WHAT IS TELEHEALTH?
Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare services through digital communication technologies. Patients can make online appointments that enable them to receive ongoing care from their healthcare practitioners when an in-person visit isn't required or possible.
Telehealth is aimed at making healthcare more accessible to people with limited mobility, time, or transportation options as well as those living in isolated or rural communities. When the Covid-19 outbreak broke, many were forced to isolate to minimise the spread of the virus, which made telehealth an attractive solution.
THE BENEFITS OF TELEHEALTH FOR PATIENTS
Telehealth provides the following benefits for patients:
- Lower costs: The cost of a telehealth appointment may vary from one healthcare provider to the next. However, there are fewer secondary expenses, such as the loss of productive time and transportation
- Improved access to care: Telehealth enables more access to healthcare services to people who have limited mobility, time, or transportation options
- Convenience: Telehealth makes it more convenient for patients to access care in the comfort and privacy of their own homes
- Preventative care and adherence: Telehealth makes it easier for people to access preventative care for improved long-term health. This is especially true for those who face financial or geographic challenges. Better access waterfalls into better communication, making follow-up appointments effortless
- Slowing the spread of infection: This goes without saying: when patients visit a healthcare facility, they are exposed to other sick individuals. Telehealth eliminates the risk of cross-infection.
THE BENEFITS OF TELEHEALTH FOR PRACTITIONERS
Telehealth provides the following benefits for practitioners:
- Reduced expenses: Practices may enjoy reduced costs. For example, they may invest in an office space with fewer consultation rooms or pay less for front desk support
- Additional revenue: Adding telehealth as a service may supplement the practitioner’s income because it allows them to care for more patients
- Patient satisfaction: Due to the convenience and accessibility that patients experience with Telehealth, this may increase overall patient satisfaction
- Less exposure to infections: With online appointments, a practitioner is not exposed to pathogens that a patient
HOW TO IMPLEMENT TELEHEALTH INTO YOUR PRACTICE?
Many practices follow a similar process: An appointment is made, the patient arrives, the patient provides their medical history, the healthcare professional leads the consultation, the patient is billed, and the bill is paid by the patient or their medical aid.
Practitioners should identify where new telehealth tasks should be implemented in the existing in-patient processes and change and optimise those processes. The following diagram shows which existing business processes are used during telehealth where new tasks should be implemented. Examples of additional or changed tasks are listed below:
Instead of patients calling reception to book appointments, timeslots can be configured on the online telehealth platform to make their own bookings.
DEBTORS AND PATIENTS
As soon as a telehealth appointment is made, an electronic form can be sent to the patient to complete their information and pre-consultation questionnaires that will be immediately available to the practitioner before the consultation. This gives the practitioner time to prepare and have all the necessary information at hand.
An online telehealth platform will enable the practitioner and patient to connect via video call through links that are available to both parties. Patients can wait for the consultation until the practitioner enters the platform and it prevents the parties from missing the call.
Electronic appointments can immediately be scrutinised by administrative staff and any additional information can be collected and verified.
The call can be recorded, and all notes can be made electronically to ensure correct and up to date information. The examination will obviously take a different form than a physical examination in the practice, but there are numerous ways in which practitioners can verify a patient’s physical status.
Before the consultation ends, the practitioner can already bill the consultation.
The practitioner can send a medical aid claim or an electronic payment link to the patient even before the consultation ends. As soon as the patient makes the payment, or the medical aid claim is confirmed, the practitioner can confirm to the patient that the account is settled.
Receipts will be allocated to patient accounts once payment is received either via electronic remittance advice from the medical aid or an electronic patient payment remittance advice.
Implementing telehealth will benefit the practice and it is, therefore, worth the effort of exploring this option.
For detailed information on how to implement Telehealth, a free CPD course for 2 CEU is available on courses.goodx.co.za.