As a healthcare provider, your practice or network almost certainly thought about adding telehealth capabilities to your services. In fact, you may have already started planning, invested in a telehealth program, or even launched your telehealth services. Now you need to increase adoption, which means working with two distinct constituencies – your staff and patients – both of which need to buy into telehealth as an alternative to traditional care in order for your adoption rates to increase. Last week, we discussed several ways to get your physicians and staff on board.
Now, let’s look at how to accomplish that with your patients.
What is telehealth and why are you offering it?
Not unlike your clinical staff, getting patients to buy in is dependent upon their understanding of the benefits of telehealth. You’re going to need a two-pronged approach: many patients aren’t familiar with telehealth to begin with, so be prepared to start by explaining what it is before getting into the benefits. Use simple language to avoid confusing patients. Once you’ve explained the what, the why – the benefits will logically follow. Focus on the quality of care benefits telehealth delivers – that may include faster care, access to better specialists, efficient remote monitoring or status updates, or many other benefits.
What telehealth services are available?
As part of your patient education, make patients aware of what types of care can be administered via telehealth. Go through your entire list of telehealth capabilities and conditions that can be diagnosed or treated through telehealth to help patients understand the full scope of your services and make them aware of how other family members or friends can benefit. The more detailed information you can provide up front, the greater your chances of winning over another telehealth customer become.
How much will it cost?
Be prepared to answer questions about cost. Cost structures will be in flux, as providers and insurance carriers deal with regulatory changes, policy issues, and develop their own cost models. At the very least, there is an expectation that there will be no increase in cost for telehealth. Be honest, but continue to focus on the quality and convenience of care and associated savings as the key benefits. Suggest patients give telehealth a try to see for themselves. If they’re not satisfied, they can come in for an in-person visit but, if your physicians are on board and prepared, and you’ve chosen the right platform for your practice, the results should speak for themselves.
What will insurance cover?
Along with cost, you can be certain insurance coverage will come up. This can be a tricky question, considering insurance regulations are in flux and benefits vary by provider and plan. While you can’t be expected to know every patient’s benefits, you should stay informed about general regulations and standards around insurance coverage of telehealth – including Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Have information handy on where patients can find answers to general and specific questions related to coverage. If you truly want to provide exceptional service, make sure you follow up either via phone or email to make sure they have found all the information they need.
Create a positive experience
Above all else, the patient experience is the most critical to driving adoption and maximizing ROI. Make sure your telehealth solution is intuitive and easy to use for all patients. The good news is patients are becoming more comfortable with technology, so as long as your staff are prepared and you have educated your patients on the solution, there should be few issues, if any.
Ongoing patient support
Make sure you have ample educational materials available for patients when they inquire. The only way to increase adoption is to increase awareness. Ask satisfied patients for testimonials, and update current and prospective patients when you add new services. The more you are able to get your messaging about your services in front of your patients, the greater the odds they’ll become adopters.
What we know is most patients want the benefits of telehealth – According to Software Advice, 77% say they would be more likely to choose a healthcare provider that offers telehealth services over one that doesn’t. The biggest challenge around telehealth adoption will continue to be education – around services, benefits, costs, and insurance coverage. The answers to most questions support telehealth, so if your staff are prepared to spend time with patients to give them detailed information, you’ll put your telehealth practice on the road to success.
To learn more about how you can implement telehealth services into your organization, click here.