During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients are still getting sick from other diseases and needing treatment for pre-diagnosed conditions. As the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic stretches healthcare systems thin, telemedicine enables patients to continue to get reliable medical attention for other conditions.
The demand for medical services and health information delivered digitally has increased steadily over the past five years. Since the onset of the global pandemic, the use of telehealth has grown significantly. And this trend is likely to continue.
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How Does Telehealth Work?
Telemedicine is the use of electronic communications and software to monitor, diagnose, treat, provide prescriptions and referrals in place of an in-patient visit. Physicians and doctors in various fields can use live, two-way interaction with patients and caregivers via phone, video, videoconferencing, and web-connected apps to get information and perform virtual medical checkups and visits. This has been found to be just as effective as in-person visits.
How it works in your practice depends on what area of your specialty telemedicine is applied to and which platform you utilize. Generally, the patient should contact you or your office to request a virtual visit. The doctor can then message the patient to ask some follow-up questions through the platform or instruct the receptionist, staff member, or medical answering service to schedule the session. Then, the patient is provided with a link to join the scheduled appointment using their mobile phone, tablet, or computer. The patient can speak directly with the doctor, share pictures and documents, show symptoms through the camera on their device, and ask questions.
Years ago, it was considered a good alternative for on-going care and follow-up visits for patients living in rural areas. It’s now being used for those with a wide range of conditions:
- Mental health,
- Addiction and recovery,
- Chronic pain,
- Minor injuries,
- Dermatological conditions,
- Mobility issues,
- Chronic diseases, including asthma, diabetes, lung disease, and heart failure,
- Conditions requiring physical therapy.
8 Tips for Physicians Transitioning to Telehealth
Is your practice ready to get started with telemedicine? Here is some advice on how to make the move:
- Before adopting telemedicine, get informed about the state and federal laws and regulations in your area relevant to patient privacy, patient-physician relationships, record retention, the use of videoconferencing technology and mobile devices, and requirements for in-person physical exams.
- Get informed about any related payer requirements.
- Ensure you have a HIPAA-compliant electronic medical record (EMR) system as well as an infrastructure for capturing patient information, communicating with them, storing and transmitting PHI.
- Use only encrypted, password-protected applications to ensure data security.
- Choose a HIPAA-compliant medical answering service or platform for videoconferencing and e-visits which is also easy for patients of all ages to access and use.
- Create a patient consent form for telemedicine services. Require informed consent before beginning remote communications.
- Make an emergency plan in case urgent care is required, a data breach is suspected, or the technology fails.
- Set up the hybrid workflow that works for your practice. This means considering what types of tasks can be handled remotely and when they can be conducted off-site to optimize employee’s time, then scheduling clinical tasks around it.
HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth Platforms
The technology has really caught up to the need for telehealth these days. Multiple platforms provide the opportunity to connect with patients and conduct virtual examinations. Here are a few of the top choices for doctors and healthcare providers:
Is telemedicine the future of health care? Watch this video to find out more.
How to Market Telehealth
It’s important to highlight the advantages for those you treat. Patients may not realize that they can have a telehealth visit directly from their smartphone or tablet. The same technology that they use every day can now be used for very sophisticated virtual medical visits. So, it’s a good idea to raise awareness among your current patients about the advantages of telehealth.
Marketing should communicate how telehealth improves patient care and makes it possible to get a quick response to many of their questions. It protects patients who would be vulnerable to the coronavirus and other contagions from unnecessary contact with healthcare providers and those who may be infected.
Virtual appointments are also convenient because patients don’t need to sit in a waiting room or even leave the comfort of their own home. Eliminating wait times and travel is a valuable advantage for anyone who isn’t feeling well and parents who are caring for a sick child.
Related article: How Medical Answering Services Help Your Practice Cut Costs.
How to Make Telehealth Work for Your Medical Practice
Working with a medical answering service can streamline telehealth scheduling for your practice. Whether you and your staff are working in the office or from home, our HIPAA-compliant answering center can act as a hub between doctors, staff, and patients.
Our trained agents can triage over the phone, direct incoming calls accordingly, ensure 24/7 availability, and book virtual sessions. Without hiring extra staff, your office can benefit from reliable call forwarding and prioritization to help make the workday more efficient. PatientCalls can also connect patients to video sessions directly through the telemedicine platform that your practice is already using.