Tips for patient-focused telehealth

Telehealth has become a viable option versus in-office healthcare visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Often a preferred alternative to simply canceling or delaying appointments, telehealth usage has risen significantly. Some estimates are that 60-90% of physicians now use some sort of telehealth services. About half of those providers are using the technology for the first time to be able to care for their patients effectively and safely during the coronavirus outbreak.

Elation Health has prepared a Telehealth Guide, available here, that will help your practice make the transition successfully.

There are still challenges involved in the use of telehealth, particularly since it is relatively new for providers and their patients. A JD Power US Telehealth Satisfaction Study measured telehealth satisfaction of more than 4,302 patients, based on four weighted factors: customer service (42 percent), consultation (28 percent), enrollment (19 percent) and billing and payment (11 percent). The survey was conducted in June and July, and all respondents had used a telehealth service within the past 12 months.

Among the survey’s notable findings, the study found that:

  • Overall, patient telehealth satisfaction scored an 860 on a 1,000-point scale.
  • Fifty-two percent of respondents said they faced at least one barrier to telehealth access. Twenty-four percent of respondents reported providers offering limited services as a barrier they experienced, with 17 percent of respondents citing confusing technology requirements and 15 percent citing lack of awareness of cost as barriers.
  • Overall patient satisfaction was 117 points lower for respondents who self-reported the lowest health status than it was for those who self-reported an excellent health status.
  • Forty-six percent of respondents said their primary motive for choosing a telehealth encounter was safety, up from just 13 percent in 2019.

To address those patient concerns and challenges as well as the issues that providers may face when implementing and providing telehealth, the following are some helpful tips for patient-focused telehealth:

  • Address patient technological needs. While younger patients may take technology for granted and be well-equipped to navigate software and smart devices, the older generation may not have such skills or experience. Patients with cognitive disabilities may also have issues with a telehealth visit. Suggest to patients that they enlist assistance if they are uncomfortable with using the technology and provide written guidance about how telehealth visits work.
  • Make implementation easy. Not all patients can download or use an app. Remember that many older patients, especially, may not have smartphones. To remain patient-focused, offer a web link for the virtual consultation as well. This will also enable the provider to capture the patient data and push it back into their electronic health record (EHR).
  • Ensure a workflow interoperability is in place. Transferring patient data is critical when providing patient-focused, quality care via telehealth. Patients should not have to repeat their information to multiple people within the practice and providers should not have to spend time on data entry.
  • Make telehealth care accessible. Telehealth is not only convenient, but it can also benefit the patient and the practice financially. When the patient can successfully access telehealth options, the physician will be better able to retain patients and patients can safely get the care they need, reducing unnecessary in-person office visits as well as emergency room visits.

Additionally, it is important to focus on patients when providing telehealth by preparing patients for their virtual visits. Patients should have a clear understanding that the telehealth visit will be somewhat different from the in-office visit but will provide the same quality care. Information can be provided on the practice’s website and provided through messages sent to clients about their upcoming visits.