Pre-pandemic, Telehealth was either scoffed at as an ineffective way to treat patients or it was the answer to widespread access to healthcare. Post-pandemic, Telehealth left an impression on patients as an easy & convenient way to see their doctor without having to physically visit the practice.
While some healthcare professionals are still on the fence, it’s undeniable that the prevalence & availability of Telehealth is increasing. Previously, a follow-up phone call to a patient to communicate test results, for example, wasn’t something that could be billed for but that is all changing. Telehealth consultations are now (often time-based) virtual consults with existing patients that can be billed for, either to the medical aid or the patient themselves.
What does it mean for patients?
For patients feeling the economic crunch, Telehealth may be a more cost-effective & efficient solution to an in-person visit. They don’t need to take time off work, battle traffic, find parking, spend time in the waiting room before getting a quick check up & repeat script to head back into traffic, for example. They can join a consultation from anywhere, at a time that suits them. Telehealth is also attractive because sometimes life happens so even though a meeting ran late or they’re stuck in traffic, they can keep their appointment by switching over to a Telehealth consult.
There’s no denying that Telehealth is more convenient, but virtual consults can also be charged at a lower, more affordable rate. For your practice this means fewer no-shows, better patient retention & repeat visits. All totalled, Telehealth is good for business.
Maintain revenue in tough economic times
It’s understandable that some patients’ ability to pay for services has taken a knock over the last few years. Even if their income hasn’t changed, the cost of living is constantly on the rise as South Africa wrestles with recession.
Healthcare is often one of the first expenses patients cut. Patients might reduce their medical insurance or cancel their medical savings benefit. Even chronic patients who require regular checkups can be reluctant to book an appointment when they know they can’t comfortably afford to pay.
This impacts your practice because fewer patient appointments mean less revenue. As with all businesses, you have to align your strategy & offering to suit the paying customer – or patient in your case. If adding Telehealth to your services means you can continue to generate income by billing for virtual consultations, remote monitoring, & online prescriptions, then it is something to seriously consider.
How to implement Telehealth at your practice
There are a few critical factors to take into consideration when incorporating Telehealth into your service offering:
- First & foremost, when choosing a Telehealth solution, you want it to be as user-friendly as possible. Your patients won’t struggle to log in or connect virtually if it’s complicated or requires the download of certain programs or software. In most cases, patients will rather just abandon the appointment if it becomes too difficult. Be 100% certain that the solution you choose is as easy as possible to use.
- Secondly, you must ensure a fast, reliable internet connection to ensure that consultations aren’t interrupted by connection problems.
- You also want to ensure that your Telehealth solution can integrate with your EMR. Integration isn’t a nice to have, it means you can record clinical notes, issue prescriptions &/or sick notes & referral letters in the same way you would with a patient sitting in front of you.
- One of the biggest misconceptions about Telehealth is that it’s unsafe to communicate with patients digitally. But just like storing sensitive information in the cloud, your technology partner should be able to verify compliance, encryption, & security measures in place to safeguard your data & your interaction with patients.
- Lastly, don’t forget to educate & inform your patients. Use email, SMS, social media & online listings, email signatures, notices on invoices & other practice communications to tell patients about your new offering. Tell them about the benefits to them such as shorter waiting times, cost savings & convenience.
Whether you’ve considered using Telehealth at your medical practice before or not, it’s more important than ever to embrace Telehealth as a viable solution during tough economic times. For a comprehensive guide to buying, implementing, & maximising revenue with telehealth, download the ebook here.
Healthbridge offers truly user-friendly healthcare solutions that help private medical practices grow – despite the economic climate. As the technology partner of choice for almost 7000 healthcare practitioners, Healthbridge’s end-to-end solution/s can provide the tools you need to generate revenue while meeting your patient’s needs. For more about how Healthbridge can help you run your best practice, contact email@example.com or, for a complimentary practice assessment, click here.