Telemedicine rules the day as the world tries to figure out how to emerge from COVID-19. Even after the pandemic has passed, clinicians are likely to continue using telemedicine to some degree. As such, it is wise to take a proactive approach to it now. Working to get telemedicine technologies and policies up to speed as soon as possible will be beneficial in the long run.
If you are a clinician looking at a telemedicine solution for the first time, here are five tips to get you started:
1. Research the Technology
Video chat and conferencing solutions like Skype and Zoom have been temporarily cleared by federal and state authorities for use in helping us get through the COVID-19 pandemic. But that clearance will not last forever. Any practice currently using general tools will eventually have to switch to platforms approved by regulators.
Vista Staffing suggests that now is the time to start researching the technology. Now is the time to assign someone on the IT team to start looking at the many telemedicine platforms out there. Practices are going to have to be ready to switch when regulators eventually pull the plug on Skype and Zoom.
2. Know Licensing Requirements
Regulations are also a consideration where licensing is concerned. Clinicians should have no problem offering telemedicine services to residents of their own states. Outside of their states, clinicians can run into problems with licensing issues. It is important that they know the licensing requirements of every state in which they hope to offer services.
3. Offer Multiple Options
Wherever possible, it is a good idea for clinicians to offer multiple telemedicine options. The younger generation prefers video chat and conferencing. The older generation, not so much. Many older patients would prefer to communicate with their doctors over the phone. Clinicians should be ready to accommodate both.
Options will expand as more telemedicine platforms are developed. For example, expect to see platforms that allow for both video and audio-only chat. Some of them are likely to combine video and audio chat capabilities with VoIP so that patients can call in over the phone without requiring clinicians to work outside of their chosen platforms.
4. Make Security a Priority
Security has to be a priority whenever you are dealing with online technologies. In the case of healthcare delivery, security encapsulates both personal and healthcare information. Thus, it behooves practices to make security a top priority when choosing, implementing, and maintaining telemedicine platforms.
Security is also a matter of office policy. In other words, practices that did not utilize telemedicine prior to the COVID-19 pandemic likely did not have appropriate policies in place either. They will have to develop policies dictating how staff members will utilize and protect sensitive information.
5. Prepare for Less Formality
Many clinicians are now discovering that telemedicine changes the nature of the doctor-patient relationship by making visits a lot less formal. In a traditional office setting, patients are not as comfortable as they would be at home. They are guarded in the words they use; they are more conscious of how they look and behave.
Doctors are not likely to be less formal in a telemedicine setting – nor should they be – but they should expect less formality among patients. Doctors should be prepared for what amounts to a house call over the internet.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to do things differently. It is forcing doctors and patients to embrace telemedicine in large numbers. As a clinician, do your best to make the most of what might be unfamiliar territory. Things could actually turn out better than you expected.