When treated as a clinical tool, correctly implemented, and properly supported, Telehealth is a valuable tool for improving the satisfaction of physicians and the entire care team. In this week’s edition of Telehealth Tuesday I describe three ways how telehealth can be leveraged to improve clinician satisfaction.

First off, Telehealth is not about the technology. It is not even about health outcomes, quality of care, or patient convenience — three benefits I often praise about telehealth.

No, the most overlooked and underutilized aspect of telehealth is its ability to improve the professional satisfaction of clinicians and other healthcare workers. When embraced by leadership correctly, telehealth can truly be a catalyst to 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 per capita, better health for populations, and better care for individuals, it was quickly amended by the healthcare community to also aim for an improvement in care team wellbeing, including clinician 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 physicians.

There are 3 ways how telehealth improves physician satisfaction:

1: Happy Patient, Happy Doc

Telehealth, the delivery of care at a distance, makes life easier for patients to access their care. As a program manager of a pediatric telehealth program told me a few years back, just the mere ability to use a video visit to see your doctor or have your blood pressure and weight be periodically monitored, already puts most patients at ease and in a good mood.

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 everything goes smoothly because very little unproductive time is involved, calming down patients and getting down to health issues on hand.

2: Productivity, Flexibility, and Convenience for Physicians

Telemedicine can mean higher productivity, more flexibility, and increased convenience for physicians too.

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

Telemedicine offers an alternative reality to providers who are otherwise tightly tied to their clinic corridor — a brief reprieve from the doldrums of bouncing back and forth between exam rooms. This is especially important for physicians who see patients all day long.

With video visits integrated with in-person care, they also have the added 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 even a vacation cabin.

How many physicians would say “No” to being occasionally untethered from their offices, being more productive, and being free to achieve work-life balance?

3: Telehealth can be leveraged to redesign care delivery

While the benefits of happy patients, productivity, flexibility and convenience are intrinsic to telehealth, the most important way telehealth initiatives benefit physicians is missed by most organizations.

For telehealth to work well, all key care delivery processes, from scheduling and rooming, to post visit activities and billing, must be redesigned for the “virtual” experience.

This provides a unique opportunity to more formally define ALL care delivery processes, including those for in-person care. When done well, the benefits for the practice overall are manifold.

The design and launch of a telehealth service is not merely about the deployment of new technology. It requires reviewing all aspects of the healthcare delivery system — including clinical, administrative and operational workflows. I have 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 workflow, is a surefire way to achieve a high degree of satisfaction.

Once people realize how much care delivery can be improved in the virtual environment, it is only a small leap (with a nudge from a knowing leader) to apply the same design and optimization principles to the in-person care delivery world.

Yes, Telehealth Improves Staff Satisfaction, too

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

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

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

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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.