Telehealth is here to stay: Here’s how to get it right

Telehealth is here to stay: Here’s how to get it right editorial illustration

Desperate for a COVID-19 silver lining? Look no further than telehealth.

In the US, McKinsey indicates telehealth use is 38 times higher than its pre-pandemic baseline.

Across the world, healthcare providers were forced to pivot the way they deliver care to their patients - with many replacing in-person appointments with phone and video calls. And for many, they’re not looking back.  


Both patients and doctors like it too. Before COVID-19, only 11% of patients wanted to use telehealth; now, more than 40% say they want to continue to use it. And doctors feel the same, with 68% saying they would actually like to use telehealth more.


But if your telehealth service isn’t set up to be completely digital, the experience can fall short for patients, doctors, and administrative staff.


It’s why you need fully digital workflows to make telehealth a medical practice staple—and here’s how to make telehealth work in your practice.


1. Seamlessly balance telehealth and in-person consultations

While telehealth has certainly proven itself as a valuable alternative to in-person consultations—especially during a pandemic—realistically, most patients will need a mix of virtual and in-person care.


That means practices need to manage patients attending both virtual and in-person appointments. And if that means two separate systems—one digital for telehealth and one paper-based for in-person appointments. But two systems also means reconciling patient records across, which can become a time-consuming headache for administrative staff and risks introducing errors.


For that reason, practices need a single system in place to collect all the information in one easily accessible place—and that’s much easier done digitally than with paperwork.


By digitizing patient forms like claims processing and patient care coordination, no matter if an appointment is in person or virtual, the necessary information-gathering process is the same workflow and documents are stored in the same place.


2. Don’t forget compliance

Telehealth is not only held to the same high standards as in-person care, it comes with some of its own unique compliance challenges.


For starters, when it comes to digital platforms and online forms, you need a solution with SOC 2 Type 1 attestation against the Security, Confidentiality, and Availability Trust Principles and Criterion. It also needs controls in place to keep electronic protected health information (ePHI) safe, and to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).


Then, if you’re using video calls for telehealth consultations, take a good look at your cybersecurity—and your cyber insurance too. The 2019 Trustwave Global Security Report found that while a payment card was worth $5.40, an electronic healthcare record was worth a whopping $250. That’s a big incentive for cybercriminals, and explains why so many healthcare organizations have been targeted recently.


Lastly, while technically you could take on patients from around the world with telehealth, you might not be legally permitted to practice medicine in a foreign country—or even across certain state lines—unless you have the right local licenses or credentials.


3. Embrace digital

Patients are clear on what they want from medical admin: 41% want digital forms and communication, and 53% would consider switching doctors for virtual care and touchless paperwork.


For some medical practices, telehealth appointments have been the next step in their digital journey. Though it may have kicked off a digitized service, to be truly effective clinics must figure out how to digitize their entire offering from online bookings to circulating test results and issuing repeat prescriptions.


If you aren’t operating online already, now’s the time to think about changing that, eSignature solutions are a good place to start because they’re fast to integrate into your existing systems and offer an immediate impact on your patients and staff.


Apart from helping patients to sign forms virtually, from outside of the clinic or hospital, eSignatures also allow healthcare providers to create document templates— which are perfect for repetitive document processes like new patient registration forms, claims processing, patient care coordination, and medical approvals for different types of consultations and procedures. Plus, digital forms can easily be stored with the patient’s online records.


This not only delivers a more enjoyable, flexible user experience for patients during stressful circumstances, but it also helps staff reduce time spent managing numerous document workflows for every patient.


Long-term telehealth demands a digital ecosystem

Patients and doctors have embraced telehealth, and it is proving itself to be a cost-effective and convenient option for multiple types of medical care.


But for telehealth to be truly effective for both patient and staff, it must be properly integrated into the rest of your digital ecosystem. And the digital nature of eSignatures act as the perfect bridge.


To find out more about how eSignatures can help your practice, take a look at our latest e-guide, Your Guide to eSignatures for Healthcare.

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