Welcome to this week’s healthcare Knowledge Knugget! As a part of “The Executive Innovation Show” podcast, we’re bringing you the hot topics, questions we receive each week, game-changing ideas, best practices, and tips. During today’s topic, Carrie Chitsey talks about how telehealth is used in healthcare and critical components of developing new patient workflows. 

We have seen a ton of lessons learned during COVID. A lot of practices, urgent care clinics, behavioral health, really anything across the board, had to overnight learn new patient workflows. How is telehealth used in healthcare? In today’s Knowledge Knugget, we’re going to be covering “10 Things to Consider When Using Telehealth: Patient and Provider Workflows”. 


1. Front Staff 

The first thing you should be thinking about is your taking front of staff that’s used to checking in people and reminding them of their appointments and now converting them to a hybrid model. Your front staff now needs to be able to tell patients of all different technical skills and demographics on how to connect for a telehealth appointment. 

It’s very critical that that’s systematic and that you email the patient instructions or you verbally give them very specific instructions that will save your providers time. Patients must have the right information so that they are on time for appointments and not having any technical difficulty. 


2. Patient Experience 

The second thing is the patient user experience has to be simple and has to be simple for all demographics. It needs to be simple enough that a grandma at 75 can connect and youth at 12 can connect and everybody in between. It needs to be so simple that you don’t have to give very detailed instructions. It needs to be one, two, three clicks to connect. 

Using free services during COVID downloading mobile applications doesn’t work for all patient demographics. It may work for the business professional that’s used to downloading that app, maybe for work, but it doesn’t work for children and it doesn’t work for older demographics. It’s something that you need to keep in mind. Telehealth used in healthcare can and will save you a lot of hassle on the back end and will help your provider satisfaction. 


3. Patient Preference

The next one is as offices are opening back up, hospitals opening back up, urgent cares opening back up, you have a patient population that was used to using telehealth that preferred it. It was convenient, things like that. Now you need to think about the patient preference as we go post-COVID and we ask, “what does the new healthcare look like”? 

It is a hybrid model. You’re going to have some patients that want to come in. They’re older, they appreciate that interaction and sitting down with the doctor. You’re going to have the busy mom and the professionals that prefer to use telehealth. And so patient preference needs to become top of mind inpatient workflows. If an appointment type is available via telehealth, you need to communicate that to that patient and ask them their preference.


4. Insurance Copays

The next thing to think about in patient workflows as you’re doing this virtual care and telehealth is insurance payment copay. How are you going to do that virtually? If you don’t have patient-facing scheduling, if you don’t have a credit card online, what’s your process? It’s something critical to be thinking about that through your workflow in your front office and your billing employees.


5. After Hours 

If you’re in the business of doing after-hours phone calls, if you’re in the business of doing weekends or extended tonight’s, utilize telehealth. You should not be taking phone calls and moving that to telehealth, to make it billable. You see an increase in patient care and an increase in patients using you versus the retail urgent care on the corner. 


6. Follow Up Appointments 

Number six is follow up appointments. As you look at patients that are now coming back into the office and they’re coming in because they require labs or they require a physical exam, make sure that you’re still keeping the social distance and that you’re keeping the number of patients in the office of what’s critical. Moving some of your follow up appointments for those patients that had to come in in-person to telehealth. 


7. New Patient Consults

You’re still going to have new patient consults during this time. How do you do those new patient consults? Using Telehealth allows them to meet the provider, get the information, and then determine if they need to come in for some type of testing. This will keep them out of the waiting room and keep them safe. 


8. Provider Scheduling 

A lot of people that are doing great things in best practices during COVID that turned it on overnight are scheduling their providers. Especially in subspecialty medicine, seeing patients in the office in the morning time. Maybe they do their telehealth  consults for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Maybe it’s on certain days of the week, but the average telehealth consult is four to seven minutes. 

Providers can get a lot more done. So if you stack up for an hour and a half in the morning or the afternoon, then back to back, and then they can see patients, that’s the best way to do it. Versus going in-person and then telehealth as you’ll run over. You’ll be keeping people on telehealth waiting as well as patients in the room waiting. Try to figure out that schedule, block it accordingly, and schedule accordingly. 


9. Provider Windshield Time

As we look at keeping physicians safe, keeping our clinicians safe that are going from hospitals to nursing facilities, to different offices, going into a dialysis center or cancer centers, they spend a lot of time in their car going to these different locations. If possible, if they’re going to an assisted living to follow up on a few patients, those should be converted to telehealth.

Go back to number two, keeping it simple. Telehealth not only has to be simple for the patient, but it has to be simple for nurses, caregivers, and CNAs. Keeping it simple will help you scale and give that physician, the work-life balance, get them out of that windshield time, make them more productive, and get them home faster at night.


10. Training and Technology 

One of the biggest failures of COVID on telehealth, although telehealth used in healthcare went off amazingly during COVID,  nobody had time for training. That created issues for even the most simplistic platform. As you put providers that had never done telehealth before, and some weren’t that tech-savvy had to learn this tool overnight. There are a lot of contributing factors outside of technology like wifi, browsers, having the right phone, and downloading apps.

Creating a cheat sheet for the providers of the five things you have to know or keeping it to a three-minute training or seven-minute training, something simple as these guys are super busy. Doctors don’t have time to read things. They’re in crisis, they’re in crisis personally, they’re in crisis for their patients. Making sure that there’s still that training that makes them successful, that makes them not frustrated, and that makes them give a good patient experience. Ultimately it gives them a good physician experience. 

Those are the “10 Things to Consider When Using Telehealth: Patient and Provider Workflows” and how telehealth is used in healthcare today. If you ruled out telehealth during COVID and you miss some of these steps, now’s a great time to go back and fine-tune. 

Some of these steps that you might’ve missed because you were moving a hundred miles an hour, in crisis. As we move to the new normal, which is the hybrid model of seeing patients in person and telehealth, now’s a great time to go back and start looking at these steps. Find which ones you missed, which ones you didn’t have time for, and which ones you need to prioritize now.