Over the past year or so, the need for telehealth services has risen dramatically. In fact, there was a 154 percent rise in telehealth visits for the last week of March 2020 compared to the same period for the previous year. Patients were unable to attend their regular doctor visits in person, necessitating some form of replacement. Luckily, thanks to technology advancements, it’s now possible to communicate with healthcare professionals from the comfort of your own home.
However, not every medical practice is doing all it can to provide telehealth services to its patients. In the future, it’s likely that more people will come to enjoy the convenience of telehealth services and prefer them over traditional visits. Therefore, it’s important for medical practices to start implementing telehealth services and doing so in the right way.
The Importance of Improving Your Telehealth Services
Telehealth encompasses several forms of communication, such as phone calls, video conferencing, conducting virtual visits and even monitoring patients remotely. To give your patients the best possible experience, you need to account for as many telehealth methods as you can. By providing more ways for patients and medical professionals to interact, and by ensuring you are doing your best with each of those methods, you can take better care of your patients and ensure they are happy with your services.
Below you’ll find some of the best telehealth practices you should consider implementing. Go through each one and see if it is something you can begin to do for your patients.
#1 – Protect Patient Information
The most important thing you need to do is protect patient information. As you will be sending out sensitive information over the internet, it’s essential that you take proper care to manage the security of this information. For example, you need to ensure that this information is encrypted properly and that only authorized people are able to view it.
There are certain standards you’ll need to adhere to, such as FHIR, which describes the security and privacy protocols you need to have in place. FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource, includes things such as how to create URLs and how to present patient information online in a secure and standardized way. As you add more telehealth options to your practice, ensure they meet all privacy requirements before implementing them.
#2 – Promote Your Telehealth Services
In many cases, medical offices offer telehealth services but their patients do not know about them. You should make it a standard practice to not only let each of your patients know about their options but provide clear instructions on how they can make use of them. For example, instead of just sending an email to each patient alerting them to your telehealth options, you can also include a telemedicine guide on how they can get started with it. The more you promote your telehealth services, and the easier you make them to use, the more popular they will become.
#3- Upgrade Your Equipment
Providing telehealth services requires modern technology equipment. If your office is running older equipment, now is the time to upgrade. For example, you’ll want devices that can handle video calls, including a high-quality camera and a stable internet connection. You may also need to upgrade your patient database software so that it can interact seamlessly with your new telehealth services, which may require getting new software or a faster machine. Look at upgrading your equipment as a solid investment for your future.
#4 – Fix Up Video Surroundings
When conducting video conferences with patients, you should pay attention to your surroundings. Set up your camera and area in such a way that you provide a professional experience when someone is video conferencing with you. You still want to give off a welcoming environment despite the fact that you are both in different locations.
To do this, start by improving your lighting. Ensure you have plenty of light in the video conferencing area and that it sufficiently lights up the speaker’s face. Beyond that, pay attention to the background. Instead of just a blank wall, try adding in some artwork on the wall or some plants. Improving your video chat background can go a long way towards providing a better experience, even if it seems like a small adjustment.
#5 – Prepare Before Telehealth Meetings
Even though telehealth meetings are more convenient for the patient, you still want to avoid wasting any of their time. Once the video conference begins, you shouldn’t spend time going through their file and reviewing their past patient history. Do this before the meeting starts, so that once you connect with the patient, you can get right down to the matters at hand. This demonstrates not only preparedness and professionalism but ensures maximum convenience for the patient by using less of their time.
#6 – Remember the Fundamentals
Finally, remember the fundamentals of doctor visits. Even though you are connecting over the internet, you should still keep these fundamentals in mind. For example, you can work to develop a rapport with the patient and spend time asking about their medical history. Telehealth medicine is meant to be efficient but that doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. People need to trust their doctors so whatever you do to establish trust in person, look to do the same things through telemedicine.
Start Improving Your Telehealth Services Today
If your medical practice doesn’t already offer telehealth services, now is the perfect time to add them. For those of you that already offer telemedicine, spend some time reviewing how it operates. You may find that there is significant room for improvement, both for the medical professionals and the patients.
If you’re not sure of which areas you need to improve, try asking your patients. Ask them for feedback about their telehealth experience and what areas they would like to see you improve. Between the best practices above, and direct feedback from your patients, you should find plenty of ways to improve your telehealth services and establish a high-quality standard of care for a long time to come.