Virtual health visits have permanently changed the telehealth landscape for healthcare organizations. In a recent survey, 55 percent of patients said they were more satisfied with virtual health visits than in-person appointments and nearly half of them intend to keep using virtual care platforms in the pandemic’s aftermath. But is your telehealth program ready to support this growing demand?
Whether you’re looking to implement virtual health visits for the first time or improve your existing telehealth strategy, setting a standard of best practices for your team is crucial to enhancing the virtual care experience for both physicians and patients.
Preparing Physicians for Virtual Visits
Transitioning to virtual care is not a small adjustment and it will take time for your physicians to adopt these practices and make virtual health visits an efficient, consistent, and comfortable routine for patients. Here are some valuable practices to help your team get started:
- Organization-wide education and implementation of telehealth
Elect a telehealth coordinator who champions virtual care so that the technology value of virtual health visits is communicated from decision-makers to your everyday clinicians, physicians, and in-staff team members.
- Engage your team in virtual patient care training
Ensure your physicians, clinicians, and medical staff are given hands-on training sessions with testing and Q&As for clarity on how to fully utilize virtual care platforms.
- Prepare a virtual visit video script, checklist, and back-up plan
Medical assistants and clinical monitoring staff should have a sample virtual health visit video script with clear instructions on the content that will be used during the call and when to use it.
A preparation checklist including things like checking the Wi-Fi connection and ensuring the right amount of video backlight will also help avoid disruptions during the call. If clinicians run into technical errors during the visit, it’s important that you have a back-up plan, like having another video solution on standby.
- Clear communication is key
In order for your virtual health visits to be successful, you need clear communication and a vision for virtual care in your telehealth program. Remember, your clinicians’ ability to communicate effectively when carrying out these visits will largely determine the longevity of the program and your patients’ overall experience.
Preparing Patients for Virtual Visits
Start them on video calls early
Patients should be introduced to the video calling feature as soon as possible. Whether it be through telemonitoring equipment in the hospitals and clinics or during clinician visits to the patients’ home, the sooner patients are guided through working with telehealth, the easier it will be to accustom themselves to virtual care.
Making sure the patients are acquainted with the telehealth team early on will help them be well informed with virtual care protocols like who to contact after hours in the event of an emergency and the standard hours of telemonitoring. We recommend getting family members or caregivers to participate in the installation of equipment and video visit training to ease the patients’ transition.
Schedule virtual visit appointments
After being enrolled, you should schedule additional virtual visits with patients in advance, either through an in-person visit, text message, or call. Your clinicians should follow the virtual visit script and protocol created. Throughout this process, it’s vital that physicians reassure patients that virtual health video visits are just like regular appointments.
We recommend sending patients a reminder the day before your scheduled appointment to avoid any missed visits. On the HRS platform, you can easily remind patients about important visits through convenient text messaging tools.
Patient-Requested Virtual Health Visits
Being attentive towards your patients’ requests will go a long way in establishing rapport and trust in your patient-provider relationship. With remote-patient monitoring platforms like HRS, clinicians can use the high-risk alert feature to notify them when a patient requests for an unscheduled call.
We recommend opting for video calls instead of the standard voice call to give clinicians visibility into the patient’s physical well-being and intervene accordingly.
Offering unscheduled virtual visits also lets clinicians stay informed about the patients’ condition to avoid unnecessary ED visits and readmissions.
Enhancing Your Webside Manner
Webside manner is one of the most important factors in maintaining a strong patient-physician relationship during virtual visits. In fact, patient-satisfaction surveys revealed that patients valued physician communication over their medical proficiency and ability when it came down to evaluating the quality of care. Here are some best webside practices you can implement during your virtual health visits:
Before the visit
Preparing your technological setup before the appointment is crucial to ensure there are no disruptions during your virtual visit. You should have strong network connectivity, a working webcam, microphone, and speakers as well as your vendor’s tech support contact info in case any technical issues occur.
Physicians should optimize their environment to ensure patients treat these visits like regular in-person appointments. Things like positioning yourself at the center of the screen, dressing professionally, picking a neutral background, and conducting the call in a quiet, private location will help set the atmosphere for an effective virtual visit.
During the visit
When you are engaging with patients during the video call, be sure to give them your undivided attention. Avoid multitasking and convey that you’re listening through nonverbal cues such as maintaining eye contact, keeping an open posture, nodding your head, and avoiding fidgeting. Showing empathy during the virtual consultation is another way of keeping patients engaged.
We recommend breaking the ice with informal introductions before diving into the details of the consult. Acknowledge what your patient is going through, especially if they have concerns or reservations with transitioning to telehealth. Virtual visits are a great opportunity to leverage technological features to show medical documents, condition education, or adding a third-party caregiver to improve your patients’ virtual experience. Always ensure you leave some time at the end of the call for patients to bring up any concerns they might have.
After the visit
Following up with your patients after consultations will motivate them to take control of their health and improve outcomes. We recommend sending a summary of your visit after the session to demonstrate your engagement. Make sure you include next steps like prescriptions to pick, symptoms to monitor, and other important details discussed in the call to help your patients stick to the care plan. Provide your contact information so patients know they can reach out to you if they have any questions and ask for feedback to demonstrate that you value their input.
How HRS Can Help You Implement Virtual Visits with Success
When it comes to setting and maintaining best practices for virtual care implementations, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You need a telehealth and remote patient monitoring solution that accounts for your health organization’s staffing, planning, and resource structure. Get connected with one of our virtual health experts to learn how you can implement these best practices in your telehealth plan today.