In the healthcare leader’s tool chest, Telehealth is a valuable tool to improve the satisfaction of clinicians and the entire care team. Here are three ways how telehealth can be leveraged to improve clinician satisfaction.

Telehealth is not just about the technology. It is not even just about healthcare outcomes, quality or patient convenience. One of the exciting aspects that I see is telehealth’s ability to improve the work satisfaction and work-life balance of physicians and other care team members. Telemedicine can truly help bring joy back into healthcare delivery. Let me explain how.

From the Triple Aim to the Quadruple Aim

When the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) introduced the triple aim of lower cost, better health outcomes, and increased patient satisfaction, it was quickly amended by the healthcare community to also address improvement of physician satisfaction.

In my experience of helping health systems set up and grow telehealth programs since 2008, I have found that telehealth, done right, is an excellent way to improve the satisfaction of all care staff, including clinicians.

Here are 3 of the many ways how telehealth improves clinician satisfaction:

1) Happy Patient, Happy Provider

Receiving care via telehealth makes life much easier for patients. Just the mere use of telehealth puts most patients in a good mood, a program manager of a pediatric telehealth program in Texas told me in September 2019.

Patients, or in this case, the patients’ parents, are happy that they don’t have to travel to see the physician. They avoid the frustrations of traffic, having to find parking, navigate endless clinic corridors, deal with registration and getting to the physician’s office on time. With telehealth, they don’t have to wait “patiently” and idly in waiting rooms, all the while trying to keep their sick and healthy young ones entertained.

Avoiding all the hassle of a doctor’s visit means that patients are not unloading their frustrations on the physicians. The patients are mentally prepared for the telehealth appointment and (when adequately prepared) everything can go smoothly because very little unproductive time is involved, calming down patients and getting down to health issues on hand.

Although, admittedly, during the Covid-19 health crisis many patients and providers experienced video visits in a way that made most of them unhappy. This was largely due to the lack of training for the clinicians, staff, and patients alike, including the absence of a Telehealth TechCheck to ensure that the patient was properly prepared.

2) Productivity, Flexibility, and Convenience for Clinicians

Telehealth also offers more flexibility, more convenience, and more productivity, for clinicians.

When providers integrate telehealth into their existing practice, they find that their time — the most valuable of resources, and the one in shortest supply — can be most effectively spent on direct interactions with their patients.

Telehealth offers an escape route to physicians who are otherwise bound to their practice office. This is especially important for physicians who see patients full time. With telehealth services, they have the flexibility to choose their hours and often the location from which they see patients. That location could be in the clinic, their home office, in a designated room of their beach house or a holiday cabin while they are on vacation.

How many physicians would say “No” to being untethered from their clinic a few days a month, being more productive, and being free to achieve work-life balance?

3) Telehealth can initiate the redesign of healthcare delivery

While the benefits of happy patients, productivity, flexibility and convenience are intrinsic to telehealth, the most important way telehealth initiatives benefit the practice and thereby the clinicians, is also the most often overlooked and underutilized.

The redesign of the care delivery workflows each telehealth service requires, is a little-known opportunity to bring happiness to the staff.

One of my favorite quotes is the one often used by Don Berwick, founder of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” Thus in order to change the results, one has to change the system.

The proper(!) implementation of telehealth offers exactly that: an opportunity to redesign the system of healthcare delivery “at a distance”, i.e., telehealth through the proper design of and training on the key workflows in a virtual environment, including scheduling, rooming, and post-visit activities.

The design and launch of a telehealth service is thus not merely about the deployment of a webcam and a Zoom license. A proper launch requires reviewing all aspects of the healthcare delivery system — including clinical, administrative and operational workflows. I have also found that engaging the whole care delivery team in the redesign of how they would like to see the telehealth solution to be integrated into their work, is a surefire way to achieve a high degree of satisfaction.

Yes, Telehealth Improves Staff Satisfaction, too

Telehealth is a great way to combat physician and care staff burnout through flexibility, efficient workflows, and happy, grateful patients. It is a great way to purposefully bring joy back into the work lives of providers and other healthcare workers.

In order to achieve cost effective, quality healthcare systems that improve the patient experience, satisfaction and overall health outcomes and enhance physician and healthcare worker satisfaction, make sure to listen and engage your whole care team.

With that approach your telehealth program is guaranteed to soar and be sustainably successful.

To receive articles like these in your Inbox every week, you can subscribe to Christian’s Telehealth Tuesday Newsletter.

Subscribe to Telehealth Tuesday

Christian Milaster and his team optimize Telehealth Services for health systems and physician practices. Christian is the Founder and President of Ingenium Digital Health Advisors where he and his expert consortium partner with healthcare leaders to enable the delivery of extraordinary care.

Contact Christian by phone or text at 657-464-3648, via email, or video chat.