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Tips for using Telehealth

COVID-19 has accelerated the uptake of virtual software for health practitioners and almost all healthcare practices will need to embrace Telehealth solutions to some degree. Many practice owners are shifting their focus to include Telehealth services in their practice’s offering but this can seem like a big, often overwhelming, change.

A quick look at the research shows that client perceptions of Telehealth are positive and it’s growing exponentially. In fact, between 2014 and 2018, non-hospital telehealth (predominantly healthcare practices) grew by 1,393%.

While technology can’t replace all in-person visits, if Telehealth is going to lead to better client outcomes, as well as having a positive impact on the bottom line, it seems that Telehealth is here to stay (and it’s only going to get bigger). A recent report summarised the spread of Telehealth services in the future, predicting that practices that were not willing or proactive in the uptake of Telehealth would struggle to attract new clients. This is because clients are predicted to prefer Telehealth over in-person care in just a few short years.

But Telehealth can only be a positive offering for a healthcare practice if it’s done right. It’s not hard to do and here, we’re providing our top Telehealth tips, broken down into four main sections so that you have an overview of the process from start to finish. The four sections are:

  • Setting up;
  • Checks to do before the call;
  • How to conduct yourself during the call;
  • How to wrap up after a call.

Ready to get going? Our tips are practical and easy to implement, so maybe make some notes as you read through the article to help you prepare for your next Telehealth session.

Let’s get started!

Set Up Your Space

Telehealth tip #1 – Position yourself for the call

Check that your client will be able to see you clearly during the call. You want to mimic the in-person experience as closely as possible. You may need to move your desk so that there is a wall behind you (a window that will put your face into shadow, and seeing other parts of the room can be distracting).

Telehealth tip #2 – Check what else is visible in the background

Check what else the client will be able to see during the call. It’s important that they can see you, but everything else needs to be appropriate for your work. You may have set up a home office in the guest bedroom, but then you need to make sure that your client can’t see bedding, hanging laundry, or anything else that might detract from professional experience.

Telehealth tip #3 – Set up sufficient lighting

It’s going to help build trust if your space is well-lit. They will be able to see your facial expressions more clearly and pick up on other non-verbal cues. It’s best to have a light source in front of you (e.g. a window or a lamp that you can control) and it also helps to turn on all the lights in the room (and maybe bring in an additional lamp or two).

Telehealth tip #4 – Choose a quiet, private space

Set up a space that offers your client complete privacy. Whether you’re conducting the appointment from home or the office, these are clinical sessions and your clients need to be assured of their privacy. If you are working from home, communicate with your family so that they know when you are in or not in a live session. (Maybe leave a note on the door as a reminder to keep the noise levels down).

Telehealth tip #5 – Check your internet speed

Make sure it’s an area with good internet connectivity. You can check your internet speed using a service like Speedtest.net before a session before you connect with a client, and then have a mobile data backup on hand so you can switch over if necessary. If you’re working from home, you could ban streaming video services like Netflix and other bandwidth-intensive activities while you’re on a call.

Telehealth tip #6 – Write a list of before-appointment checks

Make a checklist of a few logistical pre-appointment checks to ensure that you’re ready for the appointment. This will mean switching off notifications, closing windows to block out street sounds, plugging your laptop and mobile phone into a power source, and checking that your internet connection is working properly. As you host Telehealth sessions, you’ll be able to add more checks to the list as it will vary from person to person.

Telehealth tip #7 – Dress professionally

Get dressed as you would for a normal day at the office, from top to bottom. Memes doing the rounds on social media will have you believe that you only need to get your top half dressed professionally. But it pays to be prepared, you don’t want to have to jump up half-way through the call only to remember that you didn’t change out of your tracksuit pants. It’s also going to make you feel more professional and help you to get into the right headspace if you’re dressed as you normally would for an in-person appointment.

Telehealth tip #8 – Familiarise yourself with the technology involved

Make sure you’re comfortable with the technology. Your video sessions need to feel as natural as an in-person appointment if you want to get the best results for your clients. Get comfortable with starting and ending calls, adjusting volume levels, and inviting new clients to a call.

Telehealth tip #9 – Simulate the client appointment experience

Do a couple of test runs. Create a test client in the system, then schedule a few calls (maybe rope in a partner or friend to help you). Run through the whole process from appointment booking and appointment reminders to a mock-call. Then ask for feedback so you can improve on weak areas and keep notes of the parts in the process where you weren’t comfortable.

Telehealth tip #10 – Get your camera angle right

Professionals who record themselves all the time recommend keeping the camera lens at face level. If you’re using your laptop, you can simply put it on top of a pile of books to raise the level to face height. This makes it easier to make ‘eye contact’ with the camera, as well as offering a more flattering angle.

Telehealth tip #11 – Check your sound quality

If you’re using an empty room (probably because you dragged all the furniture out of your spare room to make space for a desk), it may have a bit of an echo which is amplified over a voice or video call. You can get around this using pillows and rugs (anything fluffy will work) to absorb the sound.

Telehealth tip #12 – Learn how to troubleshoot common problems

To give your clients the best experience and ensure that they are happy to use video for their appointments, you need to be prepared to troubleshoot basic issues that come up. You should be able to run through a shortlist of fixes that include:

  • Checking spam for their invitation (if they haven’t received the link);
  • Adjusting audio settings (where and how to do it);
  • Setting up a webcam (steps to follow depending on the operating system the client is using).

