Telehealth is a valuable tool to improving the satisfaction of physicians and the entire care team. This article explains three ways how telehealth can be leveraged to improve physician satisfaction.
Telehealth is not just about the technology. It is not even just about healthcare outcomes, quality or patient convenience. The most exciting aspect of telemedicine that I see is its ability to improve the work satisfaction and work-life balance of physicians and other healthcare workers. 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 2012, 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
Telemedicine makes life easier for patients. Just the mere use of telemedicine puts most patients in a good mood, a program manager of a pediatric telehealth program told me recently. 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 means more productivity, flexibility, and 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 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 programs, 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 offices, being more productive and being free to achieve work-life balance?
3) Telehealth leads to 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 physicians is also the most often overlooked and underutilized.
The inevitable redesign of the care delivery workflow that comes with each telehealth service is a little-known secret.
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.
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 work lives of physicians and health care workers.
In order to achieve cost effective, quality healthcare systems, that improve patient experience, satisfaction and overall health 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.