Virtual Care, a more mainstream term than “telehealth” or “telemedicine”, has swept the nation in the wake of the Covid-19 health crisis. Millions of patients have “seen” (or at least communicated with) their clinician without setting foot into the clinic.

But does your organization have a Bill of Patient Rights for Virtual Care?

A Physician Bill of Telemedicine Rights

A few months back I shared some key concepts on how to rethink the use of virtual care services to ensure the sustainable buy-in into telehealth by clinicians. I described a “Happy Day Scenario” of what the ideal telehealth visit should look and feel like from a physician’s perspective.

In addition, the article also described a “Physician Bill of Telehealth Rights” that covered rights regarding the workflow, the technology, training & support, continuous improvement and pay. You can also download a printable PDF version of the article.

Serving the Needs of the Modern Healthcare Consumer

Many customer-service focused organizations, such as the hospitality industry, the in-person entertainment industry (think: Disney), or even retail do a superb job in putting themselves into the mind of their target customers. What are their needs? What are their desires? What needs may they not be aware of (latent needs)? What are customer “delighters” and what are the “distractors” that take away from a satisfying experience?

Healthcare, however, is, for the most part, different. Many, especially in “traditional” healthcare settings are taking the “appearance” of patients for granted. The industry as a whole has a hard time wrapping it’s mind around having to woo and win patients as customers.

This stems mostly from the 150, 100 year old model of very limited access to qualified medical professionals. Medicine, for a long time, was “magic” using processes and machinery and tinctures that, as time progressed, showed increasingly positive outcomes. Patients showing up at the physician’s doorstep (or summoning a physician for a house call) were simply in awe of what the physician was able to do for them as patients or their loved ones.

The attitude toward physicians was for the longest time one of deference.

A Trojan Horse to Make an Excuse for Improvement

The modern times, however, have changed that. As modern healthcare consumers we have access to Dr. Google, Facebook groups and reddits. Many aspects of medicine have lost their mystery to us patients. Under some circumstances, they even have given way to cynicism paired with a resigned acceptance of “oh well, I can’t do it myself, can I?”.

I’ve long used the rollout of telehealth as an “excuse” to redesign the delivery of healthcare – a kind of Trojan Horse. Telehealth for me is about “enabling the delivery or extraordinary care”. Excellent telehealth is optimized for clinicians and for patients alike.

As we are rethinking all aspects of care delivery in a remote environment, we have a unique opportunity to do it differently. And designing and declaring and delivering on a “Patient Bill of Rights” for Virtual Care is an excellent starting point.

Patient Bill of Rights for Virtual Care

So what would a sample bill of rights look like? Here’s an example

As a patient receiving virtual care:

§1 You have the right to be adequately prepared for your virtual care visit. This includes assistance with the technology, with connectivity, and with the processes for preparing for the virtual care visit.

§2 You have the right for a medically appropriate pre-visit process, that ensures that all the pertinent information (e.g., your primary health concern (no, it’s not a “chief complaint”), your vital signs, your current medication, etc.) are captured and shared with your physician.

§3 You have the right for the clinician to give you their undivided attention, including a highly professional appearance, an appropriate background with no background noise, reliable technology, etc.

§4 You have the right to be adequately taken care of after the visit, including the receipt of a visit summary, support with filling medications, scheduling follow up appointments, scheduling referral appointments, or assisting with scheduling lab tests.

§5 You have the right to upfront transparency of cost, i.e., clarity on deductibles or out of pocket expenses PRIOR to scheduling the

Most of these rights should resonate with your organization and most likely were addresses appropriately in an in-person environment. Somehow some organization, though, may have lost focus on these when moving to virtual care.

Implementing the Bill of Patient Rights

Telehealth is definitely here to stay and if you don’t offer a great experience, dozens of “online only” startups are targeting “your” patients to offer a more convenient, more pleasant experience.

To make the necessary changes in your processes, policies, and technology, you must undertake the following steps:

  1. Design all workflows to optimize the patient experience for satisfying the patient’s rights.
  2. Select and configure all technologies to meet the needs of the patients, especially around connectivity and ease of use.
  3. Provide appropriate and adequate support for patients, e.g., by using a Telehealth Pre-Check or a TeleRooming process.
  4. Continuously improve the service by periodically collecting and acting on patients’ feedback.
  5. Co-design the experience with patients, and do not hesitate to iterate the processes multiple times, based on feedback and patient focus groups.

It is important to remember, though, that while focusing on the patient experience is necessary, it is not sufficient by itself. The primary driver of patient satisfaction is, surprisingly, not the technology or the workflows.

The primary driver for patient satisfaction is how the clinician conducted the visit. Thus investing in physician satisfaction first is critical to achieve high patient satisfaction.

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 optimizes Telehealth Services for health systems and physician practices as Interim Telehealth Program Director. 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.

Connect with Christian