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How Healthcare Providers Can Continue to Strengthen Telehealth Services

Close up of a mother and daughter consulting with their doctor over a video call on their digital tablet.

May 4, 2021

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but with telehealth it’s been more like a final push to accelerate an under-used service. The practice has been around since the 1950s, but before 2020, telehealth growth was gradual and primarily used in the case of specialists. But when COVID-19 shut down the world last spring, the race was on to quickly scale remote medicine so that providers and patients remained safely connected to essential health services. 

The pandemic made telemedicine essential and shone a light on the value it can deliver for patients. Now, as the world and healthcare community approach a new normal, it’s essential for providers to look ahead and strengthen their telehealth solutions so they can continue to deliver quality care through technology. You’ll need to consider many factors to successfully expand your remote health services, but for the greatest impact, start here:

Focus on Awareness and Education

Last year, telehealth was implemented quickly and, in some instances, on-the-fly, because providers needed to continue providing immediate care despite the closure of non-essential offices and facilities. Connecting clinicians with patients was the priority and providers made that happen — but the urgency of the situation didn’t give providers the time they needed to iron out processes or develop strategies to educate patients on how to best use remote services.

Healthcare providers need to continue to increase patient awareness of these services and set best practices both for clinicians and patients. That should include:

  • Clear guidelines (online and takeaway FAQs, brochures, etc.) on what services are best suited for virtual healthcare

  • Resources for patients to accommodate them as they navigate this new hybrid world of medicine

By focusing on awareness and education, you can build a structure that will easily grow as you expand these services for patients.

Prioritize Mobility and Connectivity

An interrupted appointment is never ideal, but when the delay is caused by your app crashing, it becomes a much larger problem. Beefing up the technology powering this remote medicine will be essential in continuing to build on its success. You can strengthen your solutions in many different ways. Some of the ways at the top of the list include:

  • Mobile friendliness

  • Medical record integrations

  • Good network connectivity

As patients return to their normal routines, having access on the go will keep healthcare convenient and help ensure continued interest in telehealth. And for providers, seamless access to medical records will remove barriers to treatment by keeping all essential information on hand.

Unfortunately, connectivity presents a problem that is not so easily solved. In many remote areas, patients without reliable internet connections are being left behind. While access remains a significant barrier to healthcare, telehealth offerings can bridge that gap for many. It’s understandable that you can’t improve internet connections for your patients, but using telehealth for initial assessments, when possible, can eliminate some difficulties and determine if future treatment is needed, without an unnecessary trek into the office.

Pro Tip: Strong technology is only helpful if patients know how to use it effectively. Providing support (e.g. tutorials, training sessions and easy-to-access guides) to help those without strong digital literacy skills can ensure everyone is able to take full advantage of telehealth resources.

Clarify Costs

Because telehealth processes are still new to many practices, pricing and reimbursement is unclear, inconsistent and can vary greatly depending on the state, city, insurance provider and other regulatory differences. During the pandemic, you may have put policies in place to quickly get remote healthcare solutions up and running. (In many cases, providers essentially offered appointments pro-bono because of unclear pricing structures.) Now, it’s possible you’re not sure how to bill for these services moving forward.

While telehealth can help cut costs both for providers and patients,  clarity around expenses  is essential. As costs become determined, you’ll need to be prepared for changes and be ready to clearly communicate these with your patients. 

The Road Ahead for Telehealth

As you continue to refine your telemedicine offerings, you should focus on maintaining the momentum created for it during the pandemic. To build on the strides made in the last year, focus on fortifying your technology and establishing and refining processes that you can scale, all the while continuing to provide accessibility to these essential services.

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