The term telehealth describes a method of remote healthcare utilizing telecommunications technology. This may include everything from a telephone call to a video chat between patient and healthcare provider. Telehealth has been a successful practice since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but enforced quarantine certainly caused an uptick in its use. Today, telehealth makes healthcare more accessible to those who would not otherwise be able to receive treatment, and successful telehealth can be achieved by taking conscious and deliberate steps.
Strategies for Both Patients and Healthcare Facilities
Both patients and providers have a part in creating a successful telehealth session. These include a good setup and being present during the process.
Find the Right Spot
In order to have a successful telehealth session, it is important to set the scene. Neither patient nor provider should be distracted, so both parties must find quiet spots that allow them to work undisturbed. Make sure things in the background (posters, pets, equipment, etc.) won’t be distracting. The ideal spot has good lighting if the telehealth session will be conducted over video conference.
While neither party needs to create a recording studio, making sure you use quality cameras and sound equipment can mitigate the frustration of poor audio or video quality. This lends itself to better care and overall more successful telehealth since neither party has to worry about the sound or picture cutting out. You may also choose to use headphones or earbuds to block out background noise.
Secure Internet Connection
Sufficient bandwidth is essential for a telehealth session to be successful. The fanciest camera on the market cannot save a telehealth session if the internet goes out. Delays, lost information, and severe frustration are only a few of the side effects of a faulty connection. Minimize other internet uses during a session for best results. Practices may even have a dedicated wifi just for telehealth calls.
Keep Relevant Information Close
The middle of a telehealth session is not the time to try to find pertinent medical records, and sifting through your medicine cabinet is not a good use of the appointment’s allotted time. Instead, have relevant information at hand before the session begins. Healthcare professionals will have a list of questions ready, and patients may feel free to do so as well.
To receive the best care possible without a medical provider in the room, patients should also keep a list of medications ready, for providers will ask for them. Have an explanation of your symptoms ready, especially if you have experienced difficulty performing routine activities. If you have the metrics of your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and weight) taken within the last 24 hours, those are helpful to have onhand.
Incorporating telehealth successfully into a practice means we all need a little coaching on our web-side manner. During a telehealth session, both parties should remain attentive, keep eye contact, and ask good questions. Healthcare workers should adopt a professional tone and explain the telehealth process systematically and clearly. Patients should repeat any instructions given to them to ensure they have them correct.
A good web-side manner isn’t just about demeanor. Apparel also comes into play. Both patient and provider should wear solid colors since patterns can show up differently on screen, playing with the eyes and tricking them into seeing movement. In addition to scrubs, medical professionals should consider wearing their lab coats while on the call to inspire confidence.
Keep good notes
Both patients and providers should have questions beforehand and make sure to cover them during the appointment. Healthcare professionals should let patients know that they will be taking notes so patients do not feel like physicians are not paying attention.
Make Plans to Follow-Up
Many telehealth sessions lead to follow-up appointments, whether via technology or in-person. Establish the necessary next steps before the call ends. Doing so will allow both parties to walk away understanding what comes next.
Successful Telehealth Practices for Medical Facilities
If telehealth is an option offered at your practice, you have an additional responsibility to use the technology wisely.
Offer Multiple Platforms
Medical facilities should offer telehealth on multiple platforms to best reach the maximum number of clients. This is a failsafe against some IT problems. There are many online communication systems on the market. Zoom is taking the world by storm, but FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and other platforms are available for use. Find the best combination for your practice.
Prepare the Patient
To have a successful telehealth session, let the patient know what to expect. Consent must be properly documented, and be sure to let patients know they have the right to stop at any time. Make sure patients understand the billing process for telehealth before the session.
In terms of getting to the root of a patient’s problem and offering treatment solutions, telehealth sessions are the same as in-office visits. Adhere to proper protocols to give the best care while avoiding legal and billing difficulties.
Prioritizing privacy is crucial for successful telehealth. This involves keeping the room in which telehealth calls take place secure. Conversations should remain confidential in the same way in-facility visits are. If other practitioners or staff are in the room, be sure to notify the patient.