If the problem was solved in one appointment
If the virtual visit was all you needed to solve your patient’s issue, send them an email asking them if they have any follow-up questions. You can also use this email as an opportunity to ask your patient to rate their satisfaction with the visit.
If they require a follow-up appointment
Send them an email reminding them to schedule a follow-up appointment using online booking, and the timeframe in which you’d like that to happen (2 weeks, 1 month, etc.). Explain what they’ll get out of the follow-up appointment and if it needs to be in-person or if it can be virtual.
The more features you have at your disposal to facilitate effective virtual patient visits, the more likely it is you’ll improve patient satisfaction, keep your practice organized, and help make it easier for your patients to get the attention they need in a fast and comfortable way.
Telehealth is about a lot more than having a video platform for visits. It can also include online billing, appointment reminders, and HIPAA-compliant forms, all of which help make for a positive patient experience in a virtual visit setting. Coupling these features with best practices to conduct a telehealth visit means you’re well on your way to growing this side of your practice into something robust, well beyond a trend.
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