COVID-19 has presented a lot of challenges across the healthcare spectrum, from large hospital systems in big cities to rural communities struggling with limited care or space to meet the needs of patients who require advanced care. For medical practices, one of the hardest things has been figuring out new ways to provide care to patients when in-person appointments could put a person at higher risk of contracting the virus. That is especially true for geographically isolated patients living in rural communities where the only access to care—including primary and specialty care—may have been through a small or independent medical practice.
Telemedicine and telehealth can provide you with the ability to reach these patients, even if they cannot get to your clinic in person or you have to limit visits from specialty medicine physicians because of COVID-19. Here are some strategies for better outreach.
1: Use simple telemedicine tools that are ready “out of the box”
For small or independent medical practices, trying to implement telemedicine for the first time may seem daunting (and expensive). Fortunately there are also solutions created specifically to address the needs of smaller clinics. These programs offer innovative technology, ready right out of the box. With software like AdvancedMD you can build a system slowly over time; our “modular” system allows you to start with the essentials, then add on more capabilities later that are instantly integrated with the rest of your system.
2: Choose cloud-based software
Choosing cloud-based software for your telemedicine and telehealth is going to allow you to get up and running quickly, without the need to purchase new equipment or hire new IT team members to administer on-site servers or software. This software is accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection, including mobile devices, laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. It’s completely secure and HIPAA compliant as well.
3: Notify your patients and provide simple instructions
Help patients understand the tools that you have available, especially those that may not be as tech-savvy or have never done anything outside of traditional clinic visits. Send information and instructions by traditional mail, call your patients to provide information and instructions on how to get care, or send information and links via email if you have an email address.
4: Offer a variety of telemedicine and telehealth avenues to meet patients’ needs
Another challenge your clinic may run into if you work with patients in very rural areas is a lack of high-speed internet, or people without access to technology like a smartphone, computer, or tablet (especially older patients). This can make telemedicine over a video chat platform challenging or impossible. Offering other tools, like visits over the telephone, can bridge the gap for patients without access to technology. You can also implement asynchronous tools (meaning care that is not provided in real-time); for example, allowing patients to message providers through a patient portal for non-urgent needs.
Find out how the AdvancedMD suite of integrated tools can help you offer telemedicine and telehealth care to your patients, even those in rural communities, and ensure continuity of care in this difficult time.