COVID-19: How to Conduct a Successful Virtual Consultation
The health and safety of patients and staff is a priority among medical practices. Virtual consultations allow you to continue providing service in a private and efficient manner.
Four months ago, the thought of being able to only talk online with a medical practitioner, like a plastic surgeon or dentist, about a medical concern or surgical procedure as opposed to “face to face” seemed like something out of a movie. However, due to the spread of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, virtual consultations are not only a reality today, they are an alternative that many practices are taking on to continue helping their clients in these unprecedented times.
The role of telemedicine and virtual consultations are becoming increasingly more popular as practices are temporarily closing their offices. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, elective surgeries across the country are being rescheduled and medical practices are no longer available for routine visits like check-ups, consultations, and follow-up appointments. It is important for patients to understand that there are legitimate reasons why physicians are taking these kinds of measures. The cancellations and rescheduling of appointments and procedures are to provide protection to all parties by helping to slow down or even stop the potential spread of the disease among staff and patients. This is also allowing the health care system to have better access to vital resources that are needed to attend to severely ill patients.
Below we discuss the role of telemedicine and virtual consultations and how they are providing a real service for both providers and patients. For practices that are adding virtual consultations until they can open their doors once again, we provide some helpful tips to ensure your consultations are professional, easy to navigate, and efficient.
What is telemedicine?
The concept of telemedicine isn’t new. It actually started back in the 1950s as a select group of practices shared information about patients over the telephone. It provided more of a benefit to rural areas or hard to reach communities where certain doctors weren’t readily available. Telemedicine connected doctors who were working with a patient in one location to specialists who were working in another.
Thanks to advances in technology, telemedicine is now readily available to patients who have online capabilities via smartphones, computers, and tablets through high-quality video transmissions. This means that doctors have access to remotely “treat” or consult with patients in their homes, workplaces, and other medical or assisted living facilities as a viable alternative to in-person visits.
Is there a difference between telemedicine and telehealth?
Especially now, it is common to hear the terms telemedicine and telehealth used interchangeably. But there is a difference between the two:
- Telemedicine is the practice of doctors using technology to deliver care at a distance, which is being adopted by many of our DoctorLogic practices on their websites. A physician in one location uses a telecommunication infrastructure to securely deliver care or consult with a patient at a distant site.
- Telehealth refers to the electronic and telecommunications technologies and services that are used to provide care and services at-a-distance.
To put it in more simple terms, telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth refers to remote non-clinical services.
The role of virtual consultations in cosmetic, dental, and medical practices
COVID-19 is impacting all aspects of our world, including the majority of medical practices that have had to shut their doors and cancel elective surgeries. This includes many plastic surgery and cosmetic dental procedures, as well as vision treatments, certain orthopedic procedures, med spa sessions, and anything else deemed not immediately medically necessary. Through the use of electronic communications and software, practices that are offering virtual consultations are able to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. This advanced technology is now being actively used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, managing and prescribing medications, specialist consultations, and a host of other vital services that can be provided remotely via secure video and audio connections.
Benefits of virtual consultations
Many states are under rigorous “shelter at home” orders, which means patients should not leave the safety of their homes, even to attend to medical appointments that aren’t considered vital. The ability to consult with a plastic surgeon, dentist, vision expert or any other type of medical provider gives patients an opportunity to receive expert medical care or advice without leaving their homes and risking exposure to or the actual contraction of coronavirus. Even though the physical location of your practice may be closed, you are still able to consult virtually with your patients, letting them know they are still a priority.
As many of DoctorLogic’s customers are finding out, conducting virtual consultations as an alternative to in-person visits is providing a variety of benefits for both the practice itself as well as the patients who are utilizing the service.
Benefits for medical providers include:
- An opportunity to gain revenue
- Better office efficiency
- Improved patient follow-through/follow-up and health outcomes
- A decrease in missed appointments and cancellations
- Loyalty and appreciation from patients who continue to use your services
Patients who participate in a virtual consultation with their medical provider benefit from:
- Less time away and interference with work and/or family responsibilities
- No travel time or expenses
- Complete privacy –consultations are secure and HIPPA compliant
- No exposure to potentially positive COVID-19 patients
Tips for a successful virtual consultation
A medical practice’s ability to conduct a virtual consultation is an appreciated option by patients who seek advice or treatment. For practices that choose to take on this task, it is important that your virtual sessions are as valuable and informative as a face-to-face, in-person appointment. Your virtual consultation is a great opportunity to build engagement and client loyalty that will continue on after the coronavirus threat has lessened.
Below, DoctorLogic provides some tips to help you hold a successful and productive virtual consultation:
- Schedule a precise appointment time and be on time. Just because a consultation is “virtual” doesn’t mean that the consultation time can be flexible. If a meeting is scheduled with a patient for a certain day and time, they should be able to rely on the consultation happening at that exact time.
- Prepare in advance. Preparation is the key to maintaining the respect of current and potential patients. Ensure that the patient has filled out all the required information in the virtual consultation form (if you offer it on your website) and that you have reviewed it before your session. To build trust and credibility, patients need to know that you are paying attention to the details of what they need and have taken the time to prepare ahead of time.
- Focus on your patient. Give your full, undivided attention to patients just as you would if he/she were in your office. The same rules of etiquette and consideration should apply during a virtual consultation, such as keeping eye contact and actively listening.
- Eliminate distractions and background “noise.” Choose the location for your virtual consultation based on limited background noise and internet connectivity. Find a place where you won’t be distracted by e-mail, texting, people coming and going, or other disruptive noises or activities.
- Make sure you have a good internet connection. Nothing is more frustrating than an internet connection that goes in and out, is pixelated, or continues to break up. Make sure your connection is working properly and that your patient can clearly see and hear you.
- Use a high-quality webcam. Set your video equipment up so that the camera is approximately eye-level, which makes it easier to maintain eye contact with the patient and stay engaged during the virtual consultation.
- Test your equipment each morning. As you get up and running each morning in preparation for the day, do a check of all your equipment. Make sure the volume is on, the audio is clear, internet access is available, and your camera and microphone are working properly.
- Set up a next step plan at the end of the virtual consultation. At the end of your consultation, explain what the next steps are. This could range from providing instruction for an electronically prescribed medication, scheduling a follow-up appointment, requesting more information, or directing them to the finance office for pricing/insurance information, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. At the end of your call, ask the patient what they thought of the virtual consultation, especially if this is their first one. With their feedback, you can continue to make your virtual consultations more beneficial for both yourself and your patients.
These are uncertain times for industries of all types and sizes. While there is no clear answer about when this pandemic will subside and what business will look like after, there are actions you can take now to continue to provide service to your patients through telemedicine and virtual consultations. You will continue to build your business for the future while providing your patients with a way to talk to you and members of your team in the safety, privacy, and comfort of their own home.
DoctorLogic is actively helping its practice partners set up their websites with the tools they need to communicate that they are offering virtual consultations. Patients can upload photos, request appointment times, and provide in-depth detail about what services they are interested in.
Other COVID-19 Resources:
- The Importance of Digital Marketing During A Time of Crisis
- COVID-19: 3 Things Your Medical Practice Should Do
If you need assistance with your website and how to set up a virtual consultation page, please reach out to us at 855-522-3600 or email [email protected]. We are here to help you with a comprehensive plan of action, helping you succeed now, and of course, after the coronavirus pandemic passes.