Telehealth is gaining prominence as one of the most favored healthcare delivery mediums in hospitals, clinics, and small size nursing homes. Though technological advancements and the recent tryst of mankind with Covid induced pandemic have helped people realize the efficiency of telehealth virtual visits as not just an alternative but a mainstream feature, initial telehealth practices are quite old. NASA was the first organization to use it in the mid-’70s.
Importance of virtual visits
Social distancing norms set during the pandemic have reduced constraints on telehealth which acted as barriers earlier. The CMS took the initiative to temporarily increase Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services. A wider section of the patient population can avail of the facility while several providers are now able to offer virtual visits owing to the new changes in the policies. It also helps that Congress allocated a substantial grant to healthcare organizations to expedite their telehealth programs.
Despite the popularity and the advantages that telehealth offers, it is required to understand that the system involves preventive and curative patient care. So the success of telehealth largely depends on the efficacy of the virtual visits.
Albeit remote monitoring and other addendum services play a pivotal role in the delivery of care through telehealth, the virtual consultations between patient-clinicians must remain a core touchpoint to gather all the data that the devices and software are not able to deliver at any point. It also establishes the old-fashioned human intervention that is required as reassurance for better patient engagement alongside digital tools.
How to pivot virtual visits using telehealth?
Virtual visit reduces the time and effort for a patient to commute to a hospital and helps the facility with a reduced but manageable footfall of patients. An increase in the number of in-person patients will require an additional workforce to manage the administrative process. The no-show of patient appointments is minimum in the case of virtual visits. However, if the patient experience, the efficiency of treatment administration, and the seamless process are missed in the telehealth platform, it will be rejected by all the stakeholders.
To strive for a complete rollout of telehealth platforms, the virtual visit experience has to be exacerbated. Here are a few suggestions that can help care, providers, when considering leveling their telehealth program for virtual consultations
- Sensitize the patients
All patients are not tech-savvy and some may not be using smartphones or digital devices. It is necessary to understand the comfort level of a person who will be enrolled in a telehealth program. Often it starts with targeting the right patient pool who will benefit from such services. For instance, it has been found that telehealth programs have benefitted critically ill patients more than those whose conditions were more stable. So if you are trying to train and sensitize a patient with tech skill training to use a telehealth portal, make sure they fit the target patient’s framework.
- Make it personal
Even with a screen in-between, patients like a personal touch to their conversations. So keep the virtual consultations informal and as personal as possible while covering all other checklist points. It will be good if you address the patient by their name and maintain eye contact during the conversation. Use the camera angle in a manner where your hands are free to take notes if needed but still be visible to the patient.
- Employ a telehealth nurse
A telehealth nurse is experienced in coordinating virtual visits and will know if the examination of the ailment is possible through a video call or will require an explicit in-person visit. This is primarily because there are some posterior structures and elements that cannot be observed through video or other communication tools. So a telehealth nurse is in a position to assess the need for a virtual visit based on the condition.
- Follow-up and feedback
It is necessary not just to follow through with a virtual visit for checking the comprehension of the patients about their treatment plan but also to take feedback about their experience during a virtual visit with their doctor. It helps in improving the system
Telehealth is both preventive and promotive care modality that will help hospitals reach out to more patients and reduce no-shows. It helps in the optimum utilization of resources.