Providers can support patients by helping patients understand the availability of virtual care and helping them access it. Patients are more likely to use telehealth when it’s just as easy as in-person visits. Advisory Board’s 2020 Consumer Survey found that about two-thirds of patients would choose a virtual visit over an in-person visit if they had to wait at least one day to see their provider. There are three things providers can do to help patients with telehealth.
1. Segment and prioritize patients.
Providers should segment their patient population to identify the patients who would benefit most from telehealth services—especially those who can’t access care otherwise. Telehealth won’t be right for every patient, just as it’s not right for every type of visit. Targeting patients ensures the patients are a good fit for telehealth and helps preserve clinical capacity for the patients who absolutely need in-person care.
Patients to target for telehealth include:
- Frequent no-shows for in-person appointments
- Those with limited access to transportation
- Those whose work schedule prevents them from accessing in-person office hours
- Those in at-risk populations for exposure to coronavirus
2. Raise awareness and steer utilization.
Let patients know that telehealth is an option and how they can access virtual visits. Different segments of the population will need different levels of outreach. Some patients just need to know telehealth is an option and that’s enough to spark their interest. Others need intensive outreach and handholding to get them on board.
Channels for increasing awareness and utilization of telehealth include:
- Promoting virtual visit options prominently on your website’s main page and/or patient portal
- Push notifications via email, text, social media, and other direct-to-consumer channels
- Making telehealth the default for simple or routine visits, like follow-ups and prescription refills
Some segments of the patient population will require more dedicated outreach to assure them that they can receive quality care with a virtual visit. Elderly or rural populations are prime candidates for telehealth because they’re often in need of increased access to complex and chronic care. However, these populations tend to be less tech-savvy and uneasy about the prospect of virtual care. These patients will need targeted outreach, where a member of the staff reaches out to them to explain the benefits of telehealth. They might require more follow-up work in preparation of the visit, such as help obtaining tablets or education on digital literacy.
3. Provide visit and technology support.
It’s important to support patient access to virtual visits—especially while telehealth is still relatively new. The key to success: complete as much of the pre-visit support at the point of scheduling as possible. Providers should also consider establishing a virtual “rooming” procedure where staff prepare patients immediately before the visit and follow up with them afterward.
Pre-visit responsibilities handled by technical support or other non-clinical staff can include:
- Helping the patient set up the required technology, such as downloading appropriate apps
- Preparing the patient for the visit by reminding them to find a quiet place to conduct the visit and answering any questions they have
- Collecting registration information and letting patients know how the virtual visit will run
- Keeping technology support on hand in case a problem comes up during the visit
- Following up with the patient to complete next steps and collecting information about any difficulties experienced during the visit
A smooth and enjoyable experience, especially when it’s the patient’s first exposure to virtual care, is essential to sustain their openness to telehealth.
For insight on creating a superlative virtual patient experience, download “Meet the Rising Bar for Virtual Patient Experience.”