Hybrid Care: How to Effectively Incorporate Telemedicine into Your Primary Care Practice

Hybrid Care: How to Effectively Incorporate Telemedicine into Your Primary Care Practice

Solv is committed to providing the primary care industry with easy-to-use solutions that will accelerate the safe treatment of patients during and after COVID-19. While we are deeply rooted in consumer research and invested in patient satisfaction, we developed our system with providers in mind. We are so confident you’ll want to invest, we are offering the use of our all-in-one video telemedicine system free for thirty days.

During the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine emerged as the safest, most convenient alternative to in-person healthcare. Solv data shows that between March and April, even as walk-in visits declined to less than half of their initial volume, virtual visits skyrocketed a staggering 3,400 percent. The tech-savvy, overworked consumers of today felt the benefits of being treated from the safety and comfort of their own homes—and now that it has been established as an option in so many facilities, patients are even more resistant to frequent in-person care.

Even as states begin allowing healthcare facilities to re-open, many consumers remain uncomfortable visiting their primary care provider face-to-face. According to a recent consumer survey, 42 percent of patients report they will continue to avoid visits unless a serious concern arises. Patients are reluctant even in the face of medical emergencies - 25 percent say they have already chosen to forgo medical care even despite illness or injury.

This drastic change in consumer tendencies means offering telemedicine in your clinic is absolutely critical for continued patient retention. Our in-house 2020 consumer survey found that 1 in every 3 patients will find a new provider if their current provider does not offer telemedicine.

While simply offering video visits will improve patient retention in the short term, your clinic’s long-term success will be dependent on the steps you take now to ensure the seamless integration of your online and physical operations. Taking the time to establish a sustainable, hybrid approach to care will safeguard your clinic’s operations against the instability and uncertainty of the coming years.

As leaders in consumer-forward healthcare innovation, Solv knows making changes isn’t always as simple as it seems. We’ve outlined some best practices to ensure the hybrid care strategy you deploy is adaptable to your primary care practice and patient needs.

Customize Your Approach

No two care centers operate alike. The telehealth needs of an urgent care clinic in downtown New York are vastly different from those of a family practice in rural Montana, and recognizing that only you and your team know what’s best for your practice is the first step to implementing a sustainable solution.

Reflect on how telemedicine will help achieve your primary care practice’s goals and best serve your community. Offering video visits can help expand your patient base, ensure patient loyalty, reduce your cost of care, improve patient satisfaction, and even help provide care to more remote or immobile members of the community. You know your patient base best, and reflecting on their needs as well as yours will ensure the hybrid care strategy you choose will ultimately succeed.

Next, consider whether any of the care you currently provide is suited for telehealth. Many patient concerns can be addressed over video - in fact 99% of Solv telemedicine patients report their care needs were satisfied after just one video visit. Offering an initial video screening is no longer an uncommon practice in many care centers. You may also consider scheduling video visits in place of in-person follow-ups and as a solution to providing remote care to immobile patients. What you offer through telehealth should be reflective of your practice’s unique workflow.

Once you’ve determined your practice’s goals, address your current staffing situation. Reflect once more on your patient base. If you are anticipating a high volume of telemed appointments, it may be necessary to hire a full-time coordinator to oversee video scheduling, address patient’s technical questions, and maintain telemedicine infrastructure. If you aren’t anticipating high community adoption, a part-time coordinator may suffice, or the extra responsibilities can be delegated to current members of your team. As healthcare transitions to digital registration and contactless check-in, front desk staff may be left with adequate time to handle telemedicine operations. Whether part-time or full, ensuring someone is tasked with the responsibility of managing the virtual component of your strategy is vital to the success of your new hybrid practice. Ultimately, they will be responsible for increasing the efficiency and success of your practice’s video visits.

While assessing your staffing situation, keep in mind any specific community needs. For example, if you regularly see patients requiring a translator, it may be in your best interest to staff more than one to accommodate higher patient volume and communication on multiple platforms.

Once your plan is complete, share it with your team and your stakeholders - after all, you can’t effectively implement a new care strategy alone! Communicate your ultimate goals with your team and assure them that any feedback they have is welcome and necessary for creating an effective and elastic hybrid care approach. Once you have them on board, begin your search for the most suitable telemedicine platform to work with.

Choose the Best Telemed Platform for Your Practice

In order to establish telemedicine services as quickly as possible, some healthcare providers initially turned to Zoom, Skype, and other readily available tools to conduct video visits. While these platforms may adequately facilitate standard video calls, they are simply not suitable for implementation in healthcare. When choosing a platform for your virtual practice, there are a few things that will all but guarantee seamless integration with your existing workflow.

Most importantly, you must ensure the platform you choose offers a secure, HIPAA-compliant video connection. Be sure to reference this list of vendors compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services when making your choice.

