Returning to Growth
Life will never be the same again, and it shouldn’t be. Since the coronavirus outbreak has become a global epidemic, people’s daily lives have been halted and economies have shut down. But with the world on pause, attempts to continue our lives virtually have caused a ripple effect of innovation and advancement in our society for future generations. As lockdowns are being lifted and we are getting used to this new normal, this blog post can be used as a general guideline for how to take advantage of and use telehealth and telemedicine post COVID-19.
What opportunities does Telehealth hold post Covid-19?
Telehealth boasts many opportunities for therapeutic practitioners to grow their sales digitally after the coronavirus starts to slow down. According to a SYKES consumer survey done in March, due to the pandemic, about 60% of people say they are more willing to try telehealth and use it in the future. This shows that there is definitely a large target market for telehealth practitioners to gain revenue post pandemic. I should also mention that while there is a growing demand for telemedicine and virtual health, the opportunities for telehealth services will greatly depend on reimbursements remaining more relaxed and government regulations supporting telehealth practices after the pandemic. However, looking at the current temporary regulations and terms set, a permanent set of guidelines that makes telehealth more affordable for patients and incentivizes them to engage in telemedicine seems very likely. According to an interview done with Gurpreet Singh, a health services leader at PwC, 86% of payers and employers in 2019 added telehealth services to benefit packages making virtual appointments more affordable than physical visits. Health insurance companies have also started to offer packages with larger benefits for using telehealth and telemedicine. This percentage will only increase now with the experiences of COVID-19 helping create a steady revenue stream for telehealth practitioners.
General plan to get started in Telehealth.
A very well spoken and informative presentation was done by Dr. Sachin Kedar MD, FAAN, who is a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Division Chief – Neuro-Ophthalmology.
Dr. Kedar outlines a very tangible and clear step by step process for getting started with practicing digitally.
Step 1: Set your goals.
Your goal may be to reduce the traffic in your physical office and keep both patients and staff safe from diseases (from coronavirus or any general disease). Or it’s to increase revenue with an additional service. Maybe it’s just to reduce the inconvenience of travelling to a physical office. Regardless of what your goal is, set your intentions of why you’re interested in telehealth. By setting your intentions and goals of what you want, it will be easier to set up and run your telehealth practices to best aid and achieve your goals.
Step 2: Understand your practice.
This step includes every aspect of your practice. Understand
- Where you are located
- What services you offer
- What services can you only offer in-person
- What percentage of your client base is new and what percentage is established, etc.
Some of these questions can seem trivial but analyzing all the influences and aspects of your practice can help you plan out how you want to use technology to aid your practice and achieve the goals you set.
Step 3: Organizing logistics
Similar to an in-person visit, there are many nuances to a digital visit that you should figure out before starting. Some specific logistics to keep in mind are:
- What digital platform do you want to use?
- Do the platforms follow HIPAA guidelines?
- How will these visits be billed?
- How much can patients’ insurance cover the virtual visits?
- How do you provide documentation if they are needed?
Step 4: Setting up your telehealth practice
Now that you’ve done all the preliminary work, it’s time to set up your digital space. Even though you are not going to be physically meeting, it is important for you to set professional standards of where you and your digital staff will take appointments. Make sure you are respecting the patient’s privacy and creating an atmosphere similar to a physical visit. It is also important to set rules and expectations for your clinic and your patients for how these meetings will go about. Make sure you are getting verbal and explicit consent from your patients that they understand what they are getting themselves into as this may be a new experience for them. Specifically, if the appointment may need to continue in an additional physical visit, make sure they know that it is a possibility, as well as how billing will work.
Step 5: Get Practicing!
You have done all the work. Now it’s time to start practicing! The digital space can be used to replicate many verbal and nonverbal aspects of your practice. While there are physical aspects of visits we don’t have the ability to replicate digitally, there are still many checkups that can be moved to telehealth. Here are a few general ideas for areas that can be moved to telehealth practices.
Many OB/GYN checkups pertain to verbal communication between the patient and doctor. You could continue these conversations virtually by using a video conferencing platform. Specifically,
- Preconception planning and care: If you are trying to plan to conceive or manage birth control, an online conversation can be had with your doctor.
- Postpartum Depression: Using video call, OB/GYN can make sure mothers suffering from postpartum depression have access to resources that will help them recover. Doctors can also use these calls to check up on mothers after delivery to make sure they are doing okay and check to see if they are developing any signs of postpartum depression.
- WellWomen Exam follow ups: While the WellWomen Physical must be completed in person, doctors can use telehealth to inform their patients of what their exam results were and what the patients’ next steps should be.
- According to Dr. Kedar, he is able to test cognition with language and speech, motor reflexes, coordination, and cranial nerves by requesting the patients family members to do the motions for the patient while he observes and gathers the information. This way he is able to do the physical aspects of the exam virtually.
- For telehealth appointments regarding children, telemedicine can be used to diagnose chronic conditions or acute illnesses. If a child is experiencing diarrhea, flu symptoms or pink eye (just a few examples), a telehealth appointment can help give an initial diagnosis of the child’s condition and inform the parents if an additional physical visit is necessary. Parents could be requested to help by checking the child’s temperature, shining a flashlight to check for certain symptoms. Alternatively, the doctor can just ask general questions.
*If you are interested in starting a telehealth practice for pediatrics, Anytime Pediatrics is the only pediatric specific telemedicine platform in the market currently available.
Taking the extra step.
This wouldn’t be a complete telehealth practice guide if I didn’t also mention the external aspect of setting up a telemedicine practice. The essentials are all set with your actual medical practice. But before you get to work, make sure you have a functional website that can handle scheduling and organizing the digital department and that you are marketing your telehealth services. You can take advantage of a marketing agency to help you with set up and SEO, and you can also check out our thorough article here for more information about providing telehealth services.
Final Step: Go for it!
Now that you understand the process to set up and practice telemedicine, go for it! The world is changing and as the lockdowns start to lift and we enter a new era of life, take part in the new generation of medical servicing.