Since the spring of 2020, telemedicine has become a vital tool in how you deliver high-quality pediatric care to your patients. You probably had little experience with telehealth before the pandemic, but now you and the families in your community have been using it together for more than two years. With a virulent virus, virtual appointments have become as common as, well, common colds.
Now, it finally seems that COVID-19 — and its strain on the healthcare system — is subsiding. This year has brought less masking and less social distancing. Your patients and their families probably even came together to celebrate winter and spring holidays. But as the spread of the virus slows, is telemedicine still relevant for your pediatric practice?
There have been studies slowly gathering information from the perspectives of patients and healthcare providers, gauging their interest in utilizing telemedicine as the pandemic declines. However, we realize you might be uncertain about the effectiveness and relevance of the continued use of telehealth. In this blog, we’ll break down those concerns and discover three priorities for creating a successful telehealth program.
What Are the Most Common Concerns about Telemedicine?
Common themes emerged in recent research assessing patient and healthcare provider concerns related to the continued use of telemedicine. These worries included extended wait times for return phone calls, technological barriers, and inappropriate utilization of telehealth appointments. Let’s explore each one.
Call Backs and Wait Times
One of the chief patient complaints with telemedicine is wait times or not receiving a call back when requesting a virtual visit. In addition, patients expressed concerns about leaving a voice message with their medical questions. Many patients view voice messages as a barrier that increases the wait time to have their questions answered and appointments scheduled.
Technology Issues and Limitations
Patients also voiced concerns that telemedicine may actually increase the barriers associated with having access to healthcare. This is especially true for those with socioeconomic disparities who may not have access to tablets, Wi-Fi, and other equipment needed for virtual appointments. Patients and families with hearing, cognitive, and/or speech disabilities may also have difficulty using screens for their appointments. Lastly, folks who speak English as a secondary language and are unable to have translators present at the appointment can experience miscommunication and therefore, not receive proper treatment.
Complex Care and Appropriateness
Some individuals who were surveyed viewed telemedicine as less accurate than face-to-face evaluations. Their concerns stem from the fear that their healthcare provider is unable to perform a complete physical assessment during a virtual appointment. Patients want to be able to have their healthcare provider assess them effectively, especially when they have complex medical conditions and new or worsening symptoms.
How Can You Create a Successful Virtual Care Program?
Given the concerns patients have expressed, it’s clear that having an effective telehealth solution is important. The key to creating a virtual care program and using telemedicine technology is putting standards in place that are transparent and easy for the patient to understand. Consider the following three priorities.
Reassurance: On your voicemail line, include a message that families will hear back from your office within an established time frame. This will help alleviate concerns about prolonging medical care.
Support: Before scheduling appointments, ensure your patients have access to Wi-Fi and offer education on the telemedicine platform and how to use it. These checks can help your patients get the most out of their virtual visits. For families who do not speak English as their primary language, let them know about translation services.
Choice: Patients should have a choice whether or not to schedule a telehealth appointment. In particular, face-to-face evaluations should be available for complex patients and those with worsening symptoms.
What Are Patients Saying About Their Telehealth Experiences?
Here at Anytime Pediatrics, we know you are committed to using telehealth properly, making it an effective method of providing healthcare. That’s why we’ve created a telemedicine solution that gives you many different options to serve your patients. In fact, we’ve recently received a lot of positive post-telehealth visit feedback from parents and patients. Here are some examples of what they are saying.
“For my first time doing a virtual doctor’s visit, it was pleasant. The doctor helped me to the full extent and provided me with answers I needed.”
“Very helpful. Call quality was great.”
“Such a relief to meet with Dr Gentile — great visit and super user-friendly app!”
“Great tool! Very convenient.”
“It was good. I enjoyed being able to do visits from home.”
“Wonderful experience. Very kind and helpful. Thank you so much.”
“Dr. O is always so kind and helpful. He really cares about his patients and takes time to understand what is going on. We love telemedicine visits as sometimes it’s hard to get to the offices. Thank you!”
“It was nice to see the doctor, and we didn’t have to get out of the house.”
The pandemic propelled an emerging technology into the limelight, and it seems that telemedicine is here to stay. If you want to know how continuing to utilize telemedicine can complement your practice, contact us today to request a consultation!