Mastering the balance between in-person and telehealth visits.
Healthcare has been moving toward a hybrid care model—a mix of in-person care and care at distance—since the U.S. was hit with COVID-19 in early 2020. The need for this model will likely continue in some form through the pandemic and beyond. Success with hybrid care requires a series of workflow changes and technology adoptions that make it possible to easily support both types of visits. Below is a list of some of the important changes healthcare organizations should consider.
First, it’s important to set clinical guidelines to determine which appointments can be done via telemedicine and which need to be in-person. Then, appointment types need to be set up accurately for both scheduling and billing purposes. Create a script for staff so they know what information needs to be collected or shared for successful telehealth visits. Consider offering online scheduling with a follow-up confirmation to make the process easier for patients and reduce calls to the front desk.
2. Reminders and Pre-Visit Instructions
Automated reminders are more important than ever to ensure patients know what type of appointment they have scheduled—in-person versus telehealth. The reminder should also provide instructions and links for telehealth. If in-person, the reminder should contain pre-screening information (i.e., call first if you have COVID-19 symptoms). If you are using a “park & text” waiting room approach it should be included in your messaging as well.
3. Intake Process
Supporting a combination of virtual and in-person visits requires tools that support an almost entirely digital workflow. Intake forms should be sent via text or email to be completed ahead of time electronically. At this time, consider including a COVID-19 pre-screening form. Another good way to screen patients is to do a short survey a day or week ahead of visits to identify patients who many have symptoms. Digital forms not only allow patients being seen virtually to complete their forms, but also protect patients with in-person visits by eliminating the need to touch clipboards or devices in the office.
4. Telehealth Visit
Obviously, to conduct telehealth visits you need the technology to do so. There are many telemedicine options, but the best options will include real-time audio and video. You also want it to be a HIPAA-compliant, secure, high-resolution tool that is easy to use for both providers and patients to use. Another important option now is the text-based check-in. A two-way text tool allows providers to do a quick 5-10 text exchange to determine if the patient needs to come in or do a full telehealth visit.
5. Digital Bill Pay
Allowing patients to pay electronically is also an important piece of supporting both visit types and removing risk for in-person visits. A mobile bill pay solution makes it easy for patients to pay their copay ahead of a telehealth visit as well as post-visit balances. There are solutions that make it easy to text a bill reminder to the patient who can then click and link and pay from their phone securely.
6. Follow-up Surveys
Finally, with so many changes, it is critical to track the patient experience. You can’t know how things are going if you don’t ask. Digital surveys are easy to deliver to patients and are highly likely to be completed. They are also easy to change as you work to gauge patient experience as things change.
To learn more about how to successfully use hybrid care, check out our free guide, "A Complete Guide to Using Telemedicine in Your Practice."