The change from in-person visits to virtual (telemedicine) visits was dramatic in recent months as millions of patients were unable to come to clinics. Some of that was due to local regulations that closed businesses (including non-emergency medical facilities) while some were from patients not feeling safe coming into your clinic for fear of contracting COVID-19.
While this change to telemedicine has been widely hailed by patients as positive, there is a group of patients that might be struggling: those who are less tech-savvy. These patients might find it difficult to use the technology or may be avoiding appointments entirely because they don’t know how it works. In this situation, you can help patients feel more comfortable with using the technology if you take the right steps.
Step 1: Communicate Clearly About Telemedicine Options
One of the most important things you can do is let your patients know that telemedicine services are available. While it’s great to send out a text or email, you should also send mailed information for those who don’t use email and may not have a smartphone with texting capabilities.
Create some helpful brochures and instruction sheets on how telemedicine works, the benefits of telemedicine, and how to schedule. Let patients know they will need an email address to get instructions on their appointment and provide information on how they can sign up for a free email through services like Gmail or Yahoo if they don’t have one yet.
You can also include information about frequently asked questions related to telemedicine to help patients understand how it works.
Step 2: Provide Clear Instructions to Patients Well in Advance of an Appointment
Once patients have a telemedicine appointment scheduled, it’s important that they get information on how to access the telemedicine software. If they have to download specific programs or create a user account, make this information clear in your communication and include links to the downloads. Provide information about types of technology that will work – smartphones, tablets, and computers with a camera – and any specific instructions for different devices. Let them know they need a high-speed internet connection or a very strong WiFi signal.
Step 3: Offer Customer Service for Assistance
For patients who are struggling to figure out telemedicine, it’s important to have phone-based customer support. If your staff cannot offer support, talk to your telemedicine vendor to find out what resources are available that you can tap into to help your patients access the services.
Step 4: Help People Do a “Test Drive”
Provide instructions on how people can do a “test” telemedicine appointment. Talk to your telemedicine software vendor to find out if their customer service reps can help patients test their system. Otherwise, it might be best to schedule an extra 10-15 minutes for initial appointments and have a member of your staff designated to help the patient figure out the technology (with enough time for troubleshooting) before the provider is scheduled to arrive.
Telemedicine is a critical part of any practice today. If you don’t have it yet, or your services were quickly thrown together at the start of COVID-19, talk to AdvancedMD to see a demo of our software and learn more.