Telehealth is crucial in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, telehealth was not being used nor promoted aggressively. Most physician practices were either reluctant to use telehealth or used telehealth for only a few of their patients. But as long as the national lockdown continues, telehealth is the only way for physician practices to offer patient consults. And with elective surgeries on hold, telemedicine has become the primary channel for physician practices to generate revenue.
Since the coronavirus crisis, the customer-led demand for telehealth has seen a considerable surge, typically for portals such as Teladoc, MDLIVE, and Doctor on Demand, which offer consultations at an off-the-rack fee rate. Many brick-and-mortar physician practices also offer or have started offering telehealth. But there is a general lack of awareness amongst patients about the option of telemedicine at their local physician practice, or the process they must follow to make a telehealth call.
Making anyone try a new thing is never easy, and convincing your patients to contact you via a telehealth app is not without challenges. To help get your patients on-board with the idea of using telehealth, we recommend the following six strategies to promote telehealth –
1. Customer communication campaign
Having chosen a telehealth app or software that best meets the needs of your practice, it’s time to educate your customers on how they can reach you for a telehealth consult. We recommend a communication campaign to create awareness about telehealth.
Send emails to your existing and potential clients on the ease of reaching you via telehealth. You can send emails to up to 50,000 contacts through Mailchimp for less than 15$ a month. Send at least two or three emails (over two to three weeks) to educate your customers on telehealth use. If you have a practice website, promote telehealth via blogs. Use social media to inform and encourage your patients to reach you via telehealth.
Here are some useful resources to save you time:
- AdvancedMD has created a library of videos, downloadable documents, and social media content that you can use to promote telehealth.
- The PracticeForces team has created this infographic (to the left) that you can download and use to educate your clients on making that first telehealth call.
An online communication approach may not work for all patients. We recommend that you supplement the online efforts with a telephonic campaign for specific patient groups. For instance, you could make individual calls to patients older than 65 years of age, informing them of the telehealth option and taking them through the process for logging in to the app.
2. Answer basic questions clients may have about telehealth
In addition to informing clients that you offer telehealth, you must address common queries and concerns that patients may have about using telehealth for the first time. To make your job easier, here is a list of customer FAQs.
Please feel free to use this information (with modifications to suit your practice) as part of the campaign to promote telehealth with your clients.
(i) What is telehealth?
Telehealth is when you consult a physician remotely via any device that allows for audio and video communication. Many U.S. physician practices offer a telehealth service through a HIPAA compliant telehealth software and application. However, for the COVID-19 public health emergency, the government has approved the use of any video-based app such as FaceTime and Skype for making a telehealth call to your physician. So it’s never been easier to reach your provider.
(ii) How do I book a telehealth appointment?
Depending on the software that your physician provider uses, you could book a telehealth call through the practice’s website or by calling the physician office for an appointment.
(iii) How much do I pay for a telehealth appointment?
The cost of a telehealth appointment is similar to an in-person visit to your physician’s office (and most likely lower than an in-person visit). For the exact cost of a telehealth consult, please speak to your provider’s office.
(iv) How will I know that my telehealth appointment has been booked?
Typically, your physician’s office will send you an email or a mobile text confirming the date and time for the telehealth call. If the provider is using a telehealth app, you will have to log in to the telehealth portal. If the physician is using a regular video channel such as Skype, just be available on that app at the agreed time and date.
(v) How do I pay for the telehealth call?
Like an in-person visit, your provider will inform you if the call will be covered by insurance, or whether you need to pay the fee online via a credit card.
(vi) Can I have another person with me on the call?
Yes, certainly. If the person is there to discuss your medical ailment with the physician, then it is okay to have another member of your family or a friend with you during the call. However, if that person wishes to consult the physician for another ailment, then please book a separate telehealth call.
3. Nominate a go-to tech person or contact point for login issues
Even patients who are relatively tech-savvy may run into glitches while logging in. In the email communications you send, share a helpline number and the name of the person from your medical office that patients can contact in case they need help with accessing the telehealth app/ software.
4. Do not insist on the patient using your telehealth app
It is a time for transition for patients and physicians alike. Getting comfortable with the idea of using a telehealth app will take some time and convincing. The good news is that during the COVID-19 health emergency, you can submit Medicare and Medicaid claims even for patient consults made using smartphone video apps such as Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout. Use this option to ease some of your patients into using the telehealth app.
5. Pay attention to the little details during the telehealth call
Virtual consults tend to be more to-the-point discussions between the patient and the physician. However, the remoteness of the situation does not have to mean that the interaction should feel that way as well. Here are some tips to effectively engage with your patients online –
- Make eye contact with your patient during the call as much as possible.
- Adjust the call volume so that your voice is audible, especially if you are a soft-spoken person.
- Ensure that you are visible on the screen; adjust the lighting in your room if need be.
- Acknowledge and reiterate the information the patient shares with you.
- Ensure that you are not disturbed by other calls or members of your staff during the telehealth call.
- Be prepared with the health records and medical history of the patient before you go on the call.
- Before closing the call, ensure that the patient has understood the next course of action.
- Ask the patient if they have any concerns regarding the insurance claim or payment.
Hopefully, the U.S. economy, and life as we know it, will return to some sense of normalcy soon. But the virus may not disappear completely, and we will all have to continue to exercise as many precautions as we can. For the healthcare industry, telehealth will remain a crucial precaution in the months to come. The challenge for you as a physician practice will be convincing patients to migrate to telehealth.
If you have any further questions on telehealth medicine implementation or telehealth billing, we’d be happy to help. Contact us for a consult with our team of telehealth experts.
PracticeForces is committed to helping the U.S. physician community in the fight against COVID-19.