How to set up Virtual Visits for Telehealth AppointmentsStarr Campbell
In an age of technology, virtual appointments, also known as virtual visits or telehealth visits,are becoming a regular offering among healthcare providers. A recent study found that 76% of U.S. hospitals offer some form of virtual appointments. Virtual meetings and appointments save both parties time and offer a simple alternative to in-person patient and practitioner meetings.
Providers who offer virtual services and telehealth appointments expand their patient range significantly. In fact, 74% of millennials prefer telehealth visits to in-person doctor exams. Offering virtual appointments for your practice is quickly becoming a necessary option.
Not sure where to begin and how to start offering virtual appointments? Getting started may not be as time-consuming as you think. Today, you’ll learn exactly what telehealth is and what it entails, recommended services for telehealth providers and the best way to complete a successful virtual visit.
What is telehealth?
It may seem like virtual care entered the mainstream in 2020 due to Covid. However, telehealth dates back further than most people realize. Telehealth, often referred to as telemedicine, is a broad term that includes technologies and services for remote patient care. Virtual care and appointment scheduling, online medication management and consultations with specialists all fall under the telehealth umbrella. Furthermore, telehealth includes remote non-clinic services and classes for advancing medical personnel and staff training.
Why offer telehealth services?
Access to healthcare becomes more convenient when you offer virtual care. Instead of having to find transportation from a rural area or risk exposing others to suspected illness, patients can be diagnosed from the comfort of their homes.
On the administrative side, you can expect lower overhead costs. Your front office help can be reduced with the help of an appointment booking software. Virtual appointment scheduling can become easily automated and you can use an online scheduling software to handle appointment reminders, form completions and patient records management.
There are a number of health and medical fields that can reap benefits by offering a virtual visit option to potential patients.
How to set up and run virtual appointments
If you are considering or beginning the planning phases for offering virtual appointments, there are a few things to consider before getting started.
Choose the right software
If you are going to offer virtual appointments, you’re going to need a couple pieces of software to simplify the process. You’ll need to choose a good video conferencing platform and a feature rich scheduling software.
The first thing patients encounter when seeking an appointment is your booking software. You’ll need to think through your needs in order to choose the right scheduling software. You want to consider a feature rich scheduling tool that can automate a number of your scheduling related tasks. Otherwise, you risk choosing a software that can create a bad scheduling experience and ultimately hurt your business.If you have returning patients selecting a telehealth appointment for the first time, you want them to trust that their virtual visit experience will be frustration free.
When looking for a scheduling tool, it’s best to factor in all the features that make running virtual appointments easy, not only on the patient's side, but on your staff’s side as well. Managing your employee’s calendars can be time consuming, and human error leads to appointments not being booked successfully. Your online scheduling software should be the first step in creating a seamless virtual experience.
The same is true for your video conferencing software. You’ll likely want to consider an option that is secure, HIPAA compliant, mobile friendly and easy for patients to use. This ensures a safe and secure virtual appointment for you and your patients.
Collect information easily
In order to have a successful appointment, both parties must be adequately prepared. Allowing patients to book appointments without requiring pertinent information can end up being an administrative nightmare. Patients booking a consultation may need to answer a few questions such as why they’re booking an appointment or need to list any medications they’ve taken recently.
The fastest way to request and receive information from patients is to prompt them during the time of scheduling an appointment. Once the required fields have been filled in, they can continue the booking process until they finish. Alternatively, you can choose a scheduling software for building custom forms and have patients complete the forms and return them electronically.
Send appointment reminders to patients
Life gets busy, and upcoming health appointments tend to slip the average person’s mind. To stay at the top of their priority list, send out automated emails that remind patients they have an upcoming appointment happening soon.
How long the reminder goes out before the appointment is up to you, but it would be in your best interest to send it at least 24 hours prior. Reminder emails can also be used as an effective way of completing outstanding front desk tasks, such as the need to complete paperwork or sign a form.
Test your set up
Don’t wait until the day of your scheduled appointments to make sure that your internet, computer and camera are all working correctly. Troubleshooting before (and certainly during) an appointment annoys your patients and shortens the time you have to care for them.
Run a connectivity test to be assured your internet speed and strength are up to par. Google offers it for free. Then, practice speaking and turning on your camera to make sure everything is in working order.
Meet with your patient
When connecting to your virtual appointment, make sure you have already approved the permissions your browser requests when using the device’s camera on microphone. When first setting this up, you may need to make somechanges to your security settings. Depending on the virtual carevisit platform you use, you’ll either automatically join the video call with your patient or you’ll ‘arrive’ first and click a button to allow the patient to join.
It’s best to join the virtual meeting from your office or any room with a professional backdrop. If you are taking appointments from home, make sure you’re in an enclosed environment with privacy. Even though telehealth appointments can feel more casual, you still want to give your patients the respect of professionalism.
From this point, you can continue like it’s any other in-person appointment. Go over concerns, symptoms, questions and patient requests. Using your client database tool, you can record notes about the patient and store them for other healthcare professionals on your team to use.
Get through your typical appointment checklist and don’t forget to enjoy spending time with your patients. A virtual appointment allows you to use fun tools - like screen sharing or instant file share. This way, you can explain diagnoses and plans of treatment with a visual aid, which engages the patient in their healthcare journey even more.
Follow up after the appointment
Successfully completing a virtual appointment is great, but now you’re on to your next meeting. Unlike in-person visits, a patient will not talk to a receptionist to schedule their next appointment after their visit. There are several different ways to contact patients for follow up scheduling, but it would be easiest to automate your communication.
You can design a follow up email to be sent to a patient directly after the appointment is over with a quick recap of what was discussed and the next steps. In this email you can include a link or a button to schedule the recommended next appointment.
Telehealth with TimeTap
When you choose the right software to help you set up telehealth appointments, you have access to features that help you better onboard and maintain patient relationships. TimeTap is a robust appointment booking software capable of handling enterprise level scheduling, staff management and patient communication. We offer powerful features to help automate tasks, streamline scheduling related tasks and solve complex scheduling problems. Our solution is entirely customizable, designed to simplify your front office’s duties while empowering you to take more appointments.
WithTimeTap, you can simplify clinical and administrative tasks by offering tools they need in one platform. With TimeTap, you can:
- Build custom forms - Add informational questions or build intake forms that customers can complete when scheduling the appointment or as a follow up once they have booked their appointment. Our software can deliver these items electronically.
- Manage patient information - With our client management database, appointment related information is automatically saved in patient profiles. Add labels, notes or other information for record keeping. Our software will even log communication and appointment history.
- Text reminders and notifications - Create messages and set up automated triggers for communicating appointment reminders or follow-up information to your patients.
- Manage appointment status–Move patient appointments from open to checkedin or cancelled in order to track appointment status.
- Secure and HIPAA compliant – We’ve built a software that keeps your patient information safe. We meet or exceed all industry standards.
Offering telehealth services to your patients brings more business and reduces both the time and cost involved with scheduling. You don’t have to be a tech wiz to introduce virtual visits for appointments – just follow the best practices for telehealth appointments and use a feature rich scheduling tool!