Telehealth utilization is a whopping 38 times higher than it was before the pandemic. Even prior to the COVID-induced boom, virtual care visits increased by 261% between the years of 2015 to 2017, further solidifying telehealth’s permanent placement in the healthcare landscape.
Now, as 78% of consumers want to continue virtual visits post-pandemic, practices must continue to assess their myriad of telemedicine options and understand key features.
Key Telehealth Features
Cloud-based with easy setup
One of the most exciting aspects of telemedicine technology is its convenience. A service that requires difficult setup for both physicians and patients is counterproductive. While many have experienced a video visit, the technology is still new for a large portion of the population.
Additional downloads or installations put up unnecessary barriers for patients. You can avoid this by having a web-accessible telehealth service. A virtual healthcare tool should not require a significant onboarding effort from patients. Seek out a service your patients can access as easily as the click of a link that can be sent via email to your patients directly from your EHR’s appointment scheduling tool.
One way to further simplify the telehealth experience is by conducting appointments directly from a mobile device like your iPad or iPhone. This gives providers more flexibility with their appointments, and it allows patients to meet physicians on the technology they likely already carry with them everywhere.
Access to a Patient Portal & Visitation Scheduling
Online experiences are becoming more and more central to the healthcare industry. Patients want to be able to perform simple tasks, like scheduling appointments, without the headache of waiting in a phone queue. Finding a telehealth vendor that has an easy-to-use patient portal can significantly improve your end-to-end patient experience.
As with any digital tool used in a medical setting, this portal must be secure. Strong security measures will allow you to rest easy while patients communicate with you, manage appointments, make payments, and fill out forms online. Ancillary elements around the video visit such as this will give your practice a nice foundation with patients as you both adjust to the telehealth experience.
Full Integration with your EHR
Especially in a fast paced medical environment, navigating through different apps can really bog down the process. Look for a telemedicine service that integrates with your EHR directly. This will remove the hassle of paying for additional third party services while saving you time and money. Ideally, it should optimize your existing workflows by allowing you to view a patient’s records and chart without having to exit out of the video visit.
Compliance for virtual visits have particular requirements, so look for a telehealth solution that was built with HIPAA regulations at the top of mind. Knowing that these bases are covered will allow you to implement virtual care into your practice with greater peace of mind. While some HIPAA regulations were loosened or relaxed during COVID to allow for telehealth access, not all have been made permanent. Ensuring that your telehealth solution is compliant whether or not pandemic-era allowances remain in effect is critical.
Dedicated Support with Live Chat
Even the easiest-to-learn platforms will likely require support along the way. Make sure that your telemedicine platform provides you with a dedicated account manager. This person can share insights and help with some issues that arise.
They should also have a support team to handle more complex problems. An account manager along with ticket and chat-based support will go a long way towards creating a smooth customer experience for your practice.
Eventually, you will find a telehealth service provider that fits your practice’s needs. Before signing on the dotted line, take time to set clear goals and expectations for what you want out of this service. 71% of practices saw cost savings by implementing telehealth, in part due to the low overhead involved with these tools.
When assessing your telehealth platform, track metrics like appointment cancellations, treatment adherence, patient volume, readmission rates, patient retention, and patient satisfaction. You can find more information on what to look for when measuring ROI on telehealth here.
The telehealth industry was expected to reach $148 billion in revenue by 2025, but that may be selling short on its potential at this point. CMS is already proposing expanding the ability for mental health services to be reimbursed for telemedicine. Moreover, around 71% of health care spending in the United States is associated with patients who have more than one chronic condition.
Telehealth is uniquely suited to address chronic conditions which will be increasingly useful for our aging population. It also has been successful for issues under the umbrella of psychiatry and cardiology due to developments in virtual care and remote patient monitoring technology. As it becomes increasingly integral to healthcare plans around the world, finding the perfect fit will be necessary for practices everywhere.