Growing Your Practice with Telehealth: The Definitive Guide
Telehealth is a highly lucrative innovation in healthcare technology, benefitting both patients and providers. As it enables both parties to communicate and share virtually, patients benefit from improved care and greater access to information crucial to their health, while providers benefit from more accurate and efficient service.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is the virtual distribution and exchange of health-related services and information via telecommunication technologies. Through a telehealth platform, patients and their providers can share medical data, conduct virtual visits, chat virtually, and even access patient information. Telehealth enables patients and providers to meet from any location under more flexible and convenient circumstances than traditional face-to-face visits.
Essentially, telehealth is defined by these overarching capabilities:
- Improved convenience of healthcare visits
- Greater access to medicine and information
- Heightened level of patient care
- Maximized administrative efficiency
- Cost-efficient healthcare resource
- Time saved for both patients and providers
Accessibility is one of the most defining characteristics of telehealth, as it grants healthcare access to uses like no other technology. With telehealth, users are not limited by their geographic region, meaning that they gain access healthcare from anywhere in the world. As such, patients can receive care from providers no matter the location - ensuring they receive the care they deserve.
Through a centralized data portal, known as the telehealth platform, users will have access to:
- Direct communication between patients and providers
- Remote visits, consultations, and second opinions
- Patient medical files, images, and EHRs for storage, sharing, and review
- A global network of physicians and patients
- Telediagnoses and ePrescriptions
- Additional medical information and resources
Types of Telemedicine Services
There are four different types of telemedicine visits. Each one can play a role in your telemedicine strategy.
- Video calls: This is what most people probably think of when they picture a telemedicine appointment. The physician and patient connect through a video-enabled platform. It’s the closest approximation of an in-person visit, without the inconvenience of a trip to the office. Video calls are particularly useful when a patient’s caregiver needs to participate, or when traveling to the office would increase a patient’s risk of complications or a fall.
- Phone calls: You might be surprised to see good, old-fashioned telephone calls on this list. But that’s where the “tele” and “telehealth” and “telemedicine” comes from. Phone calls are ideal for simple check-ins, mental health checks, or refill requests. They also provide a simple option for patients who may not be tech savvy or have reliable internet access.
- Secure text messaging: Unlike regular text messaging, these are sent via a secure patient portal. It gives the patient a quick, easy way to connect, and photo sharing can help when it’s necessary to view a physical health concern. Text messaging gives patients a greater sense of access and gives doctors a fast, informal way to connect with patients.
- Mobile monitoring: Perhaps the least common form of telehealth service, mobile monitoring allows you to track patients’ health through their internet-enabled devices. These tools can give you uninterrupted medical data, so you can make better decisions about a patient’s care. The user friendliness of mobile devices varies widely, so they won’t be a viable option for every patient.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Telehealth
Telehealth is primarily divided into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous telehealth refers to real-time, or live, video-conferencing and communication. This form of telehealth allows for patients and providers to communicate in real-time with some level of face-to-face interaction, without being physically present with one another.
In contrast, asynchronous telehealth is not in real-time. This approach involves the collecting, uploading, and sharing of medical data between patients and providers. As these interactions do not occur in real-time, they are not limited by specific times for data sharing, furthering the flexibility and accessibility of healthcare.
Dialing up More Growth with Telehealth
Telemedicine might have exploded with the Covid-19 health crisis, but it was already rapidly growing in popularity before it became a medical necessity. Now, offering telemedicine is also a necessity for growing your practice.
In early 2020, before the pandemic hit, patients’ use of telemedicine had already increased 33% over the previous year. Industry experts anticipated that the telehealth market would reach $185.6 billion by 2026. The pandemic accelerated that trend, and most patients indicate they’ll continue with telehealth even after the pandemic.
For physicians, offering telehealth options is more than jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a means to increase revenue and stay competitive in an increasingly complicated market. Here are seven ways that telemedicine can help you grow your practice.
#1. Tap into New Markets, Anywhere in the World
Where do your patients live? The typical healthcare provider sees patients from a rather limited geographic area. Patients in rural or underserved areas might travel farther to get healthcare, but your care area is still probably restricted to reasonable driving distances. Telemedicine effectively removes these geographic barriers, so you can see patients from virtually anywhere.
