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Telemedicine has been instrumental in providing continuous care amid the pandemic. When lockdowns began, CMS, other insurers, and even legislatures across the country raced to change regulations and expand telehealth coverage. Although there’s no denying its benefits, telehealth has led to new challenges, and plenty of providers still could use a few tips for improving their virtual chats.
The rapid adoption of any new technology is stressful, even now, almost a year in. More than a few clinicians are experiencing video fatigue or still haven’t made the leap to begin with. To restore balance, avoid burnout, and help your telemedicine sessions go a bit smoother, here are some tips on how you can make your video chats better for you and your patient.
1. Obtain Informed Consent Forms Before a Session
Even with the rising number of cases and months of social distancing behind us, patients can still be hesitant to start telemedicine. The second crisis is all the people neglecting health care. Patients should take charge of their health now more than ever.
Preparing consent forms can help them better understand what telemedicine is, its benefits, and the security measures involved. Consent forms set the groundwork in ensuring that the patient understands what is to take place and to assure them of health information security.
2. Prep Your Patient Before the Appointment
Patients can be anxious or uneasy to use a technology they are unfamiliar with. Have one of your staff do a quick walk-through with them on how to use your telemedicine platform. Inform them of the needed tools or equipment for the session. You can also, instead, send written instructions on how to use the platform and what is expected. In that way, your telemedicine session will be off to a good start.
3. Make Sure You’re Comfortable with the System Too
Using a new tool for the first time is never easy, and everyone’s learning curve is different. If you’re just now coming to telehealth, or if you’ve been struggling with it for a while, cut yourself a break and take some time to know how your platform works. If your patients feel that you are comfortable using the system, they will be too. Doing a regular test run with your friends and family can help.
4. Stay Up To Date with Insurance Coverage
In the past year, policies around telehealth have changed tremendously. With the ongoing pandemic, state and federal laws are always evolving to make telehealth more accessible. Health insurance providers have also been adapting to these changes.
Stay on top of any policy changes and regularly check with your payers to ensure your patients are still covered. This step will save you countless hours later when it comes to trying to get paid.
5. Open up Online Payment Options
Just like in-person visits, your patients will still need to pay co-pays for their telemedicine visits. Give your patients the convenience and safer alternative of paying online. Having a good payment processor that integrates with patient portals, your practice website, or your practice management software makes all the difference.
Check with your EHR provider to know your options. For example, Meditab partners with the payment processor Global Payments Integrated to give practices that flexibility in our own IMS system.
6. Create a Pleasing and Professional Environment
Present yourself professionally and warmly, just like you would do in an in-person appointment. Do a look test on your platform to gauge how professional you will look to your patients. Pick a plain wall or hang a solid-colored fabric behind you. This will help your patient focus on you and not your background.
Remove distracting background noises like fans, barking dogs, or moving vehicles. Close your windows or door to create a sense of privacy but have enough light so that your patients can see you. Make sure your light source is in front of you and not behind you. Having a good and bright environment, and taking advantage of even simple video equipment, like an affordable ring light, can transform your patient’s experience.
7. Don’t Open Too Many Websites or Browsers
Too many things open on your browser can slow down your connection and you might lose your patient in the middle of your session. This will end up frustrating both parties. If you can, disable pop-ups and notifications as well so you don’t get distracted in the middle of your visit.
8. Learn Basic Troubleshooting
Glitches are bound to happen. Learn how to do quick technical fixes or how to select the appropriate camera or microphone settings. Even if your staff has briefed your patient prior to the visit, chances are, you would still need to assist or walk them through the use of the devices in the first few minutes of your sessions — especially if this is their first time using your platform. If any technical problems arise during the session, you’ll be better positioned to help them.
9. Have Your Patient’s Previous Visit Notes on Hand
There will be times when you would need to refer to a patient’s previous note during a session for proper diagnosis. Have them readily available or choose a platform that is integrated with your EHR for easy switching.
10. Maintain Eye Contact
Video conferences come with all types of distractions. It’s a natural tendency to look at a patient’s image rather than the camera itself. There are also times when you need to purposely look away from the camera, especially if you document the visit on another platform.
Not maintaining eye contact might be interpreted as if you are not paying attention to the patient. If you do need to look away, tell them what you are doing so they will know you are still paying attention. Maintaining consistent eye contact, even if you are personally only looking into a camera, creates a positive and meaningful experience for the patient.
Simplify Your Telemedicine Workflow
Practices that don’t adapt and scale up to new technology in healthcare run the risk of losing their patient. Those that do adapt, however, are set to see significant clinical and financial improvements. Adapting to new technology and providing virtual care shouldn’t be complicated.
More than anything, the first step in having a good telemedicine experience is to choose a platform that is straightforward, user-friendly, and intuitive. What’s even better is to adopt a platform that is integrated with a robust EHR with mobile and digital capabilities.
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