Connected health technologies offer a number of opportunities for physicians and patients to collaboratively enjoy a better healthcare experience and achieve better patient outcomes.  Among them, virtual consultations using connected health technology are becoming increasingly interesting to patients.  In fact, more than half of all patients have indicated a willingness to try virtual visits, with most reporting their experiences to be the same as with office visits – 21 percent even indicated their virtual care experiences exceeded office visits.

Convenience and access to care are among the reasons a majority of patients are making provider choices, so it’s not surprising so many are amenable to virtual visits and why providers should be increasing their implementation and adoption of connected health solutions. First, they must must have buy-in from the clinical staff and enable all users with best practices.

Be prepared

To make a virtual visit successful, all parties must be comfortable with the virtual visit and technology being used. Physicians should be sure to become familiar with patient records and health histories, especially for first-time connected health consultations.  Of course, the degree of familiarity will vary, depending on the nature of the virtual visit – whether it’s with a PCP, an emergency clinic, a virtual healthcare provider, or specialist.  The more a doctor is able to understand about a patient, the more comfortable the encounter is likely to be.

Staff training

As part of any adoption program, all physicians and staff that may be involved in telehealth visits should be trained on the platform and any associated technologies, along with the entire virtual visit process, from sign-on to log-off.  If everyone is well-versed on the applications, they will be able to give their full attention to their patients.

Patient prep

Make sure patients know what to expect and how to prepare for their telehealth visits.  This includes access to any connected health device or app they should be utilizing, or type of clothing they should wear to make it easier to show wounds, rashes, swelling, or other conditions. They may want to have a trusted assistant on-hand to help hold a camera or flashlight for visual examinations.  Also make sure patients are aware of any pre-visit information, such as current symptoms or changes in conditions, to help doctors prepare better.

Digital tools

While the driving technology behind virtual visits may be video conferencing, there may be other tools available that help elevate the patient experience.  Screen sharing, for instance, can allow doctors to share charts, images, and other information with patients to help illustrate comments and help patients better understand their conditions and become more engaged in their own healthcare.  Store and forward technology makes it easy for doctors to share information with additional specialists who may be called in to help.

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring devices can be part of the virtual care environment and help deliver patient data to physicians that help them deliver evaluations and prescribe treatment.  RPM devices can include wearable sensors that regularly monitor and transmit data, or other devices and instruments that require patients to actively use them (and sometimes even manually enter data through secure patient portals).

Attentiveness

Patients should feel like they are in a room with their doctors.  When on a video call, physicians should give patients their undivided attention, only looking away from the camera to enter notes or data into their files or to look up information, in which case it’s best to let patients know that’s what is happening so they don’t feel the doctor is trying to juggle multiple tasks at once.  Again, patients should feel they are the doctor’s only priority during their calls.

Wrap up and Follow-up care

Just as if they were in the office, patients should feel their telehealth visits come to a logical end with an understanding of next steps, including scheduling follow-ups.  Just as a doctor would tell in-office patients to, “Enjoy the rest of the day,” or “Hopefully you will feel better by the morning,” or “My assistant will schedule a follow-up in two weeks for you,” virtual patients will be looking for telltale signs their visit is over – not just the screen going dark.

Network connectivity

While it may seem obvious, make sure patients are aware of minimum requirements for a latency-free experience.  Likewise, doctors and staff should make sure they are not experiencing network quality issues.  Despite the best of intentions, if either end of the visit suffers from network quality issues, it will detract from the overall experience and reduce the quality of the interaction.  It may even make sense to hire connected health consultants to work with patients and their families to make sure they are able and know how to connect in advance of their first telehealth visit.  There are emergency situations where the need to consult a doctor or specialist may outweigh connection issues, but for typical virtual visits, the quality of experience may depend on high-quality video – which also makes is easier for physicians to effectively diagnose conditions.

Ultimately, while connected health makes virtual visits a reality and they are growing in popularity, they are not a substitute for all in-person visits.  But, when doctors are properly educated on how to use their connected health technologies and how to prepare for and conduct virtual visits, they experience can be, at worst, similar to in-person visits, though many patients say it’s even better.  The best way to promote your connected health solution is to deliver a patient experience that exceeds their expectations, so they are inclined to let their family, friends and others know how convenient it was to not have to leave home for a doctor’s visit with no difference in experience.

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