For specialists, telemedicine offers a means to reach far beyond a potentially small group of local patients. It’s also particularly beneficial for physicians who want to increase revenue through giving second opinions, since the need for ongoing in-person care is less of a consideration. To maximize this revenue stream, it’s useful to pair telemedicine with a robust, web-based collaboration tool that makes it easier to share records with patients and their other healthcare providers.
Dubious about patients’ willingness to see a new doctor over a video chat? According to Medical Economics, more than half of patients surveyed said they’d be willing to see a new doctor via a telemedicine visit.
#2. Deliver an Improved Patient Experience
The average in-office doctor visit takes 121 minutes. That includes 100 minutes of commuting--five times what the patient actually spends with the doctor, if there’s no wait time. Compare that with a telemedicine appointment, which requires no travel.
On its own, that 100-minute time savings represents a significant improvement in the patient experience. Other patient benefits might include increased last-minute appointment availability or the ability to include family members who don’t live locally.
The patient experience is at the center of delivering value-based care. After all, patient experience has consistently been linked to clinical outcomes and even survival rates. But improved patient experience also correlates with higher profits.
According to a recent Deloitte study, hospitals that deliver better patient experiences enjoy a net margin of 4.7%. Conversely, hospitals with low patient-experience ratings had a net margin of only 1.8%. Private practices and clinics could expect to see similar profit increases.
#3. Reduce Canceled and Missed Appointments
Gaps in the appointment book cost money--an estimated $150 billion per year in the US healthcare industry alone. No-shows might cost an individual physician about $150,000 per year, and multi-physician practices stand to lose much more.
About a quarter of patients reported that they missed appointments due to issues like transportation or work. Telemedicine offers a solution for these issues, completely eliminating transportation issues and greatly reducing the time away from work to attend an appointment.
When you do have cancellations, telemedicine might offer a solution for backfilling the time. Patients who request last-minute doctor visits could be offered telehealth appointments during these time slots, saving them time and accommodating their health needs.
#4. Collaborate More Efficiently with Other Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers continue to struggle with coordinating care. There’s often no easy way to share patient records or discuss shared cases. This is particularly an issue for physicians who serve patients with rare, complex, or long-term conditions. These patients may have many medical providers, whom they visit regularly for treatment and follow-ups.
The return on investment for improved collaboration might not be as obvious as some of the other benefits associated with telemedicine. But improved collaboration often translates into less time wasted on care coordination, along with stronger referral relationships among physicians.
#5. Get Reimbursement for Telephone Follow-Up
Most medical practice staff identify the telephone as their main means of communicating with patients. Your staff probably spends countless hours calling patients to confirm upcoming appointments, verify insurance information, and follow up after treatment. Most of that time isn’t billable.
But other types of phone calls, such as prescription refill requests or after-hours calls, might be eligible for reimbursement...only if you have a telemedicine platform in place to track them. Calls that directly relate to patient care can be conducted as telemedicine visits, and are therefore eligible for compensation. You can enjoy increased revenue with minimal additional effort.
#6. Enjoy Higher Patient Retention Rates
Consumers’ attitudes toward healthcare have shifted in the past years. They expect the same convenience and accessibility that they enjoy from other businesses they patronize. Healthcare is more like a product, and patients want the best value for their money.
That also means they’re not necessarily as loyal to their healthcare providers; about 20% of patients indicated that they would change primary care providers to gain access to telehealth options. If you want patients to stick around, offering telehealth options is a great start.
#7. Protect Your Practice from Growing Competition
Patients in Minneapolis wait an average of eight days to see their doctors. Boston patients might wait an astounding 109 days according to Merritt Hawkins. Most patients in large markets wait about a month. Faced with these long wait times, patients often seek treatment from urgent-care centers or retail clinics.
Physicians can insulate themselves against this competition by increasing their accessibility. Telemedicine is one way to accomplish this; appointments can be offered outside regular business hours without the need for office staff.
Telemedicine has become an integral part of modern medicine. Physicians who wish to capitalize on the technology will find that it results in multiple sources of new revenue.
As telehealth grows in popularity, so do the market options for telehealth platforms. To help practices sort through their options, we've laid out the nine most essential features to look for in a telehealth platform. If you find one that has them all - you've hit the jackpot - so stay tuned; we may have the solution for you.
