How Providers Can Improve Their Telehealth Services

Telehealth isn’t exactly new, although the pandemic led to a huge spike. Even with things returning to normal (or maybe “new normal” is a better way to put it), many healthcare providers are continuing to offer telemedicine services to their patients. How can you as a provider make sure that this process goes as smoothly as possible for both parties? Keep reading for tips to make your telehealth offerings better.

8 Tips for Improving Your Telehealth Services

There have been a lot of wrinkles to iron out with telemedicine, understandably. Consider these eight tips to make your patients (and your staff) happier.

1. Handle Digital Paperwork and Other Documents Beforehand

Instead of waiting for the day of their appointment — or even the day before — send your patients any required paperwork well in advance. (A week is safe.) Be sure to text and email it to them. Some patients will prefer completing these documents on their computer. Furthermore, some of that paperwork might not even be mobile-friendly.

Woman scheduling a telehealth appointment on her laptop

2. Confirm They Have the Proper Access

Depending on their mobile device and carrier, patients might need to give explicit permission in order for their device to properly accept your call. Similarly, if they’re attending their telemedicine appointment from their computer, they’ll need to give access to their camera and microphone.

To avoid technical glitches on the spot, notify patients in advance that they’ll need to prepare their specific devices. In some cases, you might even be able to send them a “test” link so that they can confirm that everything is working properly.

On a similar note, you need to decide what to do if a patient is hearing- or vision-impaired, or if they need a translator or interpreter. How can you better accommodate them?

3. Notify Them of Any Delays

One of the most common complaints that patients have about visits with their providers is the dreaded wait times. (And this is after they might have waited weeks or even months to schedule the appointment in the first place.) One great benefit of telehealth is that you can easily tell your patients if you’re running behind.

Send automated texts and emails letting people know if you’re behind and by approximately how much. They’ll appreciate that you’re keeping in the loop instead of keeping them in the dark.

4. Ask for Feedback

This one is important because it’s the only way you’ll know how to improve. Send automated follow-up messages via text and email asking your patients how you did! These surveys can take many forms. You can ask open-ended or true/false questions, or you can ask them to rate their experience on a scale of one to five — or a combination of these options. (If you want to make it easier for them, make the open-ended questions optional. Some people might not want to type but won’t mind checking a box or giving you a numerical rating.)

As you collect this feedback over time, look for patterns in your patients’ responses. Does a high percentage of patients say that joining the call was too confusing? Was the online paperwork difficult to access and manage? Make adjustments based on their responses — and be sure to notify them that you’re acting on their valuable feedback.

5. Work on Your “Bedside” Manner

Would you show up to your clinic in pajamas? Probably not. So, you won’t want to show up to your calls looking like that, either. How’s the background of your video calls? Is it messy and distracting, or are your degrees on display?

It’s not just about your appearance, either. Think of your mannerisms and body language. Face to face, you might gesture in front of your patients, sit a certain way, talk a certain way, and so on. Can you replicate that (even a little bit) on your telemedicine calls?

Patient on telemedicine call with their doctor

The goal is to achieve the same professional-but-personable ambiance that you hopefully strive for in the office.

6. Be Upfront When a Telehealth Appointment Isn’t Enough

Plain and simple, some things just require an in-person visit. If, during a telemedicine appointment, you come to the conclusion that you really need to see your patient in person (or maybe they need bloodwork), be transparent and tell them your reasoning. Yes, it’s going to require another appointment for them. But you can gently remind them that you’re doing this to provide the best care that you possibly can.

7. Prioritize Security

Security is one of the biggest hurdles that telehealth has had to overcome — and it’s still a work in progress. Are you covered by any sort of cyber liability insurance? What kind of encryption and data storage do your telemedicine practices use? Do you require your patients to use two-factor authentication? How about any third parties you’re working with? Are they secure and covered?

Cybersecurity is a neverending maze, but it’s one we simply have to navigate. You have to stay on top of how any and all data is collected, stored, shared, and accessed.

8. Remember, You’re Talking to Another Human

You already know this one but it’s worth mentioning. With telemedicine appointments, it’s too easy to try to churn through them, one after another after another. After all, they’re lower maintenance because it’s all taking place on the screen in front of you.

But your patients still want and need the same attention and consideration you’d give them in person. Even though you’re busy, start the call by asking them how they’re doing. How’ve they been since you last spoke? Tell them it’s good to see them. Basic manners and a little small talk go a very long way.

Telehealth will continue to provide a learning curve, but it’s here to stay. Keep in mind that you don’t have only two options: telehealth or in-person appointments. You can combine the two! Here’s a video I’ve got that talks about this a bit more. Head to my YouTube channel to continue learning.

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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