COVID-19 has completely disrupted the way healthcare services are provided and accessed – in July 2021, McKinsey reported that Telehealth usage had increased 38 times compared to pre-COVID times.
This increase stems from improving perceptions around virtual access to healthcare providers and services – from online consultations to prescription refills – and regulatory changes around insurance reimbursement that have made telehealth more accessible to a large part of the population.
While opening your practice to online services may seem daunting initially, it can be a critical lever to engaging with patients and growing your practice reach. This is particularly true for those integrative practitioners offering primary care like nurse practitioners and naturopathic doctors or consultative services like dieticians.
The first step towards offering telehealth services is implementing software customized to your practice needs to help you move online. While assessing the software available in the market, use the following criteria to arrive at what is best for you.
1. Find an excellent video conferencing provider.
Video conferencing is typically a necessary part of offering virtual services. The video conferencing provider should allow screen sharing to show your screen to pull up lab results or treatment plans.
2. Check for patient portal and private messaging options.
Patient portal and private messaging services can reduce reliance on less secure email and text messaging communication channels to share sensitive personal and medical information.
Moreover, these services can improve the quality of care and support you offer by:
- giving patients direct access to their medical records and treatment plans. They can also access lab reports and prescriptions as needed.
- allowing patients to update payment and insurance information directly and securely from the comfort of their own homes.
- enabling clients to direct message and alert you to specific symptoms or concerns they have, and you can more proactively and efficiently engage with them. A bonus is to streamline communications with and reduce the volume of questions for and your front-office staff.
3. Look for services that can simplify online appointment booking
An online calendar can increase patient scheduling and reduce the work on your practice staff. If you are worried that it will lead to calendar conflicts or too many cancellations, ensure that the software you use syncs the online calendar to your in-office and personal calendars. The software you use should also allow you to seamlessly send appointment reminders or confirmation emails. While implementing this, also consider taking credit card information when clients book online.
4. Ensure that the software is HIPAA or PHIPA compliant.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and Canada’s PHIPA (Personal Health Information Protection Act) legislation are meant to ensure that patients’ information is protected by health professionals. When the tool you use is HIPAA or PHIPA compliant, you ensure your clients’ personal and medical information is safe and protect your practice from liability. Many practitioners we speak with do not realize that many videoconferencing products – like Zoom’s free and Pro plans – are not built to be HIPAA compliant.
The most straightforward approach to offering telehealth for many practitioners is to use videoconferencing, patient portals, and secure messaging services that are directly embedded in their EMR and practice management system. If you’re looking for a new software platform for your practice, make sure you also consider the following tips.
5. Make ease of use a priority.
This software will be used by you, your colleagues, and your patients – all day, every day. As the software is meant to make your practice more accessible, ensure that the design is user-friendly, so everyone can use it without any hassles. Pay attention to the implementation process, too, so you can get up and running quickly.
6. Look for integration with third-party service providers.
A practice management one-stop-shop should integrate all the operational aspects of your practice. Many third-party service providers provide lab work, imaging, e-prescribing, digital payments/payment processing, electronic insurance billing, and more – using these services is likely a core part of your practice workflow. So, ensure that the software you use connects virtually with these third-party vendors to simplify your business processes.
7. Ensure it can be customized to your practice.
Many of the EMR and practice management platforms available in the market are either built specifically for hospitals and urgent care requirements or only serve limited workflows or modality-specific use cases. List out the needs of your integrative and alternative medicine practice to ensure that the software you select will be customizable to your practice and your specific charting and workflow preferences. Remember that the software is an extension of the in-person practice you currently have. Of course, moving services online is more challenging for acupuncturists, those engaged in musculoskeletal bodywork (like chiropractors and massage therapists), or offering specific in-person wellness, IV hydration, aesthetics, and allied services. In these cases, you may want to explore whether certain types of pre- or post-treatment services can be provided online or just focus on optimizing your web presence to drive traffic.
Schedule a demo with our team if you need help taking your practice online or integrating patient care management.