In-person healthcare interactions have been severely limited due to the coronavirus crisis, which is why hospital systems are working hard to build out virtual care options. Most patients don’t have any way to get the care they need without virtual care options.
COVID-19 may be the driving force behind this shift, but it’s also important for health systems to consider the future. Telemedicine companies want to control the virtual visit space, but virtual visits could be an essential revenue stream for hospitals during critical times.
Define and Promote Virtual Care
Virtual care isn’t clearly defined for patients or even clinicians. Telemedicine, telehealth, and virtual visits might mean different things to different people. Hospital systems must clearly define what their versions of virtual care entail.
Virtual care is still new enough that patients have no clear expectations and health systems don’t have a tried and true model to follow. The reality is that each virtual care solution will depend on how well-equipped the organization is to deliver virtual care.
Create a single resource that defines virtual care so it can be referenced as necessary. This resource should include specific definitions of what your organization’s virtual care offering entails.
Promotion of your virtual care offering is also important. Consider utilizing the following methods to alert patients:
- An eye-catching notification on the homepage.
- A banner on each page that links to your webpage on virtual care.
- Notifications for a physician directory and individual physician profiles.
Proper promotion will ensure more patients take advantage of virtual care, and it will also reduce missed appointments.
Communication is Important
Patient expectations are quite limited, so there’s no universal process for virtual visits. Due to this, it’s important to explain the process for virtual care before, during, and afterward.
Patients should be made aware of what materials they’ll need ahead of an appointment, whether insurance is accepted for the appointment, and any copay or out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, patients should be told whether their PCP will receive the results of the virtual visit and any other actions they need to take after the visit.
Email is an essential tool for virtual care. Health organizations can use it to communicate with specific segments of patients. For example, patients can be notified if their PCP is bringing their caseload online. Patients who have language preferences can also be alerted to non-primary English-speaking doctors offering virtual care.
A coordinated communication strategy will ensure patients are efficiently directed toward the ideal virtual care.
Address Future Integrations
Appointment reminders and follow-up emails can make virtual care feel like it’s integrated into the rest of your system, but fully deploying a virtual care system takes time.
If your hospital system doesn’t have unified patient records, it’s important to define who will have access to patient information that comes from virtual visits and how this information will be reconciled back into your system.
The sudden demand for virtual care that COVID-19 has brought on is putting pressure on health organizations as they work to integrate it with their offerings. However, it’s also an opportunity to create a virtual care offering that generates buy-in from both providers and patients.