To best suit your needs, look for a platform that includes the ability to schedule virtual appointments and digitally collect insurance information, registration paperwork and payment. Services lacking these features will only hinder your workflow and waste staff members’ time. Opting for a service with built-in scheduling eliminates calls to the front desk to schedule virtual visits as well as the hassle of requiring a staff member to email patients and the provider a video connection link. The inclusion of online registration and insurance collection prevents the insecure and time-consuming exchange of sensitive information via phone, post or email. Similarly, it’s important you offer your patients a way to take care of any necessary payments through your telemedicine solution. Integrated digital payment will further simplify your workflow, prevent the insecure exchange of funds, and encourage timely payment.

Consumers are still testing the waters of telehealth, and many will experience their first virtual appointment with your clinic. It’s important your virtual visit platform allows you to walk through the patient experience yourself. Look for features in a telemedicine platform that allow you to provide the easiest, simplest experience possible. Patients are most attracted to a clean, simple interface that doesn’t require them to download an app or create an account. Ensure the service offers a virtual waiting room, supports multiple languages, and offers the ability to re-book with the same provider. Providing the best care also requires an ability to contact the patient throughout the process - from the moment they book the appointment until they choose to discontinue their care with you. Make sure the solution you choose allows some form of messaging so you and the patient are able to communicate any problems or questions and provides a patient feedback portal so you can most effectively respond to patient comments.

Lastly, keep an eye out for additional offerings that may help increase your patient volume and ease your transition, such as complementary marketing toolkits, customer support lines and launch materials.

Train Your Staff

While telemedicine isn’t new, most clinicians are unfamiliar with seeing patients virtually. Patient behavior will likely change when communicating on-screen, and it's important that your staff respond accordingly.

Select a few members of your staff and educate them on best practices when conducting a virtual appointment. While these visits can limit some interactions, they can also reveal a side of the patient not normally accessible by their provider. Teach them to keep an eye out for environmental situations that might impart insight into the patient’s living situation, current mental state and support system. Inform them that they may have to be more attentive to facial expressions in the absence of other social cues. Task those team members with training the rest of your staff and showing them how to use the telehealth solution you’ve chosen.

Additionally, create and distribute a handbook that outlines how both providers and patients use the platform, and include best practices for conducting appointments. These may include:

  • choosing a private, quiet, and well-lit location to take appointments (whether or not the provider is in-clinic)
  • setting up their laptop or webcam so the patient can see them
  • wearing professional clothing
  • where to look during video calls

When all the members of your staff have been trained, evaluate their abilities by conducting a virtual appointment with each staff member. This will ensure they are familiar with the platform in practice, not just theory, before they schedule appointments with patients.

Spread the Word

Going to the trouble of implementing a telemedicine solution will all be for naught if consumers aren’t aware you offer it. With 1 in 3 patients reporting they would seek care elsewhere if their current primary care provider failed to offer virtual visits, it’s vital you deploy an effective marketing strategy to alert your existing patients and inform any potentially interested members of the community

Using a combination of email, social media, SMS, and in-clinic signage, inform existing patients know that you provide telemedicine. Many may not be familiar with the benefits and capabilities of virtual visits, so be sure to educate them to encourage adoption.

Chances are, when your patients learn they can access a primary care physician within minutes from the safety and comfort of their own home or work, they'll be eager to enroll.

Be sure that members of your community are aware of your new offering by updating your social media, website, and patient review platforms such as Yelp and Google Maps. Take advantage of any marketing toolkits your telehealth solution may offer to attract even more new patients.

Keep Solv’ing Problems

Seamlessly integrating your virtual and in-person visits won’t just help your practice ride out the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis. Implementing a sustainable, hybrid approach to care will continue to optimize overall visit volume and benefit your practice for years to come. The changes you’ll make probably won’t be perfect, but thankfully they are also not permanent. Be sure to continually re-evaluate your system’s efficacy. Gather feedback from your patients and staff, make changes to things aren’t working, and dedicate more resources to those that are. Keep an eye out for new innovations in healthcare to adopt in your workflow. Providing the best care possible requires ongoing reiteration, and telemedicine is just the latest of the many tools being developed to help effectively manage your practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it startlingly clear how suddenly things can change. Taking the time to optimize your hybrid care solution now, and ensuring your strategy remains elastic, will make adapting to any future changes a breeze.

If you’re looking for a place to start, Solv is committed to providing the primary care industry with a platform that does it all. While we are deeply rooted in consumer research and invested in patient satisfaction, we developed our system with providers in mind. We are so confident you’ll want to invest that we are offering the use of our easy-to-use, all-in-one video telemedicine system free for thirty days.

Our all-in-one platform includes access to a HIPAA compliant video connection, an integrated scheduling system for booked and on-demand video visits, patient insurance and photo ID uploading capabilities, digital paperwork and consent form completion, mobile pay and a patient feedback portal - all accessible by up to ten providers. With the help of our live customer support line, complementary marketing toolkit and launch materials, we guarantee your transition to our all-in-one telemedicine platform will be seamless and simple.

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