Telehealth tip #13 – Consider investing in some technical gear

Additional equipment is going to improve the client experience. It will help if you have a decent microphone, rather than relying on the in-built one on your computer. And the same goes for your laptop’s video camera. You don’t need anything fancy (and it won’t cost a lot), but it will make a big difference to the quality of your calls. Another affordable hack is a ring light that you place behind the camera to light up your face evenly (it’s what all beauty influencers use!)

Before the Call

Telehealth tip #14 – Get your technical A-game on (and make it easier for your clients)

Send the client the link for the call beforehand, check your connection, and unmute your microphone and speakers.

Telehealth tip #15 – Send appointment reminders as usual

Send automated email and SMS reminders as you would usually do to prevent a no-show.

Telehealth tip #16 – Offer the client a trial run

You could do a “practice” call with your client before their first session. This means that you won’t spend valuable session time ironing out connection issues, and will help get the client in the right frame of mind for their appointment as they will feel more comfortable with the technology.

Telehealth tip #17 – Check consent documentation is in order

Obtain any necessary consent documentation prior to your Telehealth session. You want to have everything ready so that, when the call starts, you’re not trying to sort out admin but can get on with the treatment (We have a free consent template here that covers all the basics and you can use our new online forms.)

Telehealth tip #18 – Send detailed instructions to the client

You want to ensure that the client is fully prepared so they can get the most from their session. This includes finding a quiet, private place where they won’t be disturbed (if they are at home and struggling for privacy, their car might be a good fall-back option). If you will need them to demonstrate movement (for example, if you are a physical therapist), remind them to wear appropriate clothing.

During the Call

Telehealth tip #19 – Get your client to relax

Just because you’ve switched to a new medium doesn’t mean that you should adopt a technical demeanor! Small talk becomes even more important than usual because you need to get the client to relax and become comfortable with the ‘new normal’ so that they can benefit from the session. The technology facilitates your interaction with your client, it should not be the focal point, so get the technicalities out the way, then get on with the session.

Telehealth tip #20 – Look at the camera, not their picture

This is vital! You want your clients to feel that you are connecting with them, even over video. Looking at the camera will make it seem like you are making eye contact with them.

Telehealth tip #21 – Remember to smile

You might be feeling a bit uncomfortable or overwhelmed with the technology, but it’s going to be even more of a shift for some of your clients. Smiling, and appearing (even) warmer than you might normally help. For their first telehealth call, your clients may be very nervous, and they’ll be missing many of the subtle comforts and body language cues. It’s also possible that they may feel skeptical about using video for their treatment. Reassuring them with a smiling, friendly presence might go a long way to relieving some of their discomfort at using a new medium.

Telehealth tip #22 – Ask for feedback

You’re new to the technology, and it’s a big change from in-person appointments so give yourself some grace if you make mistakes Its a process and there are always going to be things you can do to improve your Telehealth sessions. Asking for feedback can help shortcut this process. Ask for feedback on all aspects of the session from technical issues (such as device compatibility) to how they felt and how it compares to an in-person session. Insights into technical challenges can be fed back to the software provider, while the client’s perceptions of the session can be used to refine your offering.

After the Call

Telehealth tip #23 – Book the next session

This is an important one because your client is not going to walk out past your receptionist to schedule their next appointment. If you’ve added value in the session, they’ll be happy to make a follow-up appointment, so strike while the iron is hot. Open the calendar in a new window and book them in straight away.

Telehealth tip #24 – Collect payment at the end of the session

Again, your client won’t be walking past reception to settle their account, and it’s much easier to collect payment immediately, rather than trying to chase it down further down the line (especially if you’re working from home).

Telehealth tip #25 – Send through supporting materials

Before you consider the appointment over, send any materials to them that you discussed and promised to send. If you can get this out the way immediately you won’t forget, and you reduce the amount of follow-up work that you’ll need to do at the end of your day. This can be done over email.

Telehealth tip #26 – Write your treatment notes straight away

While everything is still fresh in your mind, write up your treatment notes before getting up and doing anything else. Use the templates and duplication tools to make this as easy as possible, but don’t leave it until later. You’ll be amazed at how organised you’ll feel just by making this small change.

Telehealth tip #27 – Get up and move

Stand up, move around and stretch between sessions. Delivering Telehealth calls all day may mean that you’re in one position for way too long so you’re going to start stiffening up – especially if you’re used to being physically active during treatment sessions. Movement is also going to give you a moment to collect your thoughts so that you’re refreshed and ready for the next appointment.

 
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These 27 Telehealth tips are going to equip you at each stage of the process, from initial set-up and your before-the-call checks, as well as what to do during the call, and the last steps to take to wrap everything up. In short, they’re the practical steps you need to set up Telehealth for your practice.

If you’re a practice owner and starting to implement Telehealth services within your practice, why not forward this on to your employees. Our Telehealth tips are going to make it easier for them to get started, and grow their confidence in using new technology. This is then going to boost client perceptions of the service, improve client outcomes, and make clients more likely to choose your Telehealth services in the future.


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