5 Ways Offering a Telemedicine Option Makes Life Easier for You and Your Patients
If there's one thing we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that telemedicine is here to stay. Improved tools are allowing doctors to do telehealth without endangering their patient's privacy.
While telemedicine cannot (at least not yet) substitute for a physical examination in all circumstances, it is a highly useful option that more practices should offer. If your practice is not yet offering that option, consider these five major benefits for both you and your patients.
It's flu season. You are seeing more and more patients come in with symptoms, and unfortunately some of them are people who were in your office recently for something else. Did they catch the flu in your waiting room?
The fact is that the flu causes between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses a year in the U.S. A large proportion of them come into the office. Pre-screening can help, but some people will insist on making an appointment.
Using telemedicine to screen people with respiratory symptoms helps keep people with colds, flu, and now COVID-19 out of the office. As time goes on, it is very likely that people will be able to pick up a test for both at the pharmacist. You can observe the person's symptoms remotely and keep the majority of flu patients out of your office, especially those who don't need treatment beyond rest and fluids.
When somebody with a contagious disease does have to come in, you already know they are infectious and can take appropriate precautions, such as bringing them through the waiting room more quickly, having them wear a mask, having providers wear masks around them, etc. Reducing the number of people who catch the flu, COVID, or even colds in the office benefits the entire of society. It also helps protect you and your people from catching every bug that is going around.
Convenience and Compliance
Using telemedicine to handle most routine appointments for people with chronic illnesses (in some cases they can get blood tests done at a pharmacist) increases the chance of these people making their appointments. Home monitoring equipment can reduce the number of times somebody with a chronic illness has to come into the office, and also improve outcomes by helping ensure that issues are noticed faster. Wearable devices can automatically record and transmit important information to the doctor without patients having to report them manually (which also shortens appointment times).
If your practice is in a more rural area this can be even more important, and you can also make use of provider-assisted telemedicine, where the person goes to a nearby pharmacy and the nurse there does the things that have to be done in person while the doctor handles the things that need a doctor.
For many patients, not having to drive to the doctor when they are under the weather is not just more convenient but safer.
Say you have a patient presenting with classic allergy symptoms. You can use telemedicine to have them show you the inside of their home, and spot something which might be causing the symptoms that they and you wouldn't otherwise have thought of. You can then suggest a simple lifestyle change. For example, if somebody is allergic to cat urine, moving the cat's litter box to a better ventilated location might be remarkably helpful.
Occupational and physical therapists can use telemedicine to virtually tour a patient's home and suggest improvements. They can then use it to monitor a patient doing exercises at home, which can speed recovery.
Many therapists have discovered that telemedicine is better. For people with white coat anxiety, telemedicine can help them stay relaxed. For example, with modern monitoring equipment, patients can easily take their blood pressure at home, which can give a more accurate reading. (Some patients experience a blood pressure spike just from being in the doctor's office).
Moving some of your appointments to telemedicine can allow you to serve more patients at a lower cost. It can free up your front desk people to handle things other than checking patients in and out. Some of these savings can then be passed on to patients, resulting in lower copays and, above all, better access for people who don't have health insurance.
You can also expand your practice without having to expand the physical footprint and rent more office space. Telehealth also increases provider productivity. Even things like walking to a different examination room take time, which then builds up throughout the day. (This also helps reduce the appointment creep phenomenon where people with appointments at the end of the day end up having to wait longer).
Improved Access to Specialists
Telemedicine allows access to specialists who may not live in your local area. By using videoconferencing, you can consult with a specialist before talking to the patient or loop the specialist in on an appointment.
For people with unusual symptoms or rare diseases, this can allow them to get treatment at greatly reduced cost. You can use modern communications to send all of your notes to the specialist, who can then review them and respond electronically. The specialist can also assess whether a face-to-face meeting is required.
This also reduces unnecessary travel, which can be costly to patients in time and money (insurance seldom covers travel costs) and can also put an added physical and mental strain on people who are already sick. It can also reduce the time it takes to find a specialist, both by widening the pool of specialists you can contact and by increasing their efficiency. It's even possible to consult with a specialist and eliminate a possibility without having to necessarily bring the patient back in.
There are many more reasons why modern telemedicine should be an option for your patients, but these are the five big ones. Lowering costs and helping keep people with contagious diseases out of your office are the two biggest advantages, but you can sell it to patients with increased comfort and convenience.
All practices should be offering a telemedicine option for the benefit of both themselves and their patients. If you are not sure how to go about it, reach out to DearDoc. We can help you set up a secure, convenient telemedicine option for your practice.