Telehealth meets Patient Experience: New Ways to Engage Through Technology

COVID-19 has caused a massive decrease in patient’s access to primary care. The spread of the pandemic has changed a lot leaving patients access restricted even to those who have chronic disease or those who need preventive care. The shift in patient priorities is indeed worrying especially that the risks of infection and spread are faster than expected.  This provides a great opportunity to not only introduce what is now a fundamental service virtual health consultation but how to drive more convenience, service and expertise to help connect deeper with patients.

 How well are we doing in relation to exceeding patient experience? How important is this in the current healthcare system?

According to Thomas H. Lee, MD, an internist and cardiologist, this is huge. There’s lots of change in healthcare as you know well and I think it’s changed for the better overall. But as we deal with the effects of tremendous medical progress, aging of our population and economic challenges, we have a perfect storm of good things that create pressure for change. It means we have to ask: what are we trying to do in healthcare?” as per Medical Economics’ interview.

Will the patient experience affect the expected patient’s outcome?

Lee added, “Patients want a good experience. It’s not about parking, it’s not about something as simple as waiting time. It’s about how they feel. Do they feel peace of mind? Do they feel like everyone is doing all they can for them and working well together? These are the big drivers of a patient’s likelihood to recommend.”

As we get deeper into some of the fundamentals of virtual consultations and patient experience, I think it’s a perfect time to provide a list to consider on the path to better experience from a digital service stand point:

  • Educate patients on how to have a good telehealth session
  • Think through the key information or process in consultation and what information is needed prior to scheduling a site visit
    • Good to note that the days of show up and then let’s get your vitals and then let’s schedule another meeting needs to seriously be looked at
  • Educate them on what you offer and provide them ways to connect the dots on offerings and ways you can drive value to solve issue or prevent an issue
  • As we talk about process think about pre, during and especially post engagement protocols ways to use notifications, helpful videos and become an advisor for you patient in helping them live a better and healthier lifestyle.
  • Finally show them the value of what you bring with the above things, exposing areas they may not have known that you can detect or prevent
    • Example dentists can actually detect many ailments including heart and lung issues, as they say, it all starts with mouth health
    • Chiropractors can provide much more than adjustments, weight loss, supplements and a real plan to keep and resort your buddy to ultimate performance

The thing to note is that the technology that connects virtual and onsite visits can help you define and do all of these things above better while providing deeper insight for patients into the value of their physician.

How do we improve the patient experience? What steps should be taken by practitioners and organizations?

If you measure things you’ve got a chance at improving them, and if you don’t measure things, there’s a very good chance that they won’t improve. I think that we’re moving into a world where it’s not about quality assurance, it’s about quality improvement. Quality assurance is you just want to make sure that something terrible is not going on. Quality improvement is where no matter where you are, you’re trying to get better. And if you’re trying to get better, then you don’t just measure samples of patients, you try to get data from everyone. That takes you down a road where you start sampling electronically rather than using telephone or paper, because it’s just too expensive, not efficient and it’s time to look at new ways and tools to meet the demands of your patients.

 How can Telehealth create Unique Patient Experiences?

  1. Cost and efficiency
    1. Virtual Video Visits were vastly preferred to office visits by patients for convenience and travel time. A majority (52.5%) of clinicians reported higher efficiency of a video appointment.
    2. Patients perceived considerable added convenience, saved travel time, and expressed willingness to pay co-payments for this visit option.
  2. Allows providers to cater to more patients
    1. Virtual video visits give the providers the ability to schedule more patients without having to worry about room availabilities, scheduling conflicts and more. Making it easy to build schedules where patients also have the control to plan and put things in their calendar.
    2. Unlike on-site visits, patients can stay at home and feel more comfortable than having to wait in line or sit next to other patients, providing more comfort gives doctors a better ability to connect with their patients.
    3. Reduction of no shows by 47%, and allowing physicians to be paid in advanced or instantly usually help on both sides to ensure on-time connection.
  3. Satisfactory services – experience works like on-site visits
    1. Patients rated online visits highly and the majority would recommend them to family and friends due to convenience.
    2. The opportunity with these virtual connections is to truly understand your patient better, and get real data through introductory surveys or information. The ability to educate prior to the visit or communicate the true impact of the services you provide is key
    3. The rise of the ability to check vital signs online enables accuracy even if visits are done virtually. This allows the practitioner to track the stats prior, during and after the visit, providing new ways of monitoring
    4. According to this research, Most patients (62.6%) and clinicians (59.0%) reported “no difference” between virtual and once visits on “the overall quality of the visit.” When rating “the personal connection felt during the visit,” 32.7% of patients and 45.9% of clinicians reported that the “once visit is better,” but more than half of the respondents (patients, 59.1%; clinicians, 50.8%) said that there was “no difference.”

In summary, the key to utilizing telemedicine and connecting it to patient experience can break down into 4 high-level key factors.

  1. Get used to and train on how to connect with patients through instant messages and video conferences. Provide key information on how to have a good telemed call.
  2. Build a methodology of your practice to help layout key information, touchpoints and procedures. Providing new ways to prepare patients for virtual to on-site visits and for physicians to be more efficient with their time.
  3. Utilize technology through mobile devices to connect with your patients, opening up new ways to get more personalized information on your patients
  4. Have a clear health and safety policy, providing new ways to check-in, get information and have a clear path to prior infection checks before any patients walk into your office. Ensure your team and patients know and can embrace this new procedure.

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