With Covid-19, there has been a flood of new telehealth (virtual consultation) healthcare solutions, exposing more patients to its benefits and features. More publicity, more awareness, and more conversations have introduced telehealth to a wider audience, and that can only be good for everyone. The question remains, how do we create that trust in telehealth so that patients can turn to it when they need healthcare?
Potential competitors for understanding dynamics may include different patient demographics or the fact that a proposed solution is easier to navigate in one practice than in another. The following tips and advice are general for healthcare providers looking to incorporate telehealth into their practice.
1. Be the one to promote the benefits of telehealth and start the conversation
I was talking to a service provider, and I asked: How exactly did you get telehealth so quickly? He said, I tell my patients they are crazy if they don’t use it. He tells them about it in the classes and makes it part of the consultation. He focuses on the benefits of telehealth for the patient, such as convenience, saving time and money by not having to drive to the rooms. He mentions that he can generally extend same-day care, filling them up a bit and often offering a free consultation to use the solution. He also said that when his patients generally perceive telehealth as a solution, they begin to trust the service only after he promotes it.
2. Market your service
The problem with telehealth is letting patients know that healthcare providers are actually delivering. It can take quite some time and many times I have seen the provider give up after a month or more stating that their patients are not interested. Often, they didn’t even know they could use it.
However, these same patients continue to use WhatsApp and email – forms of telehealth, even if they are not secure.
For the benefit of their patients, it’s not uncommon to have a pager that they’ve designed how to use, and it’s a good place to include a consultation fee. Patients like to have something tangible. Posting information on Facebook, LinkedIn and joint circulars is also a common practice. One very effective idea I have seen in practice is a fridge magnet with important information about the telehealth solution. The patient can attach it to the door of their refrigerator, not only practical, but also serves as a permanent reminder that the health care provider provided such a service in the first place.
3. Clear speech
This was great provider advice… stay away from telehealth jargon, like “virtual care” and instead use better-known phrases like “online appointment”. Avoid confusing and confusing; Have a simple conversation with the patient so that they are not confused and, for many, new ideas and technologies.
4. Facilitate questions
It’s one thing to mention telehealth in the conversation, but you need to encourage your patients to ask questions, so you and your staff have the answers ready. Providers also post materials in their rooms inviting patients to talk to their staff about telehealth. When patients have the opportunity to ask about telehealth, especially from their trusted providers, they feel more comfortable about it. Make sure the telehealth solution you choose can provide some form of information sharing or training for staff members.
5. Practical demonstration – show and tell
I love the idea of demonstrating your solution to your staff (and patients too). The practice shows that he is involved. You can conduct a mock consultation with one of your front desk assistants and demonstrate how easy and efficient a consultation can be. You can show them it works. There is no one better to show than you and the more you practice, the more confident you will become.
6. Telehealth business tools
I’ve seen telehealth initiatives succeed because patients feel they need a desktop computer or a high-end smartphone to access the solution. Make sure your patient has all the equipment they need and it probably costs them nothing. Make sure your patients know what they need and that it probably doesn’t require any extra cost on their part. Chances are, they already have everything they need. Often there is an understanding that this is complicated and requires additional equipment. Showing how easy it is sets the record straight.
When answering the question of why one practice has a thriving telehealth initiative and another doesn’t, provider intervention and engagement plays a critical role in its success. Installing a new solution, sitting back and waiting to see what happens is bound to fail. Like any good idea, you need to tell people about it. The secret is to put yourself in the patients shoes. When analyzing a new solution, think about it from their perspective. Once you develop patient trust in your telehealth solution, you’ll wonder what you did without it.
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