Interested in adopting a telehealth software for your practice, but not sure what to look for?
You’re not alone.
Medical and dental practices around the globe are having to quickly adapt to a new way of providing patient care in the face of stay at home orders and mandatory office closures. While telehealth has already been successfully adopted for talk therapy appointments, with popular brands like Betterhelp and Talkspace leading the way, many medical professionals are looking more closely at telemedicine as a way to provide virtual care for their existing patients.
While the interest in telemedicine is understandably up, choosing the right telehealth software for your practice isn’t quite as simple as you might think. From dedicated tech tools with rich feature sets to adaptations of existing video conferencing solutions, we review the ABCs of telemedicine, and the facets you’ll want to consider in choosing the best software for your patients and your practice.
What is a Telehealth Platform?
Telehealth software, or a telehealth ‘platform’, is a technology that allows medical professionals and patients to communicate in real time over real-time text or video chat. Unlike popular communications tools like Google Hangouts or FaceTime Messenger Video, telehealth software providers offer secure, HIPAA-compliant video chat so doctor-patient confidentiality can be properly managed.
Depending on the needs of your practice, you may want to consider a telemedicine solution that incorporates other practice management tools. Features like online appointment booking, user-friendly patient communications tools, and online payment portals can help streamline many aspects of daily practice management, providing office staff with better resources, and giving patients an easy, user-friendly online experience that keeps them engaged (and healthy!).
What key features should I look for in a telehealth platform?
Just like choosing an email provider, or a preferred web browser, not all telehealth platforms offer the same capabilities or features. While it’s tempting to choose something that works now-right-now, it’s important to think about how you might adapt your practice in the coming months. You may find that offering a mix of remote video visits and in-office patient care works much better for your practice. For elderly patients or those who aren’t easily able to travel, remote patient monitoring provides a level of care that’s more accessible by reducing the need to travel while still providing a care solution that they can rely on.
Understandably, a video conferencing software that provides HIPAA-compliant video chat is a requirement. There are legal guidelines for adopting telemedicine in your practice, so it’s worthwhile to visit your state’s medical board website for guidance, and avoid using conferencing software tools like Zoom or WebEx that are intended for office use. Some telemedicine solutions offer the ability to sync with electronic health records – so if this is a health information technology your practice is already adopting, look for a software that automatically integrates with your existing EHR system.
Patient communications tools
We all have different methods of communication that we prefer. Older generations are more inclined to use the phone or email, while millennial prefer SMS/text messaging or chats through a mobile app portal. The key to communicating well with your patients is to meet them where they are. They can’t engage with messaging they’re not seeing. Look for a telehealth software that offers multi-channel communications that can be easily customized. Birthday messages, service reminders, or medicine recall notifications can be automated and personalized, providing a manageable and effective method of staying in touch, no matter how large your patient base currently is.
These tools can also extend to chat-based care, so patients can communicate with their medical care provider even if they don’t have the privacy for a video call. Chat allows patients to have a real-time conversation, from the comfort of their home kitchen or their office break room. Doctors can also use chat to stay in regular contact with patients to get daily or weekly updates on current health issues or ongoing treatment regimens, without needing to schedule a dedicated appointment for each check-in.
Desktop software or web-based telehealth platform?
One of the key benefits of telehealth is ease of use, so you want to choose a software that won’t demand a lot of set-up for staff or patients. You know your patients best, so choose a software that they’ll be comfortable using. Avoid solutions that require the download of additional video plug-ins or desktop software. With a web-based platform, you can connect with your patients for appointments directly in their browser.
A web-based software makes it easier for new patients to fill out intake, insurance and medical history forms before their first visit to your office – simply by following a link shared via email.
While some telehealth softwares offer mobile apps, these should be considered a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. Most current software is built with responsive design, so the content will resize to fit the screen it’s being viewed on. As long as the software you choose is responsive (and it’s something you should verify!), you won’t need to ask your patients to jump the extra hurdle of downloading an app to access your telehealth portal.
You’re a medical professional, but you need to be a marketer sometimes too. In addition to communications tools for existing patients, telehealth software can help you attract new patients with email marketing, custom templates and prompts for encouraging online reviews. Choose a software that allows new and existing patients to book an appointment directly from Facebook, Google or your website, with real-time availability and after-hours booking.
What software and hardware tools do I need for telehealth?
At the minimum, you’ll need a computer, tablet or mobile phone with a webcam, a reliable WiFi network, and a HIPAA-compliant telehealth software. Beyond that, choose a provider that has a reliable track record of ongoing product development. This is generally a good indicator that their development team is staying current with new browser updates, and will help you avoid compatibility issues that can occur with older software solutions.
Will telehealth software integrate with the software I’m already using in my practice?
The short answer is sometimes. 3rd-party integrations are increasingly important for both small practices and large health networks. Ideally, you should choose a software that either already integrates with your existing tools, or a telemedicine software that replaces those tools with a complete all-in-one offering.
Onboarding your staff and patients onto a new software takes time, so providing as many features as possible – with a software that is intuitive to use – will help reduce the frustration of asking them to make a change.
With the right telehealth software, you can continue to provide a high quality of care to your patients, streamline your practice management and improve your marketing efforts. If you’re interested in trying telehealth now, NexHealth is offering free telehealth during the Covid-19 pandemic.