Now more than ever, there is an appetite and a need for virtual care as an alternative to face-to-face visits. It has been encouraged by public health and government as a way to help curb the spread of COVID-19, by reducing in-person medical appointments. It has also opened new doors for physicians seeking to improve their efficiency when it comes to the clock. And it helps patients by reducing travel time and costs.
Virtual care can be used to:
- Screen patients before they physically come to your medical office
- Gather patient history, check on medications, and reduce the time they would spend in the office
- Assess severity of symptoms and consider best options
- Communicate with multiple individuals, including patient’s family, especially if one of them is in a care facility
- Provide appropriate care that may not require an in-person visit
- Support those with accessibility or mental health issues
These are simple visits that do not need in-person assessments or clinical examinations and can be conducted online, whether through telephone calls or online visits. All a physician needs is the right tools and services. In the same way you rely on an outsourced medical transcription dictation service, embracing powerful new technologies for virtual visits can increase your efficiency and efficacy in treating your patients.
When it comes to hardware, ensuring the right visual setup is key to making a patient feel engaged in the conversation and that they’re truly being seen and heard. Physicians who use small screens on laptops or tablets may not get the most out of this kind of meeting. Screen space is key for patient’s video image. And consider if you need two monitors, one for the EMR record and the second for the virtual visit. Conversely, patients may prefer holding the visit in front of a desktop computer rather than on a smart phone, to better interact with their physicians.
Audio quality is another consideration. Anyone who has endured the frustration of a crackling audio connection during their Zoom, Skype and Teams meetings, or platforms specifically developed for virtual medical visits, such as Cliniko, during this new normal of working from home can attest to the importance of a good microphone. If your current setup doesn’t have quality speakers, you can consider a headset (medical transcriptionists know the value of these) or add an external microphone. They can be purchased integrated into the camera, or by themselves.
And privacy needs to be considered. If you are wearing headphones, you may not realize someone is with hearing and or seeing distance of your monitor/screen. And patients who are not working from home, need to make sure that the conversation is confidential. That can be a challenge if they are talking from work. Employers may want to consider offering a quiet, private space for employees who have virtual medical appointments at work.
The crux of the issue is having clear and effortless communication, wherever the virtual call is taking place. Laptops may be more practical if you’re making virtual medical appointments from multiple locations, or you may prefer to have one dedicated workstation setup, with everything you need at hand. Whether you use a digital recorder, telephone or your smart phone to dictate your patient notes, make sure you clean it regularly. Check https://www.2ascribe.com/articles/covid-19-is-here-clean-your-cell-phone to find out how to effectively clean these devices.
Internet speed is one more area to consider. If you want to know your upload and download speeds, check out https://www.speedtest.net/ by Ookla. Ideally, you will have access to download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of 10 megabits per second.
When it comes to the software side of things, there are many options for enabling video visits with patients outside your office. If you’re using a video platform and not just the telephone, make sure to communicate this to your patients well in advance of the virtual appointment. Ideally, use an app that doesn’t require a download or for the patient to have to create an account, such as with Zoom. Older patients may pass on virtual visits if it requires them to have a certain level of technical expertise, or even access to a computer with a microphone and camera. Review your province’s recommendations for virtual care standards – each province will have specific recommendations and software suggestions to help with your implementation of virtual care. For example, medical and professional associations in Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Nova Scotia all have excellent starting point resources for ramping up virtual care options.
Retooling your practice to operate more effectively in an online world will only be effective, if your patients also have access to the right technology and resources. It may not be a viable solution for every one of your patients; limiting factors include access to high-speed internet, especially for video visits, willingness to use and trust technology, support and assistance in setting up technology, and other questions of affordability and accessibility to those with disabilities.
As we enter into this new era in health care delivery, we must remember that the willingness to change how patients interact with their physicians can take some time. Both physicians and patients will have to be flexible and willing to try new approaches to make sure care and treatment meets everyone’s expectations. The most critical component is maintaining the relationship of trust between you and your patients. As long as there is trust, adapting to more virtual patient care might not be as difficult and daunting as it sounds.
Next up in Part 3: What does the virtual waiting room look like?
And check out Part 1: Virtual Care and Your Practice – Finding the Right Fit
2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription services agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and other healthcare providers across Canada. Our medical transcriptionists take pride in the quality of your transcribed documents. WEBscribe is our client interface portal for document management. 2Ascribe continues to implement and develop technology to assist and improve the transcription process for physicians and other healthcare providers, and recently introduced AUTOfax. AUTOfax works within WEBscribe to automatically send faxes to referring physicians when a document is signed off by the healthcare professional. As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to physicians and other healthcare professionals, medical transcriptionists and office staff, as well as of general interest. Additional articles may be found at http://www.2ascribe.com.