Earlier this year, we wrote a blog that predicted 2020 would be the year for telehealth, also often referred to as telemedicine (note, telemedicine is actually a subset of telehealth, which also offers a broader set of non-clinical services). While telehealth use has roughly doubled every year for the last 10 years, only 8 percent of people have used it.
Nearly every clinical setting is using telehealth or implementing telehealth ideas to flatten the Coronavirus (COVID-19) curve. With most practices waiving copays and the CARES Act providing telehealth under Medicare, it’s becoming the ideal choice for patients. In New York, telehealth visits are up 312% and Washington State is even higher at 700%. At Cleveland Clinic, they expect over 60,000 telehealth visits in March when they average 3,400 before the outbreak.
Healthcare experts are working around the clock, consulting with each other on best practices and taking action as fast as possible. Whether your practice has been using telehealth for a while or just started amid the outbreak, you still want the best information and approach out there.
Even during healthcare challenges like this, these tried and true telehealth ideas can help improve the health outcomes of your patients and of your practice.
Step One: Communicate
If you aren’t among the hundreds of healthcare providers already communicating with patients using digital platforms, it is imperative you do so. Create messaging just for COVID-19 and offer the option for your patients to sign up for COVID-19 information from your practice. Resources should be easily accessible and found on your practice’s digital patient engagement platform.
If you are conducting COVID-19 testing, make it clear in your communications on how it works, especially if it is part of your telehealth approach. Remember, many of your patients and some clinicians are using telehealth for the first time and are navigating it the best they can.
If you want to learn how to improve telehealth communications, consider using psychographic segmentation. Unlike demographics, which groups people by age, psychographics categorize people based on what motivates them to take an action on something based on attitudes, beliefs, personality, values and lifestyle. If you know what group a specific patient is and can tailor messaging for each patient based on their segment, you’re more likely to communicate with patients in a way that not only resonates with them, but propels them to make a behavior change.
PatientBond’s model, which was developed by healthcare consumer experts at Procter & Gamble, is made up of five patient segments. In this pandemic, each segment will handle health and wellness issues differently.
- Self Achievers - This segment makes their health a top priority and takes care of themselves through diet and exercise. Self Achievers are likely following all health protocols from their local government and the CDC and doing whatever they can to stay healthy during this time. If you provide the tools, they will use them.
- Balance Seekers - Balance Seekers like to take care of themselves, but they are looking for more wellness and holistic approaches to care. They are also more likely to look at multiple sources for health information to determine what’s best for them and what’s accurate. It’s best to share various, trustworthy sources when sharing information with this segment.
- Priority Jugglers - Despite trying, Priority Jugglers have a hard time staying on top of their health. They focus on their family’s health instead, which is likely an even higher priority during these times. By noting that they can better take care of their families by taking care of themselves, it will stick with them.
- Direction Takers - This segment follows doctor’s orders because they have immense trust in their expertise and credentials. Direction Takers may not follow through on everything, even if they try. That’s why it’s important for a segment like this to get the latest best practices for protection against the virus.
- Willful Endurers - Willful Endurers live in the here and now and don’t think they need to focus on their health. It may be a bit more difficult for physicians to motivate this segment to take care of themselves, but if they focus their message on getting something done now quickly and easily, it can resonate.
These approaches will help your telehealth efforts reach more patients and improve the health outcomes of your patients and staff.
Step Two: Prep the Patient
Before a patient does a telehealth visit, bring questions for them to answer ahead of time. Many patients do their own research on their symptoms to self-diagnose before meeting with a doctor and that’s especially inevitable with COVID-19. Ask about symptoms, how long they have had symptoms and if they are taking any OTCs. If they haven’t visited your practice before, collect personal, contact health and health insurance information.
By having the information you need before the appointment, you can determine if the patient needs to follow-up in-person for an appointment or to take the COVID-19 test.
This should be set-up automatically for all telehealth visits so that you have the most effective approach moving forward.
Step Three: Follow-Up
After your patient’s visit, make sure you check-in with how they are doing. It sounds nice to send a personal message, but it’s not realistic with the time you have.
A digital patient engagement tool like PatientBond can bridge the gap by sending messages using psychographic preferences and preferred communication methods.
We’re Here to Help
In these extreme circumstances, healthcare centers are in dire need of resources in response to COVID-19 and PatientBond wants to help you learn how to improve telehealth.
For the next several months, we are offering our digital patient engagement platform to share weekly COVID-19 messaging at no cost or obligation. Visit our website to learn more.