As a Doctor, you are paid to have answers.
Answers to uncertainty, answers to pain, answers to how the future will turn out.
However one area where uncertainty looms large for Doctors is how they can get started seeing patients via remote telemedicine services.
The next 5 years are expected to see explosive growth of telemedicine both in use and public awareness. Yet, questions of effectiveness, compliance, and logistics plague each doctors decision to start using a telemedicine service.
Like a wise investor, many physicians have been watching from the sidelines, tracking the ups and downs, do’s-and-don’t’s of colleagues and experts for several years to find the best practice for incorporating telemedicine into their clinics.
If you are on the verge of incorporating telemedicine into your practice, here are 5 Things to Do Before Adding Telemedicine to your Clinic that will help ensure a steadier introduction, and long term success.
1) Know WHY you want to use Telemedicine
Before getting started, spend some time contemplating the change. If you have a desire to increase cash payments in your practice, telemedicine can help. It can also help you with schedule flexibility. And it will also help you keep up with the latest technology and services for your patients.
Decide first about what you’d like to achieve from adding a telemedicine service into your practice. This will ensure that it becomes a part of the practice smoothly, and with a purpose, rather than something you try a few times, and then give up on. Well begun is half done.
2) Set up your Team for Success with Telemedicine
One of the dangers of suddenly offering a telemedicine option in your practice is that the team feel threatened by the change.
Hold a meeting and give them a say in how the process will work, ask for their feedback on what could be a good initial system and best practice. Get clear on the process of billing and setting appointments in the schedule before starting to offer appointments.
Doing this preparation will ensure the team back you up, as you move to the virtual consultation model.
3) Set up your patients for success with Telemedicine
For doctors, a virtual visit has a lot in common with a face-to-face visit. The location and time frame is the same, and the process of diagnosis is similar. It is familiar territory.
However, for patients, it is an entirely new experience. The majority of the population is reasonably comfortable with using video chat functionality. It is your role to give them a sense of comfort and understanding that the process is simple and effective.
Providing some form of how-to guide for your patients can be very valuable. Give patients an overview of what to expect on the call. Let them know what the fee will be, how long the call will be, when you will call, etc.
All these small details will make the process much more comfortable for your patients, and make them more willing to try a Telemedicine visit with you.
4) Have clear Guidelines for what you’ll offer via Telemedicine
Telemedicine offers doctors huge flexibility. But there must be guidelines. Let patients know what you will offer, and what you wont. Patients may have specific conditions that still need face-to-face time, and it is at your discretion which of these diagnoses you can do via virtual visits.
Telemedicine can reduce or replace 70% of routine visits can be replaced. However that doesn’t mean you should outsource your entire day to virtual visits.
5) Start slow and grow with Telemedicine
Remember that you have been practicing successfully without telemedicine for many years, and although there is a huge upside to adding it to your practice, there is no need to dive in the deep end.
You might want to offer the service initially only to your most familiar patients, those managing chronic conditions, or those at a remote location. Treat your initial interactions as a learning opportunity, and learn how you can create effective results.
Remember that technology exists to connect people. The lure of the new can sometimes cloud the focus that you are still simply speaking to your patients, just in a new, more efficient way.
For Doctors, Telemedicine is exciting and scary at the same time. Starting slow, with a clear purpose, a prepared team and informed patients can do a lot to make the transition a successful one.