According to a survey published by J.D. Power, the three top complaints by patients about telehealth include:
- limited services
- lack of awareness of costs
- confusing technology requirements
In this week’s column of Telehealth Tuesday I’m presenting three solutions to address those complaints.
The Good News
The good news from the survey is the stark increase in utilization (36% of patients vs. 9% in the year before), thanks to, unfortunately, in large part to the Covid-19 health crisis.
What I find remarkable about the top 3 barriers though, is that patients are now beginning to complain about the limited services. While this may be a reflection on the survey design (the results seem to focus on the telehealth services provided by the big “telehealth-only” service companies such as Teladoc, AmWell and MDLive along with the telemedicine offerings provided by payors), it surely points to the fact that the modern healthcare consumers want MORE healthcare services.
Looking at the survey and its focus, it is also worth noting, that there is telehealth and then there is telehealth. What I mean is that on the one side there are dozens of telehealth services companies, some of which are by now household names such as Teladoc and AmWell, and on the other side are tens of thousands of healthcare providers using telehealth to deliver care to their patients at a distance.
One is a stand-alone service offering – a virtual clinic if you will and the other form is an alternative care delivery process offered by the established “brick and mortar” clinics. For the purpose of this column, I will focus on what healthcare delivery organizations that are leveraging telehealth can learn from the survey.
Solution 3: Telehealth TechChecks
Very quickly in 2020 one best practice we put in place with our clients was the notion of a telehealth visit “TechCheck”: a brief call with the patients before their first visit to help them with the technology and setting them up for a great telehealth experience.
Due to the antiquated limitations of Medicare, prior to the Covid-19 health crisis most of telehealth delivered by health systems and clinics was actually delivered to other clinic locations, and rarely to a patient’s home.
Covid-19 changed all of that and virtually all of telehealth shifted to DTC BYOD telemedicine — Direct-to-Consumer, Bring-Your-Own-Device. In our previous advisory work since 2008, we’ve always tried to stay away from “DTC” care, for exactly the reasons that telehealth during Covid highlighted: inadequate access to reliable internet speeds and oftentimes inadequate technology, such as smartphones, tablets, or computers.
Realizing that asking patients to come into a clinic defeated the purpose of leveraging telehealth to keep patients and healthcare staff safe, we implemented the best solution we could think of: Proactive Pre-visit Telehealth TechChecks.
As the name suggests, these calls were conducted way ahead of the actual visit and mostly offered to first-time telehealth users or those that experienced problems during their last visit. The reason for scheduling them ahead of time (vs. the day off) is so that we could address any issues and offer an alternative solution – finding a better connection or a WiFi hotspot, or offering a “loaner tablet”, etc.
But the TechCheck, conducted by a technically-savvy person with great customer service skills (including patience!), did not only address the technical issues such as finding the login link, enabling the camera/microphone. The TechCheck assistants also helped patients find the best location in their house that would provide privacy, good lighting, and a proper background.
In addition, the TechCheck person would suggest that patients may want to use their headphones if they did not want the conversation to be overheard by others. Especially for behavioral health visits, clients were also instructed to prop up the camera so that the clinician was able to see more or less the whole upper body.
Implementing the TechChecks allowed patients and clinicians to have a stellar first telehealth experience and many stayed with video telemedicine, given their ability to accomplish what previously required an in-person visit.