How To Optimally Prepare for Online Appointments

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In the second Doximity State of Telemedicine report, researchers surveyed US adult patients receiving digital care and compared their results with their similar 2020 survey. Each survey polled 2,000 respondents with 1,000 patients receiving telehealth services through online appointments who identified as having a chronic illness and 1,000 patients who did not identify as such. The Doximity February 2022 report showed that 73% of patients – 15% more than April 2020 – favored telehealth appointments over in-person visits. Among chronic illness patients, 80% expressed the desire to seek care through online consultations, 20% more than 2020. Up from 40% in 2020, about 55% of telehealth consumers reported that online appointments with healthcare professionals delivered comparable or superior care.

As a practitioner, you probably have been delivering telehealth services since at least the beginning of the pandemic. Now that COVID is subsiding, it may be time to go back through your telehealth intake procedures to optimize the digital care experience for new and established patients and clients. This article is one of several written by TBHI to help your transition to permanent use of telehealth be more successful and  rewarding. Issues discussed can help you whether you have chosen exclusively to offer telehealth sessions or hybrid healthcare, a combination of telehealth and in-person care.

A pivotal yet quickly addressed issue described in studies like the one above involves preparing the care recipient for online appointments. Often, a little structure at the intake point can significantly improve experiences for both the digital caregiver and the digital care recipient.

Two primary factors found to exert influence on telehealth satisfaction rates for online appointments include how well clients and patients are given guidance related to:

  1. Digital health literacy and technological know-how.
  2. Cyber security concerns.

Tips To Optimize Telehealth Appointments

At intake, the telehealth-savvy practitioner may want to make a few telehealth-specific recommendations to improve digital literacy and address cybersecurity by sharing these tips:

  • You will speed things along if you already have read my office policies and informed consent document, completed questionnaires, and forwarded records when appropriate before our first appointment. Write down any questions for us to address in our first meeting. 
  • Log in early to check the technology (monitor angle, speakers, speakers, connecting devices). You may also want to be sure that you can be seated comfortably and that the device you are using is securely positioned so it won’t tip over in the middle of our meeting. Arrange for privacy to avoid the risk of intrusion or embarrassment during our online consultation. Consider texting friends and family about your need for privacy. Think about strategically positioning signs on the kitchen countertop and your door if possible, and position yourself to face any doors rather than having them behind you.
  • If you are unsure how to connect using technology, practice using Skype or Facetime with a friend or a family member. Platforms used for healthcare are much safer than Skype or Facetime in terms of privacy and security as per US government regulations, but they function pretty similarly. If you can master how to turn the software on and off, increase sound volume, and mute, that’s all that you need to know for starters. It is also important for you to use a good headset or earbuds to allow me to hear you more clearly and prevent any listeners from hearing my voice when we meet. If you have a choice, noise-canceling equipment is optimal.
  • Have everything that you might need at hand. Items might conclude tissue, medication bottles, your calendar, and your mobile phone if you connect via video conferencing through a computer or tablet.
  • For your first meeting, you may want to have a list of concerns you’d like to address, along with any relevant healthcare records if you haven’t sent them ahead of time. Keep the list with you when we meet, so you don’t need to search for them.
  • If you’re a parent or guardian, have another trusted adult available to care for your child or children during your sessions. If your child is old enough to be left alone in another room, making sure they are actively engaged in an activity can be helpful. You may also need a babysitter.
  • Check your internet connectivity before your telehealth appointment. Broadband connectivity is an important precondition for success with videoconferencing. If unsure of your computer’s connection to the Internet, go to any browser and type “What is my internet speed?”. You will see several options for free services that will send a signal to test how quickly you can connect to their home base with a click of your mouse. That type of speed test will tell you if your signal is strong enough for most video platforms, which require 20 MBS or more. If your connection isn’t fast enough, we may need to experiment with using your telephone Internet connection for audio contact while using the videoconferencing platform to keep visual contact. If you wish to conduct such an experiment before our meeting, please call my office at XXXX. We can also send you the technical requirements, features, and interface details of the system we use.
  • Plan to use your telephone as a backup if the Internet fails to support our meeting. If that happens, please allow me to call you rather than try to call me. Staying off your phone will allow me to reach you quickly to resume our discussion. 
  • Allow time for me to respond to your concerns. Remember, a telehealth appointment relies on two-way communication.

Why Preparing Your Caseload for Online Appointments Is Important

Reports of patient satisfaction and provider ratings are increasingly making the news. Ways to optimize online appointments are of interest to telehealth providers and their organizations and the telehealth technology vendor community. For TBHI’s list of telehealth-ready technology vendors who can help you choose technology for your telehealth and other technology needs, visit the TBHI Telehealth & Technology Buyer’s Guide. TBHI offers this free service as a community telehealth support service.

In a world where patient-centered healthcare reigns supreme, telehealth providers and their organizations would be wise to use digital calendars, patient portals, digitized billing services, and other consumer-facing telehealth technology. Also, having the right security systems to calm consumer fears related to the safety and privacy of their connections is suggested. Attending to these telehealth consumer issues can help increase telehealth patient satisfaction and telehealth provider ratings.

For other recent TBHI articles that will help you prepare for a successful telehealth service delivery, consider these titles:

How Can I Legally Practice Telehealth Over State Lines and International Borders?

Practicing telehealth across state lines or international borders? Operate legally & ethically 100% of the time.

Disclaimer: The Telebehavioral Health Institute (TBHI Telehealth.org) offers information as educational material designed to inform you of issues, products, or services potentially of interest. We cannot and do not accept liability for your decisions regarding any information offered. Please conduct your due diligence before taking action. Also, the views and opinions expressed are not intended to malign any organization, company, or individual. Product names, logos, brands, and other trademarks or images are the property of their respective trademark holders. There is no affiliation, sponsorship, or partnership suggested by using these brands unless contained in an ad. We do not and cannot offer legal, ethical, billing technical, medical, or therapeutic advice. Use of this site constitutes your agreement to TBHI Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

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