Telehealth skills for healthcare practitioners

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Gerald Jaideep, CEO, Medvarsity Online suggests seven tips for healthcare practitioners to improve virtual care delivery and patient outcome

 With a significant shift towards telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organisations struggled not only with deploying new remote patient monitoring devices and ensuring strong connectivity, but also getting their staff trained to deliver quality healthcare remotely. The pandemic has completely transformed the face of healthcare. According to a report by e-health service platform Practo, online consultations increased in India by 500 per cent since March. And unsurprisingly, COVID-19 remained India’s topmost concern as related queries grew by 200 per cent. Telemedicine is not only gaining traction from the metro cities but also from Tier II and III cities. While the in-person doctor visits dropped by 67 per cent with the Indians consulting their doctors twice a month using telemedicine.

Telemedicine ushers into a very convenient and transparent mode of communication for the healthcare industry. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physically visiting doctors or consultants are no more viable or safe options for patients. The fear of contracting the virus triggered a significant behavioural shift among patients and doctors. Given the significant drop in inpatient visits, Telemedicine today is no longer an option but a necessity for patients to get easy access to healthcare remotely. Since telemedicine facilitates healthcare through electronic information systems from a distance, healthcare professionals should be able to increase their contribution towards delivering quality healthcare. The objective is to ensure that a safe and seamless healthcare delivery should be provided which seems a little difficult proposition in an in-person visit during the pandemic.

However, with the increasing demand for high-quality real-time healthcare for tech-savvy patients, telemedicine has started gaining a lot of traction much before the pandemic. These patients don’t prefer to physically visit clinics or hospitals. And Covid-19 has just fuelled the process with the growing concern about contracting the infection. Since telemedicine continues to impact the healthcare system, doctors and other healthcare professionals need to upskill themselves on the latest technologies and tools of telemedicine to engage with patients. Exploring the new ways and methods of navigation is crucial for medical practitioners to effectively diagnose the symptoms and monitor the patients in their virtual interaction.

Here are the few ways how doctors can deliver high-quality healthcare through telehealth and improve the outcome of the patients.

Managing virtual care appointments

If you are looking to develop expertise in remote healthcare delivery, the first thing you need to learn is how to navigate telehealth appointments effectively. Since healthcare practitioners video-conference with a patient or client remotely, it’s essential to provide a glitch-free patient experience. Incorporating virtual visits to any healthcare strategy will improve the quality of care of patients and especially help in managing common chronic conditions.

Glitch-free patient interaction

Gone are the days when patients used to ignore small glitches in teleconsultation to get the treatment done very fast. But the current situation brought a behavioural shift among patients. Given the increase in the number of virtual doctor visits, patients now expect high-quality audio and video to get the feel of face-to-face interaction. Since consultation is all about clearly communicating the problems with doctors, healthcare professionals should be well-equipped with the proper equipment and strong connectivity to provide healthcare seamlessly. Because poor connectivity and low-quality video might defeat the whole purpose of telemedicine.

Patients’ feedback is the key

One of the crucial ways to improve the quality of telemedicine delivery is to take customers’ feedback seriously. Create a feedback system with a standard set of questions that should be asked to every patient after each telehealth session. The feedback will help you identify the pain points and glitches and improve the patients’ experience on the virtual care platform. Telemedicine has emerged as a boon for patients and healthcare amidst the global pandemic. By diagnosing patients remotely and writing digital prescriptions, doctors can improve the patient outcome digitally. Healthcare practitioners should develop all the necessary soft skills about telemedicine to build a strong connection with their patients and address medical emergencies.

Creating a secure telehealth platform

Among all other factors, securing the telehealth platform is very important to protect patient health information. In telemedicine, patients do enjoy unparalleled convenience but not at the cost of leaking their personal healthcare information. Therefore, it’s very imperative for healthcare providers to adhere to the key requirements like HIPAA and PCI compliant. Choosing an encrypted platform is of utmost importance if you want to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive patient information and ensure secure transmission of data.

Ensure seamless real-time healthcare delivery

The platform should be designed in such a way that it offers a similar experience as an in-person doctor-patient experience. Connecting healthcare providers with patients in real-time is a much-needed requirement that defines the purpose of telemedicine. Therefore, it’s very crucial to ensure seamless integration into the IT infrastructure which takes less downtime.

Train yourself to navigate easily

Since telehealth is very different from an in-person doctor visit, training is very critical to deliver quality care online. Physicians and other healthcare professionals can leverage various e-learning platforms to train themselves on how to deploy the latest remote patient monitoring devices, understand the various aspects of telemedicine, and enable seamless interaction with their patients. Because a minor glitch might turn off your patients, and it will have a negative impression on you. Healthcare professionals should develop aptitude for operating telemedicine by getting enrolled in the upskilling program and ensure quality healthcare delivery in telemedicine. It’s also important to educate patients on how to interact with patients using laptops or mobile phones.

Quick adaptability towards new technologies 

With telemedicine taking the centerstage in the healthcare industry, the demand for remote diagnostic services is on the rise. Therefore, constant training and upskilling is of utmost importance if you want to gain expertise on delivering quality health through telehealth. Today innovation in healthcare is a given. Doctors and healthcare professionals should be receptive enough towards learning, accepting and leveraging innovative technologies.

 Telemedicine- A game-changer for the healthcare industry

Since the concept of telemedicine was launched, the demand for it was growing very slowly. It was only in the last decade, the adoption rate of telemedicine has shown significant growth owing to low cost, seamless patient experience, reduced waiting time and of course increased internet and smartphone penetration. The entire healthcare fraternity seems to be increasingly accepting telemedicine with doctors, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals prescribing medicines, monitoring patients, doing a follow-up, and suggesting therapies digitally. Moreover, telemedicine enables healthcare professionals to work for more hours, attend an increasing number of appointments, and earn extra money.

According to EY-IPA study, the telemedicine market in India is expected to reach $5.5 billion, growing at a CAGR of 31 per cent for the period 2020-25. The report further added that virtual care consists of tele-consult, telepathology, teleradiology and e-pharmacy are experiencing significant traction due to pandemic. Most of the healthcare organisations are gearing up to deploy new technologies, strong connectivity, and get all the doctors and other healthcare workers trained to address the healthcare needs of patients remotely.

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