In the wake of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, doctors, nurses, mental health services, and other healthcare practitioners are taking their practices online. Telehealth platform Doctor on Demand saw a 50% increase in demand in just one week, according to STAT, and virtual doctor visits could top 1 billion in 2020, CNBC reports.
As you decide if this approach is right for your practice, keep the telemedicine benefits in mind. It can help you offer higher levels of patient care, while protecting patient confidentiality, staying compliant, and keeping your practice active during difficult times.
What is Telemedicine and How Does Telemedicine Work?
Until recently, many practices had never implemented telemedicine software or did so only on a limited basis. Meanwhile, many insurance companies only covered a fraction of digital visit costs. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the need for virtual visits, and Medicare and other insurers have updated their policies to reimburse doctors appropriately, according to the Center for Connected Health Policy.
The way telemedicine visits work is simple. Providers and patients are connected via a secure online video portal. Discussions can be conducted remotely, and if patients require follow-up services such as prescriptions or blood tests, providers can order them.
Telemedicine lets you safely engage with patients, provide adequate care (especially to those in vulnerable populations), and see even more patients during the workday, in some cases.
How to Choose the Right Telemedicine Software
With so many tools available on the market, you may want to jump right in and get started. But it’s important to ask the right questions early, to ensure a seamless transition to offering telemedicine services.
On top of serving patients during the COVID-19 crisis, what else do you hope to accomplish with telemedicine? Do you want to increase the number of patients you’re able to see during the day, or make it easier to offer emergency care online? Different platforms offer services that support unique medical models.
Consider your patient demographic. If you work primarily with tech-savvy young patients, a mobile-friendly platform is essential. If your patients are less technically adept, choosing a platform with good customer service becomes vital.
Here are some additional questions to consider:
- Will you offer real-time video or voice consultations with patients? Or do you prefer a platform that lets you give recommendations to patients who send you questions and images?
- Does the solution you’re considering integrate with your Electronic Health Records (EHR) system and medical practice management software?
- How will you offer security and stay compliant with regulations? Look for solutions that are HIPAA-compliant and have HITRUST certification.
- Can your technology infrastructure support the bandwidth needed? For example, a real-time, high-quality video platform demands access to a stable, high-speed network connection.
- What kind of patient experience does the solution offer? The best options work on multiple devices and provide customer support for patients who have technical questions.
Working with an established provider can ensure you’re able to serve your patients safely, efficiently, and in a cost-effective way. Doctor On Demand, Teladoc, Mend, and doxy.me are all popular platforms to evaluate.
Don’t Overlook the Human Aspect
Telemedicine can offer support to busy medical providers while ensuring patients get the care they need. Yet both providers and patients have to adapt to the new format. Take the time to ensure all providers receive adequate training around operating the technology and engaging with patients in a virtual environment.
It takes time to cultivate a rapport, solicit the right information, and make patients who are used to in-person visits feel comfortable. You can help them get used to this new setup by coming up with best practices and making your doctor-patient relationship a priority.
Getting started with virtual visits lets you tap into numerous telemedicine benefits, and there are many tools and telemedicine software packages that are right for small practices. Don’t let finances get in the way. A medical practice loan can help you make the investment needed to offer treatment to patients today, and lay the foundation for a future that favors virtual, on-demand medical care.