The challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are making health practitioners, government organizations, and patients take a fresh look at the benefits of telemedicine. The US government is revisiting its virtual care policies and removing barriers to adoption. Seeing the current trends, Forrester analysts expect the number of telehealth interactions to reach 1 billion by the end of 2020.
As the telehealth industry approaches a turning point, healthcare practitioners should get ready to satisfy the growing demand for telehealth services and meet patients’ expectations. If you’re still hesitant about incorporating telemedicine into your practice, take a closer look at the benefits telemedicine can bring to you and your patients.
#1 Increase patient satisfaction
In a good number of cases, video consultations can substitute in-person visits without any loss in service quality. A patient survey conducted by CVS MinuteClinic showed up to 99 percent satisfaction with telehealth visits. You can improve your care delivery by offering:
- timesavers for your patients. Virtual visits allow your patients to avoid travel hassles and reduce the risk of missing an appointment. Automatic reminders, convenient rescheduling, and clear cancellation policies will help your patients manage their time efficiently and reduce no-shows.
- faster access to care. Telemedicine offers your patients an easy way to seek urgent care or get a quick consultation. It allows them to reach out to you via safe instant messaging instead of waiting until you’re available for an in-person visit. And by doing so, they can get back to your advice or prescriptions at any time just by reading previous chat messages.
- better patient engagement. Using telemedicine software, your patients can get more frequent contact with you and have greater engagement and ownership of their health. Patients can use telemedicine software to conveniently report health metrics, get timely explanations of lab results, and alert you when they need care before their symptoms get worse. This leads to better patient outcomes and improves overall satisfaction with your service.
According to research by the American Medical Association, telemedicine is ideal for conversation-based specializations like psychiatry and incorporates well into the workflows of cardiologists, radiologists, allergists, gastroenterologists, and emergency room physicians. If you still have doubts, ask your colleagues who have already used telemedicine about its benefits.
#2 Efficient medical practice management
In an interview with Medical Economics, Tabassum Salam, vice president of education for the American College of Physicians, advises practitioners to try to spot natural transition points where in-person care can be swapped out for telemedicine care. It’s likely that after you incorporate remote care into your practice, you’ll see the following benefits:
- More patients in a day. With telemedicine software, you become more flexible and can interact with more patients without increasing your work hours. Some practitioners manage to hop between in-person and video appointments or take short emergency video calls between scheduled clinical visits. Others prefer to cluster chunks of time to separate in-person and telecare services. You can try both approaches and find what works best for you.
- Efficient and reachable specialists. If you run a multi-unit practice, some doctors might have to travel between locations during the day or dedicate particular days to different locations. By delivering telemedicine services, you can allow these doctors to work from one office and be equally available via remote calls for all patients regardless of where they are.
- Minimum of non-billable work. Short telemedicine visits can help you reduce between-visit phone conversations with your patients. Instead of calling you for a bit of quick free-of-charge advice, patients will be able to book a five-minute virtual meeting, which will help you properly document your service and get rewarded for those small interactions.
Primary care physicians can leverage video calls for first contact appointments with patients who have undiagnosed health concerns to route them to the right type of care. Virtual appointments also work well for routine follow-ups, pre- and post-op appointments, and check-ins with patients who have chronic diseases.
#3 Lower administrative burden
The 2019 State of the Independent Practice Industry Report by Kareo shows 70 percent of practitioners admit that mounting paperwork is affecting the quality of their care delivery. Implementing telemedicine can help you free up your time to focus on clinical tasks and communication with patients.
- Hassle-free scheduling. As more patients opt for virtual visits and receive access to convenient scheduling options via apps and website widgets, your schedulers will have less work and you can even employ fewer administrative staff.
- Better patient attendance. Patients who don’t have to travel to your office but can access care from the comfort of their own home are less likely to be late for or miss appointments. Booking confirmations with links to a virtual meeting room and automatic reminders sent by your telemedicine software will minimize no-shows.
- Simple payment and refund flow. Telemedicine comes with no administrative burden, as specialized software allows you to leverage online payments and automated refunds. This ensures you always get fairly paid for the telemedicine services you provide and can check records of any transactions at any time.
When adding telemedicine services to your practice, you’ll need to introduce some administrative changes. There may be bottlenecks in your workflow that you have long wanted to remove but kept putting off. Launching a telemedicine service can be your ideal opportunity to rethink and modernize your operations as a whole.
#4 Security and regulatory compliance
The Center for Connected Health Policy provides reports on laws and policies requiring insurers to reimburse healthcare providers for virtual care services. Recent changes in US federal legislation allow Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs to extend the list of telehealth services they cover. However, for smooth cooperation with state and private insurers, you should document remote interactions with your patients securely and systematically.
- Trouble-free insurance audits. Telemedicine software allows you to conveniently store and access call recordings, messages, and documents for every patient. This removes uncertainty from situations when Medicare, Medicaid, or a private insurance company sends you an audit request, as you’ll be able to quickly collect and provide information on any given claim at the payer’s demand.
- HIPAA-compliant service. Software solutions for telemedicine provide you with tools for secure video calls and messaging. When choosing a telehealth vendor, you should check if they encrypt data and use secure cloud storage to protect private information from leaks and unauthorized access. This may help you prevent legal issues and fines. By having your own telemedicine software, you can speed up communication with your patients and make connecting with you as easy as using Skype or WhatsApp while not imposing any privacy risks.
With the right telemedicine software, you can establish solid internal protocols for providing virtual care and maintain regulatory compliance. Additionally, you should keep track of the latest changes in legislation and regulations in your state and consult your patients on what telemedicine service their insurance covers.
Ready to leverage the benefits of telemedicine?
If you want to implement telemedicine into your practice, take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to successfully get started with telemedicine. You’ll learn about all the opportunities presented by telemedicine, potential risks to be aware of, and best practices for implementing a telemedicine program.