While in-person healthcare is undoubtedly necessary, many technical innovations have already and will continue to improve healthcare. The key to improving healthcare in the long term is hybrid healthcare, both in-person and telehealth. A marriage of the two is known in different healthcare circles as hybrid healthcare, hybrid counseling, or hybrid consultation.
What Is Digital Literacy?
Although practitioners, patients, and clients primarily used audio-only telehealth during COVID, digital literacy has increased in both groups. Digital literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and communicate through communication technology. For example, it has become increasingly easy for consumers to make and receive video calls via laptops or smartphones for healthcare appointments in healthcare. Many more healthcare recipients can navigate a digital meeting, read lab reports or access psychological test results, refill prescriptions, track behavior, type notes into a patient portal for their healthcare team, use a remote patient monitoring device, and even inject themselves without leaving home. However, there are things that they can’t do from home. Some procedures require an in-person visit.
Hybrid consulting makes perfect sense for the patient who has an in-person intake and needs to receive the results of a test, have a follow-up consultation, or engage in regular, non-emergent behavioral healthcare.
How to Increase Digital Literacy
Telehealth by video can only work if patients and clients have broad-band connectivity and devices that support advanced connections. At the very least, they need a reliable internet connection, a camera, earbuds, or a headset to minimally protect their privacy if they are in an environment where others can hear you, their practitioner. They also need to know how to protect their privacy by using passwords when writing about personal issues on their computer and when using apps; how to minimize their digital footprint by only completing required fields when completing the website and other digitized forms, and being aware that their computerized information can be compromised when leaving a computer, laptop or digital device at a repair shop.
Clinicians can also help facilitate hybrid counseling by fully teaching their patients and clients how to participate in the consultation process. This training could take the form of online videos that teach patients how to set up the sound and position the camera, sit up and face forward, minimize interruptions and distractions, and share pictures and documents if needed. Clinicians also need to have a basic level of telehealth training to use it wisely.
Hybrid Healthcare in Emergencies
Hybrid healthcare in an emergency involves the real-time help that first responders can receive from behavioral or medical healthcare practitioners as an emergency occurs. For example, a behavioral specialist may be needed when a belligerent citizen is arrested by a law enforcement professional. Police officers are increasingly urged to consider behavioral health interventions as many belligerent prisoners have autism spectrum disorder. Similarly, a healthcare provider’s advice on the way to the emergency room can help mitigate a medical crisis. Hybrid healthcare that combines access to telehealth-mediated expertise and in-person care is often very effective and can save lives.
Reimbursement for Hybrid Healthcare
Whether called hybrid healthcare, hybrid counseling, or hybrid consultation, many US states already require insurers to cover telehealth visits. The use of online healthcare continues to grow in popularity. More people will likely book online appointments and expect to benefit from hybrid healthcare as it improves.
See these TBHI Telehealth.org articles for more information:
- The Future of Telehealth Reimbursement: Consumer Demand & Patient Loyalty
- 7 States Change Telehealth Coverage for Telehealth Reimbursement
What is Telehealth? Basic Technology Orientation for the Busy Practitioner
In this 2.5 hour, basic technology training, you will find a well-organized discussion of relevant basic research along with practical suggestions for making foundational decisions about your digital practice with cloud storage, backups systems, security software such as VPNs, HIPAA compliance and software purchasing, synchronous and asynchronous technologies, and much more.