As more physicians become telemedicine providers in response to changing needs and demands of patients, it’s important to remember that patient experience matters even when patients aren’t in the office.
So, let’s explore the case for telemedicine and then have some fun while sharing 10 tips for telemedicine providers.
The Case for Telemedicine
Look, we all know telemedicine is a big disruptor in terms of how care is delivered, but it can also be a big difference-maker for your bottom line.
Consider that 59% of patients said in 2019 they would switch doctors for one with better online access and surveys show the American public seems primed to try out the convenience of telehealth.
Coupled with the fact that in April 2020, as part of the federal government’s stimulus relief package, CMS announced the enforcement of payment parity for telemedicine visits at the same rate as in-person visits, and – just like that – the environment is now ripe for change.
Patients want it and now doctors can be reimbursed just like an in-person visit, so what’s left to know?
Patient Experience is Still King
Take a walk with me real quick to make the case that patient experience matters.
Research by Prophet found 81% of patients are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience and while 63% of healthcare organizations think they’re delivering the goods on patient care, only 43% of patients actually agree.
That said, and although most patients are satisfied with their provider interactions, as much as 75% of interactions within a medical practice are with someone other than a doctor, PA or nurse practitioner. Every member of your team – from the front desk to the appointment schedulers to the janitors – are part of the patient experience. In other words, everyone has to be pulling in the same direction or the patients, just like any consumer, will leave for a better experience.
Gone are the days of loyalty and goodwill. If you don’t have as high of a star-rating as a competitor, and someone was rude to a patient, they’re pretty much gone. In fact, research by Accenture found 61% of patients would switch doctors to get an appointment quickly and 51% said they would change their provider for great customer service.
I say all that to say, whether you’re in the office seeing patients face-to-face or at home doing telemedicine visits, the patient’s perception of your practice will determine if they stay under your care or choose that a different provider across town.
When it comes to telemedicine visits, here are 10 tips for telemedicine providers to help ensure your patients are having the very best experience possible.
Tip #1: Your patients are figuring this out for the first time, too.
Patient experience matters on your telemedicine video call just as much as it does for in-office appointments.
As we move toward a “new normal” the fact is some of us will struggle with technology more than others. Be aware this is going to happen and, when possible, have someone in your office walkthrough what patients can expect during their telemedicine appointment.
Consider creating walkthrough videos, tip sheets and even “pre-tests” that allow patients to get ready to be ready for their appointment time.
Tip #2: Connection matters.
Inform your patients they should be using a FAST, private, and secure internet connection to have the best experience with telemedicine.
Although this is unrealistic to expect in every scenario, sometimes just reminding patients of this simple fact can be the difference between them sitting in a crowded coffee shop buffering the day away and sitting quietly at home on their personal wifi network.
Tip #3: Have patience with your patients!
Again, things are different for the patient just like they are for you when it comes to telemedicine and some people are going to adapt quicker than others (it may even surprise you as to which age group is faster to adapt).
Loud noises, interruptions, pets, kids and just plain old “real life” are much more likely to intrude during these visits.
Tip #4: You’re not at work, but what you wear matters.
It’s OK to be slightly more casual from home, but you shouldn’t go from wearing a dress shirt, tie and white coat to swim trunks and tank tops.
Yes, we’ve actually heard and seen examples of doctors seeing patients like this (well, not exactly like this video – but you get the point). Be professional and courteous, even if patients may not be.
Tip #5: Backgrounds *do* really make a difference.
Beware of yours.
It’s one thing to be in a spare bedroom while you’re seeing your telemedicine patients for the day, but it’s an entirely different issue when you get a little too casual or mobile with them.
Although it can be tempting, as some telemedicine platforms allow you to download an app or host visits from a cell phone browser, this isn’t FaceTime with Nana.
Tip #6: Make sure your microphone is off when you really want it off.
The point is, be pleasant and hide your annoyance until after the call is over (especially if you aren’t very comfortable with how your telemedicine platform works).
Tip #7: You’re home, but you should still be professional.
Telemedicine allows patients the freedom to see a provider from anywhere… but it doesn’t mean they should see you from everywhere.
Put the potato chips away, sit up straight avoid those lawsuits while you can.
Tip #8: There’s no need to shout just because the patient isn’t in the same room.
You know who you are.
Just because you’re talking to someone on a speakerphone or through a computer, it doesn’t mean you need to shout. Use your regular, indoor voice unless otherwise asked or prompted to speak up. They have a volume key too, which finding could be half the battle itself.
Tip #9: Don’t drive while seeing patients.
This was mentioned a bit in tip #7, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Stay home and stay focused when seeing patients.
(Note: This is another one that we’ve heard from a practice that actually happened, so it’s not as far-fetched as you’d think.)
Tip #10: Let everyone at home know you’re seeing patients.
You may be working from home, but that doesn’t mean everyone else.
Tell others in your house what your office hours are going to be so they know to leave you alone and respect patient privacy (not to mention that pesky HIPAA thing).