The Three Best Practices for Telehealth Success

In response to the COVID pandemic, regulatory and governance bodies have relaxed and modified compliance and billing processes to facilitate the introduction of telehealth visits in medical practices, health systems and FQHCs. 

Keeping patients OUT of clinics is important to reduce unnecessary transmission risks. But, at the same time, chronic and acute conditions still need care and practitioners still need to deliver consultations to support their businesses.

Telehealth is an effective and valuable tool to keep patients engaged with their care providers and IN the healthcare system, from the comfort of their homes.

Telehealth is an effective and valuable tool to keep patients engaged with their care providers and in the healthcare system, from the comfort of their homes.

At first glance, implementing telehealth can seem daunting: the idea of onboarding new technologies, transitioning patient appointments and training providers seems like a lot to take on. 

But there are three best practices that Luma Health customers leverage to make sure their telehealth initiative delivers. By following these same best practices, you can set your own foray into telehealth up for success. 

1. Best Practice: Communicate More Than You Think You Need To

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, practices across America simply cancelled patient appointments en masse. No one knew what the future held, how long physical distancing would be necessary to protect public health, and how they were going to react.

Shortly after the start of the pandemic, though, providers figured out that they had to keep seeing patients in some fashion, or their practices would go belly-up. And so the second stage of what we saw, was a massive uptake of telehealth technology

Once the solutions were in place, providers realized that their patients needed to know that their practices were open — albeit virtually. 

For Houston ENT and Allergy, using Luma Health patient outreach notifications was essential.  “One of the messages that we sent out was, ‘we’re open for same-day appointments and they are readily available. We care about your safety and your health, we are open and carefully screening patients, and have added telemedicine to our services. Please call to schedule or click online to schedule,’” said Chuck Leider, CIO of the practice. “We sent that message to our patients because sometimes people simply forget that you’re open.”

Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how to leverage reimbursable HIPAA-compliant virtual visits to deliver care and minimize appointment backlogs and cancellations.

For many patients, telehealth is a completely new model of care. The best way to help patients navigate the uncertainty of new technology is to ensure that you’re equipping them with the information they need ahead of time, so they don’t feel like they’re scrambling or struggling when it’s time for their appointment. Again, this is why communication is such an important best practice for the success of telehealth care models.

For example, because many patients have no prior experience with telehealth, they may not know what device capabilities are required for a successful appointment. Sending out a notification 24 hours before their scheduled appointment, that tests the patient’s device for audio, video and browser connectivity, gives them ample time to confirm that their smartphone or computer can support the televisit and make any necessary adjustments if they encounter configuration issues. This eliminates unnecessary frustration on the part of the patient and the provider, since the visit can focus on the patient’s needs, rather than on IT troubleshooting.

Sending out appointment reminders is another important patient communication that supports a successful telehealth initiative. Should they choose to cancel, an immediate follow-up message to reschedule helps to keep the appointment on the roster, which is so important as clinics across America are dealing with lower-than-normal visit volumes.

2. Best Practice: Make Your EMR/EHR the Single Source of Truth

Your EHR platform is the backbone of your practice, in many ways. It’s critically important that your EHR and telehealth platforms work together so you’re not dealing with data discrepancies that add complexity and confusion to your operations. 

For example, we sometimes see practices that manage in-office and telehealth visits completely separately. A staff member schedules a visit on the telehealth platform, which is not integrated.  The staff member then has to re-enter that same information into the practice management solution, which is integrated with the EHR. As with all manual, swivel-chair processes, mistakes are made — appointments get missed, billing gets messy, and nobody’s happy.

But when you integrate your telehealth platform and associated notification capabilities with your EHR, the EHR remains the single source of truth for your practice and you no longer need to worry about which platform has the right information or is more up-to-date. All appointments are scheduled in the EHR, and the synchronization with the Luma Health platform flows through all the necessary data for the televisit.

Additionally, integrating the EHR with your telehealth platform can make it easier to decide which patients to target for telehealth visits. 

Some visits require that patient and provider be in the same location; integration with the EHR makes it easier to identify which patients and appointment types are good candidates for televisits, and to prioritize the appointment setting process to ensure the most urgent visits happen first. 

3. Best Practice: Let Workflows Do the Heavy Lifting

When time is of the essence, manually calling or sending out a televisit link to a patient prior to his appointment is workable; but long-term, if televisits are to be scalable and sustainable, it’s important to take the time to do a proper implementation, including EHR integration and establishing automated workflows.

Building out workflows allows your team to drive the important pre-appointment communication cadences based on the patient’s appointment type. Once the appointment type is set and scheduled within the EHR, the Luma Health patient engagement platform takes over. This ensures that patients receive all the technical support, appointment pre-screening and reminder communications without a team member needing to consciously execute each and every message.

Ultimately, the success of your telehealth initiative is best summed up by your answer to this question posed by Chuck: Do you have happy providers and happy patients? 

Implementing crystal clear, direct communications, integrating your telehealth solution with your EHR, and setting up automated workflows make for a smooth experience for your patients and a seamless transition to televisits for your staff and providers. 

I recommend you tune into our on-demand webinar to learn more about how Houston ENT and Allergy has successfully added televisits to its practice. You’ll also get more hands-on tips about how to make telehealth work for your practice.

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