The COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended virtually all aspects of everyday life, one of the most important being the way we access healthcare. Vulnerable populations struggling with all types of conditions, from chronic diseases to mental illness, are finding themselves having to navigate a new access paradigm to connect with their physicians, and many are falling through the cracks, as a result.
Data from Harvard and healthcare technology firm Phreesia indicates that overall outpatient visits plummeted nearly 60 percent from the first week of March to the last. The numbers had stayed low through mid-April. These missed visits represent the potential for a variety of healthcare pitfalls, including lapses in medication adherence, decreased access to potentially lifesaving testing, and other consequences.
As social distancing and infection-prevention efforts have largely precluded patients from engaging with their care providers in an in-person setting, telehealth has emerged as a game-changing resource in helping healthcare patients across the globe maintain seamless continuity of care. The entire healthcare landscape, including Medicare and Medicaid, have quickly mobilized to embrace telemedicine during this time of continued contact restriction.
Missed visits represent the potential for a variety of healthcare pitfalls, including lapses in medication adherence, decreased access to potentially lifesaving testing, and other consequences.
While telehealth has become an increasingly important fixture in virtually all aspects of healthcare delivery, the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to a whole new set of best practices for implementation and deployment. Here are some key things to consider when implementing telehealth services in the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment.
Consider Your Population’s Needs and Resources
It’s important to consider your patient demographic and their level of comfortability and adaptability to change, especially where technology is concerned. If you’re working with seniors, cognitively impaired patients, or lower-income populations, you will need to invest time in creating additional education resources to help them understand the process of engaging with telehealth.
Coordinate with Caregivers
In some cases, you may need to communicate directly with caregivers virtually to ensure that all stakeholders are aligned and understand the process. There are also economic and geographic factors to consider, including poor broadband access and lack of technology in underserved communities.
Organization, Ease of Use and Training
Before unveiling your telehealth strategies, expansions, and modifications to your patients, it’s important that you understand them yourselves. This means testing out the technology, working with your IT professionals to identify potential issues and ensure your staff has proper training for when the program goes into effect among your patient population.
Communication Is Key
Be sure that your patients are given ample notice of the changes and expansions so they can easily transition into this new model of care. Let your patients know that your organization’s telehealth policies during COVID-19 outbreak. Post relevant updates to your website, consider changing your organization’s phone script to include this information at the beginning of your recording, and call patients with upcoming appointments. Consider targeted outreach to “high risk” patients to ensure they know about the changes. Many issues associated with telehealth transitions are the result of miscommunication.
Have A Plan for Escalation and Telehealth Equipment Malfunctions
If there’s one thing anyone from any industry knows, it’s that technology isn’t perfect. Part of developing an effective telehealth infrastructure is ensuring you have redundancies in place, in the event that elements of the primary system end up failing. It’s also important to have proper protocols in dealing with escalations, including mental illness episodes or potentially catastrophic health events.
Continued Patient Follow-Up
This is, perhaps, one of the most important elements of any telehealth paradigm. Getting patient input to continuously improve your telehealth offerings are key to providing an intuitive and streamlined experience. Connect with them on their experience during and after their treatment to identify improvable areas and particular strengths of program. It’s also helpful to gain input from your internal staff.
Remember to Put Patients First
Putting patients first means continuing to follow up with them after their visit, making sure they have the information they need for prescription refills, testing, and other areas of care, and letting them know that even in these most turbulent of times, they have a healthcare provider who is thoroughly invested in their ongoing health progress and success.
A Natural Transition: Let GoMo Health Help You Develop and Implement Your Telehealth Care Resources
GoMo Health has spent years helping providers in all areas of care identify and develop cutting-edge and game-changing digital health-management resources for their patient populations. We have helped clients all over the world leverage the increasing power and versatility of telehealth to be with their patients well beyond the traditional office visit to offer valuable insights condition management and in-the-moment supportive messaging. As COVID-19 continues to change the face of American healthcare delivery, we’re ready to partner with your organization to take the next steps. Call us today at 848-467-4560.
Learn about our COVID-19 Services
Meet your patients in their daily lives as they combat COVID-19. Individuals enrolled in a COVID-19 content track will receive personalized messages based on chronic conditions, mental health, and everyday life challenges, including caregiver responsibilities.