The uptake of telehealth services has been increasing worldwide, with research showing that, between 2014 and 2018, telemedicine treatments increased by almost 1400%, with some forecasts estimating that there could be more than one billion telehealth visits in the US alone by the end of 2020. And health practitioners are only just beginning to tap into the potential for taking certain appointment types online.
If that’s you and you’ve done the hard work of setting up telehealth services for your practice, you’re probably wondering what’s next. Taking the first steps are the hardest as you familiarise yourself with the technology and start to communicate your online offering to current and potential clients. But that’s not where the story ends. The next challenge, once you start booking in telehealth appointments, is to make sure that they’re a positive experience for your clients.
We’ve collected our top tips for a telehealth appointment to ensure that your client feels fully prepared for the session, and to give you the best chance of it being a success:
Tip #1 – Create a specific FAQ page on your website
Telehealth is new for everyone so, especially in the first few months, many of your clients will have lots of questions about how it works and what they need to do to prepare (read about Laura Forlani’s experience with Telehealth). But, the thing is, all those questions are going to be similar. These questions will cover everything from billing to technology and what to expect from the appointment itself. So, rather than answering the same question hundreds of times, why not create a resource that you can direct your clients to. A comprehensive FAQ page also offers the additional benefit of boosting your website ranking.
To ensure that this page adds value to your clients, you could:
Draw up a comprehensive list of questions
If you have been offering telehealth for the past few months, you probably have a good idea of the types of questions that clients are asking. And, because many of them are the same, your staff have a list of answers neatly stored in their brains. So it’s just a case of getting those answers written down. Then, rather than worrying about whether you’ve covered everything (with the likelihood that you’ll end up getting side-tracked by other projects), just get the initial set of questions and answers up on the site. You can always go back and update them.
Some important areas to cover are:
- Telehealth Basics:
- What is telehealth?
- How is personal information protected?
- What services are offered via telehealth?
- How does a telehealth appointment differ from an in-person appointment?
- Telehealth Benefits:
- How does telehealth improve your safety?
- Why is telehealth more convenient?
- How does telehealth save you time and money?
- Booking telehealth appointments:
- When are telehealth appointments available?
- How can an appointment be scheduled?
- Preparing for an appointment:
- How do you connect to the appointment? (with a link to a step-by-step guide)
- What technology do you need?
- How do you set up your space for an appointment?
- How do you troubleshoot if you can’t connect?
- What clothing works best?
- What pre-appointment instructions need to be followed?
Include a step-by-step guide on how to connect
While the FAQ will help put your clients at ease, the step-by-step guide to connecting will be essential for the success of the appointment. Ensure the instructions are as simple as possible to follow and include a troubleshooting section that addresses any common connection issues.
Make it easy for them to ask follow-up questions
There’s a good chance that you’ll miss one or two questions, so make it easy for potential and existing customers to ask questions. This might be through a form at the bottom of the page or a chatbot. Then, make sure that you’re recording the questions and your responses and loading them on the page so that you won’t have to answer the same questions again.
Make regular updates
As you see more clients via telehealth, different questions will pop up. To save yourself (and them) time, you can keep adding new questions to the page. Also, as telehealth evolves, and you become more comfortable with your offering, your services might change, and these changes should be reflected on the FAQ page too.
Embed a checklist that clients can download
Most of your clients will be new to telehealth, and a printable reference guide can help them get ready for their appointment and feel fully prepared and confident before the session starts. It will also help to ensure that you don’t spend the whole session trying (and possibly failing) to connect.
Tip #2 – Send each client a printable checklist before their appointment
The checklist is essentially a list of tips for a telehealth appointment that your client can follow to familiarise themselves with the telehealth appointment process. The checklist can be sent to clients before their appointment via email, embedded on your website, and you could make printed copies available in your waiting room.
It should include everything that they will need for the appointment, including:
As you start taking on telehealth clients, one of the most important things you will need to establish is which health insurance providers offer coverage for telehealth and which will require co-payments. The coverage varies widely between countries and providers, which means that a little bit of homework can avoid unnecessary paperwork and unpaid invoices. Check that your client knows what is covered before beginning the appointment.
List of symptoms
In order for you to do your job and to ensure that your client gets the most benefit from their session, you need information. Encourage your clients to write down a list of the symptoms that they have, how long they have experienced them, and what medication they have taken to address the symptoms. They can also document any visible symptoms with photos.
Most healthcare practitioners take a medical history, so it helps if your client has a written list of any pre-existing medical conditions as well as the medication they take for the condition. Of course, they can skip this step if you have been seeing them for a long time, or limit it to checking if anything has changed since the last visit.
Documents and Devices
As your client would normally do for an in-person appointment, they should have their documents ready, including any prescriptions, their GP’s details, and insurance information.
If your client monitors their own blood pressure, glucose levels, or heart rate, ask them to have the devices handy in case you need to take a reading. It will also save time if they can take a reading before the telehealth appointment starts. The medical devices needed will depend on your health discipline, and even a bathroom scale can be helpful.
List of Questions
Ask your clients to write down a list of questions before the telehealth appointment starts. Often, in the appointment itself, they can get side-tracked and forget to ask important questions, which they remember as soon as the appointment ends. They should also have a notepad handy to record your responses and any instructions that you give them such as:
- Medical tests needed;
- Home-care instructions;
- Next steps;
- Treatment plan.
To get the most from their appointment, advise your client to find a quiet area where they won’t be disturbed for the duration of the appointment. Headphones are often a great option.
Tip #3 – Help your clients get comfortable with telehealth technology
Of all of our preparation tips for a telehealth appointment, this is the most important step for ensuring that the session goes smoothly. To have the best chances of a successful session, they will need to:
- Charge their devices (or plug them into a power source);
- Check the internet connection;
- Check that they can connect to the session;
- Have their login information available;
- Check picture and sound quality;
- Close any unnecessary programs;
- Set the camera at eye-level;
- Enable notifications.
Taking a systematic, step-by-step approach to educating your clients about telehealth and what they can expect will address many of their concerns, and ensure that they feel comfortable with an online appointment. We’ve covered the three most important tips for a telehealth appointment to ensure that both you and your client have a good experience (Find more telehealth tips here). Clients need to be able to get answers to their questions (provided by the telehealth FAQ page), have a quick reference checklist that they can go through before the appointment, and a clear understanding of the technical requirements for the session.
By providing all the information that clients need before the appointment, and making yourself available to answer any questions, you will be able to quickly grow the number of telehealth appointments booked and boost your bottom line.