1. User-friendly platform
First and foremost, it should be easy for patients to register for the portal. If the first step is too confusing, they may be deterred from using the platform altogether. Once registered, patients should have access to a dashboard that encompasses everything they could need. The dashboard should include:
- Access to their case files
- Prescription information
- Scheduled appointments
- History of visits
- Insurance information
Essentially, the dashboard should have everything that a patient needs to access regarding their health and other healthcare services. The more user-friendly the dashboard, the more inclined your patients will be to maximize the value of their telehealth platform.
2. Appointment management
Your telehealth platform must have appointment management capabilities. Patients should be able to view their scheduled appointments and make new ones easily. Calendar integration is an excellent add-on feature, making it easy for patients to see when their doctor has available time and simply choose the date and time that best fits their schedule.
Automated email notifications can also make it seamless to confirm appointments and remind patients of upcoming appointments. Not only does this make scheduling and rescheduling easier, but it increases the likelihood of patients attending their scheduled meetings.
3. Payment and billing
Telehealth platforms should also be equipped with a payment gateway. If patients have all of their insurance information uploaded to the platform and can easily make changes, it will eliminate one of the largest hurdles of paying medical bills.
Integrated payment systems should include:
- Automated invoices
- Multiple payment methods
- Records of payments
- Safe and secure payment processing and compliance
A seamless and transparent payment system can take a lot of stress out of the patient experience, as well as help your practice stay organized when it comes to billing.
4. Synchronous and asynchronous consultations
The right telehealth platform should offer a variety of consultation options, including text, video, and audio. Having these options allows patients to meet with their doctor in the way that best works for them. With numerous consultation options in the telehealth platform, it's easier than ever for patients to communicate with their providers - and providers to communicate with one another.
E-Prescriptions are another critical feature to include in any telehealth platform. Patients can meet with their provider remotely and their doctor can easily prescribe medication to the patient via the platform.
This significantly streamlines the prescription process, ensuring patients get the medicine they need without the hassle or wait. As providers have access to patients' medical history and medication records, this can be done with reduced risk of pharmacy or prescription error.
6. EHR storage
A significant component of any telehealth platform is the storage of EHRs, electronic health records. Within the platform, patients can upload health records, scans, and medical images. This saves patients from carrying around physical copies, ensuring that records are not lost, damaged, or mismatched.
With all relevant patient information in one location, it drastically improves the efficiency and accuracy of patient care for providers. While communicating with a patient, providers can easily view applicable EHRs, ensuring that they have a complete understanding of their patient's case.
7. Case sharing
EHRs can be shared between patients and their providers, or between colleagues. Within a case, all of a patient's relevant EHRs, scans, and comments from their doctor are collected in one centralized location.
If a patient decides that they need a second opinion, they can send a request to share their case with a corresponding specialist to get additional consultations. The new doctor will then receive a comprehensive view of the patient's case and make a diagnosis or treatment plan accordingly.
Case sharing is also possible between physicians. Providers can share patient cases with one another to get a second opinion, increasing the likelihood of an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
8. Physician network
A networking feature is another valuable feature as it provides users access to a global network of patients and providers. This allows patients to find providers from across the globe, helping to connect them with specialists that may not be accessible in their area.
Similarly, this network can connect providers to a deeper pool of patients, helping them to share their expertise and grow their practice. If an individual already has an account on the platform, other users can find them and reach out for collaboration and consultations.
9. Mobile device compatibility
Finding a telehealth platform with an app can make it significantly easier for patients to access their portal on the go, ensuring that they can access healthcare services at any time. This is particularly beneficial when waiting on a notification or communicating with providers.
Do these features sound familiar? If so, it may because they’re featured on our website. Medicai offers users these telehealth services and more!
Telehealth with Medicai
The right telehealth platform can significantly improve access to healthcare, ensuring that all patients can obtain the care they need. By enabling remote doctor’s visits, access to reputable resources, and a network of qualified physicians, healthcare is more accessible and efficient than ever. Through telehealth, patients can communicate with their doctors with ease - from any location. As such, there is no boundary for patients to receive the care they need.
With Medicai, finding healthcare is only a click away. Patients and providers will receive immense benefits from our telehealth platform, fully equipped for remote consultations, second opinions, record sharing, and more. With real-time collaboration, Medicai can bridge the gap between patients and providers, improving healthcare access worldwide.