In this post-COVID world, virtual doctor appointments are the new normal. Called telehealth or telemedicine visits, these technological marvels let patients and physicians interact without ever coming into contact with each other.
The benefits of virtual appointments in today’s society are significant enough that most insurance companies now allow them as a paid CPT code. But the reality behind the phone screen is not quite as rosy.
From technology issues to distracted or dishonest patients, telehealth visits can be difficult for the physician. With these five tips, you can turn your virtual appointment fiasco into a success instead.
1. Choose a Reliable Telehealth Platform
Virtual appointments do mean that you will have to invest in yet another software program. However, the right one will end up paying for itself if you use it regularly.
Not all visits can be done through telehealth. Your choice of platform will determine how complex your screenings can be.
In general, you want to find a platform that is user-friendly on both the office staff and patient side.
Many patients, especially elderly ones, are going to be nervous about using video as the medium for communicating with you. It needs to be as simple and streamlined as possible.
Try out a few different programs before you choose one. Let your staff use each of them and come to an agreement as to which one is user-friendliest all around.
2. Make Them Cost-Effective
As much as we all want to do what’s best for the patient at all times, sometimes we have to remember the business side, too. You can’t help anyone if you are not being compensated.
Your telehealth platform has to pay for itself and bring in a profit. To do that, the office staff has to understand the billing side. It’s all a complex, interconnected web.
To maximize the cost-effectiveness of virtual appointments, have your billing company send you a list of insurances that cover telemedicine codes. Anyone not on that list will have to come in person or pay out of their pocket.
It may not be a perfect system, but above all else, you are running a business that relies on making a profit.
3. Train Your Staff
With any new program, the overall success of how it is used depends on the training the users receive. The company that sells you the platform should offer training. Whether they do or not, you need to provide it to your staff.
When you do adopt a program, make sure to give it multiple run-throughs before using it officially. This gives the staff involved to troubleshoot any technical issues from the time they sign in to when they log off.
Each person has a role in the virtual appointment process. They all need to be fully confident in their part for the whole thing to run smoothly.
4. Prep Your Patients
Your patients can’t have hands-on training, of course. But they can be prepped for what to expect by the office staff.
Have a checklist that your staff can run through before the patient’s telehealth appointment. Let each person know what kind of app they need, any clothing they should or should not wear in case of a visual exam, and lighting to consider.
Train your staff to be willing and able to answer any questions prior to the virtual visit to limit the time you need to spend answering them.
5. Have an Exit Plan
Creating a natural close to any visit is the key to making patients feel valued and ready to tackle their next steps on their own. Some patients will drag out a visit, even a telehealth one.
It’s up to you to have a consistent, clear wrap-up procedure. Include instructions for the patients, such as where to get their medicine and when they should schedule the next visit.
If your platform is on the computer, be sure to stand next to it when you are closing the visit. That way, there is no awkward silence between your good-bye greeting and the time you turn the screen off.
No matter how comfortable you feel, or don’t feel, with technology, if you’re a physician, you’ll likely be dealing with virtual appointments.
It’s a rocky horizon for the foreseeable future, and people are understandably nervous about going to the doctor.
By offering telehealth visits, you can keep your revenue stream and give your patients the treatment they need. These five tips will take a new method of care and turn it into a success.