Let’s face it. We’re now in an era where it is safer and more cost-effective to meet with our patients via video conference than it is to be directly in person. While this might make some practitioners feel as though they are losing the personalized attention they’ve given their patients in the past, this new way of practicing medicine is actually a really good thing as it helps everyone maintain social distancing guidelines. Here are a few of our top tips for making telehealth visits more successful for your practice and your patients.
1. Have a Dedicated Quiet Space in the Office
One of the most important things you can do to make telehealth visits more successful is have a dedicated quiet space in your office. If staff is walking past or other people are in earshot, this can break trust with your patients and even create a privacy law issue. Plus, it just makes it hard to stay focused on the visit itself. Instead, have a specific room with a closed door where all telehealth visits take place. And make it clear to staff that when the door is shut, you’re completely unavailable.
2. Offer Multiple Platforms
Technology is sometimes a big barrier when it comes to ensuring your patients get the most out of a telehealth visit. Thus, it is important to offer multiple platform options to make it easier for everyone to connect in a safe and private manner. Facetime is sometimes easier for Apple users or those who are older, while Zoom is more widely available for everyone with a computer or smartphone device. And there are others out there specifically geared towards the medical industry and HIPAA compliance. Find a couple that work best with your patients and meet your clinic’s needs.
3. Practice Before You Start
This is a general tip that probably goes without saying for anyone trying out video conferencing for the first time, but it is super important to practice connecting before you start. It’s never a good thing when you have your first scheduled telehealth visit and technical difficulties keep you from connecting with a patient. Instead, do a trial run or two with a staff member, friend, or even your spouse to make sure everything is working properly. If there are issues, correct them and keep trying again until you feel totally comfortable with the process.
4. Purchase a Better Headset or Microphone
Clear communication is incredibly important when it comes to making telehealth visits go smoothly. Instead of just relying on your computer or smartphone’s built-in devices, opt for a professional headset or microphone. Not only are these super affordable at your local electronics store or online, but they’ll ensure your patients hear you clearly and correctly without any issue. Telehealth services are about clear communication and failure to achieve this can result in unhappy patients.
5. Ensure Your Internet Connection is Stable
There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your telehealth visit with a patient and your internet connection loses all oomph. Instead, it is important to make sure you have a stable connection prior to starting your video conference. In most cases, this means making sure you have a wired connection--i.e. one that goes directly from the computer to the router without utilizing wifi. Not only will this speed up your connectivity, it will help prevent lags and outages when you really need it to work. If this is not an option, make sure your office internet is as fast as the service provider offers.
6. Stay Engaged During the Visit
When you’re first starting out with offering telehealth visits, it might seem a little awkward talking to a tech device instead of a patient. Instead, make sure you go out of your way to stay engaged during the visit. Make eye contact with the camera and nod along while the patient speaks to show you’re listening to what they’re saying. Just like an in person visit, you’ll want to take thorough notes. The biggest difference here is that you’ll want to ask more questions, as you can’t rely on just what your eyes see when it comes to diagnosis.
7. Make It Easy for Patients to Connect
One of the most common reasons why patients miss scheduled telehealth visits is they don’t know how to connect, can’t get into the private Zoom, etc. To keep this from happening, make it super easy for them to access the telehealth appointment. Send out emails with the link prior to the session or even use a service to text the information startight to their smartphone. You can even find services that help add the appointment to their calendars by clicking a link in a message.
8. Thoroughly Explain the Next Steps
When you aren’t meeting with patients in person, it is incredibly important to communicate thoroughly. Make sure you explain all next steps and answer any questions the patient might have. If possible, give them access to send questions via email or text message to you after the telehealth visit is over to help reduce any anxiety and allow them the opportunity to feel connected. While it might sound counterintuitive and there are always those patients that abuse the ability to get in touch with you, doing this can minimize calls to your office and prevent issues from popping up unexpectedly.
9. Follow All Telehealth Billing Guidelines
Of course, you need to get paid for your time and effort when it comes to telehealth appointments. Due to COVID-19, most insurance companies have relaxed their guidelines for providers. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain things you and your staff need to do and document to ensure you’re paid on time and without hassle.
Not sure how to bill telehealth visits or know what a covered session includes? Get in touch with our M-Scribe team today to learn how we can help with all of your practice’s medical billing needs.