With more than 90% of healthcare practices considering adding telehealth services to their practice, it’s clear that this is likely to become the biggest trend in healthcare since automated appointment reminders. Considering that it is incredibly easy to implement and carry out telehealth services, the biggest obstacle you face isn’t necessarily from an administrative point of view. Rather, the hardest part of adding telehealth to your practice is learning how to get your patients engaged. We’re going to give you a few tips and tricks on how to make that happen.
Getting your patient involved in using the telehealth services your practice provides is not just about raising awareness. Sure, once certain patient populations become cognizant of the fact they can be treated for a cold using telehealth they will, no doubt, jump at the chance. However, for many patients it will be more about breaking long-term habits. Since the beginning of time, getting treated for strep throat meant a trip to the doctor’s office. It doesn’t even enter the mind of many individuals to schedule an appointment via telehealth.
This is where your staff can be the most helpful. Once you’ve implemented telehealth services, make sure your staff ask the right questions when patients call to schedule an appointment. It should go something like this:
Patient: Hello, I would like to schedule an appointment.
Staff: Of course! What do you need to be seen for?
Patient: I have had a sore throat since yesterday and it’s not getting better.
Staff: I see. Would you like that to be a telehealth visit or an in-office visit?
Patient: I can be seen via telehealth? How does that work?
Staff: It’s very easy. I am sending you an email right now with the instructions for downloading the app to your smart phone. We can schedule your appointment for this day and time. The only thing you need to do is follow the instructions before your appointment. Then, when it’s time for your appointment to begin, you’ll receive a text message letting you know the doctor is ready. You simply open the app and begin your visit.
In reality, most of your patients would rather not have to travel to the doctor’s office and spend their time hanging out in your waiting room. Avoiding that inconvenience altogether is very attractive to them. If your scheduling staff is trained on which appointments can be done via telehealth, they can simply begin offering this type of visit when a patient calls to schedule an appointment.
Make no mistake, it’s still very important that you raise awareness of this service to all of your patients in general. Research shows that 74% of your patients would use telehealth. However, if they don’t know you offer it, they may not schedule an appointment at all simply because they do not want to set the time aside to travel back and forth and, of course, linger in the waiting room.
So what can you do to raise general awareness? There are several steps you can take. Here are a few of the easiest:
- Hang signs around the office. This will allow patients who come in for regular checkups to be aware that the next time they have a cold or sore throat, they should consider using telehealth.
- Send out an email blast. You probably already have an email address for most of your patients. Use that list to send out email notifications of the new option to schedule telehealth visits. Include the types of conditions that can be treated using telehealth so patients have something to reference in the future.
- Send a letter. If you have a significant senior population, send something in the mail. This age group will take the time to read a letter and save it for future reference. However, if you have an email address make sure to include them in the email because more and more of our seniors are becoming tech-savvy as our population ages.
- Add a message into your appointment reminders. If you use automated appointment reminders, try adding something like “Ask if your next appointment can be via telehealth!” or a similar message that will help raise awareness.
- Add a message to your phone service. Most practices use automated phone services that provide a menu for the patient to streamline their call. Add information about your new telehealth services to that message so that every patient calling the office is now aware that they can use telehealth for their next visit.
In general, adding telehealth to your practice will be a healthy step in the right direction for 2017. Make sure your patients are aware and your staff is trained to increase usage of telehealth. The rewards will an improved bottom line and increased patient engagement!