Have you ever conducted a virtual appointment with a client or patient? Offering virtual care appointments, and other telemedicine and virtual healthcare services, is becoming the new normal. As of 2017, 76% of hospitals in the U.S. utilize video conferences and other virtual care technologies to connect with patients remotely. (4)
Traditionally, healthcare has been seen as a hands-on industry, but advances in virtual care technology and the popularity of personal digital devices are quickly changing that. These days, anyone with a connected device can have access to reliable healthcare from anywhere.
Are you interested in offering virtual visits to your clients or patients? Keep reading to learn exactly what telemedicine is, the benefits of virtual visits online, and how you can easily create and run successful virtual appointments.
Key terms to define in telemedicine
There are a lot of terms when it comes to using modern technology and the internet to interact with and treat patients. It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of them before we delve into the benefits of setting up virtual visits.
Telemedicine, or telehealth, is all the ways practitioners can offer patients quality health care from a distance. It involves video conferencing, online appointment scheduling, electronic consults, managing a chronic condition remotely, and wireless communications. (25)
Virtual care, or virtual healthcare, is a component of telehealth. It refers to quick and convenient services that practitioners provide through a virtual video visit or other communications technology, like email correspondence or text messaging. (9)
Practice management software (PMS)
Practice management software is a category of healthcare software focused on managing a practice on a daily basis — particularly the business side of the practice. It helps with tasks such as organizing patient scheduling and billing, verifying insurance, and generating reports. It can be used by a practitioner or administrative staff — depending on the size of the medical practice — to help improve efficiency and productivity. (8)
Electronic health record (EHR)
An electronic health record (EHR) is an electronic copy of a patient’s chart, though it provides much more than just a patient’s medical history. Sometimes referred to as an electronic medical record (EMR), it’s a patient-centered resource used by most practitioners to track and record a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, and treatment plans over time. EHRs provide help with booking appointments, online scheduling, charting, telehealth services, patient communications, and even billing. Electronic health records are also designed to be shared with other providers, so authorized providers can instantly access a patient’s medical history from other practices. (15)
8 benefits of offering virtual appointments
What is a virtual appointment? In a virtual appointment, a practitioner video-conferences with a patient or client remotely. The benefits of virtual visits and other virtual care tools include:
1. Less exposure to illness
Conducting virtual visits can reduce the incidence of healthcare-associated infections. Remote appointments have been shown to help limit the spread of illness or viruses through clients and care providers. (7) This is especially true during flu season, health pandemics, or a situation where a client has a compromised immune system.
2. Better patient care
With virtual visits, patients can address healthcare issues and learn about treatment options in minutes. Studies have shown that adding virtual visits to any healthcare strategy improves patients’ quality of care and overall health due to it’s improved timeliness of care. Virtual visits are also especially helpful in managing common chronic conditions. (16)
Virtual appointments save a lot of time and reduce the overall costs for both patients and healthcare providers. According to a report, increasing use of virtual care could mean billions in healthcare savings in the U.S. and Canada. (16)(12)
4. No time commuting or waiting
With virtual visits, patients don’t need to worry about finding transportation or guessing how much time they are spending in a waiting room— and practitioners don’t need to worry about falling behind schedule. (16)
5. Fewer missed or late-running appointments
The risk of missed appointments is much lower with virtual visits as patients don’t need to travel or deal with any factors that would make them late or miss an appointment. Wait times for appointments are also lowered, as practitioners can optimize their workflow. Virtual visits have been shown to significantly reduce the number of missed appointments and help keep appointments running on-time. (19)
Did you know? Studies have shown that most patients are used to waiting 34-45 minutes to see a healthcare professional. This time includes intake forms and pre-consultations, done in the clinic. (1) With virtual care, patients are able to complete intake forms on their own time and have them ready for the appointment.
6. Flexible appointments
Virtual appointments, compared to traditional in-office appointments, provide a lot more flexibility for patients and providers. Practitioners can see more patients than they typically could in a conventional office setting, and patients can also make last-minute appointments with little notice or planning. (16)
7. Less need for childcare
With virtual visits, parents with small children don’t need to worry about coordinating and paying for childcare. Studies have shown that remote check-ins with healthcare providers help improve healthcare access and decrease the cost spent on childcare. (14)(17)
8. Stronger patient-provider relationship
Your patients may feel more confident talking about their personal health in a virtual appointment than they do in a traditional office setting. In a recent study, participants noted they felt more comfortable talking to their practitioners within the privacy of their personal space. (13)
Did you know? Studies have shown that patients want the option of virtual appointments and other telemedicine services. (13)
6 simple steps to setting up and running successful virtual appointments
How do you set up a virtual appointment and allow clients or patients to schedule their appointments online? We’ve broken it down into some simple steps to help get you started.
1. Set up online self-scheduling for patients
When it comes to virtual scheduling, make it as easy as possible for patients to schedule an appointment with you. This can be done by offering online self-scheduling.
If your office phone is the only way patients or clients can schedule appointments, the ability to get a timely appointment is not only limited by the number of appointment slots, but also by your phone lines, schedulers, and office hours. Without online scheduling in place, you might end up spending hours on the phone, instead of treating patients. (22)(2)(24)
Studies have shown that both patients and practitioners enjoy the flexibility, time savings, and automated reminders that come with online scheduling. (19)
2. Send your patients automated appointment reminders
In the days leading up to your virtual appointment with a patient, you can send an automated appointment reminder by email or text. You can also send one an hour before the appointment.
An email appointment reminder is also an opportunity to make sure you’ve received everything you need from the patient, like proof of insurance, signed consent forms, or necessary test results before the visit. (23)
You can also include information and tips to help your patients get their device and space set up for the virtual visit. (3)
3. Get ready for the live virtual appointment
Right before you conduct your virtual appointment, make sure you’re calling from a quiet place that also has a reliable Wi-Fi connection. You want it to be easy to hear your patients, and for them to hear you. Make sure other devices are placed on silent mode or are turned off, so there aren’t any unexpected interruptions. Wear whatever you’d typically wear in an office setting, and test the video on your device to ensure you can make clear eye contact on the screen.
Since you’ve already scheduled your patient’s virtual appointment and set up automatic reminders, they should have easy access to the appointment link. (20)
4. Start the live virtual appointment
When it’s time for the virtual appointment, take a moment to test out the audio and video quality. When first connecting, your browser will likely give you a prompt to confirm that you want the platform to have access to your device’s camera and microphone. Be sure you provide the required permissions.
When your patient joins your virtual session, you’ll most likely receive a notification.
Once your patient enters the virtual appointment, be sure to make eye contact when greeting them so they feel instantly connected, and make sure they can see and hear you clearly.
5. Conduct the virtual appointment
During your virtual care session, you can screen share with your patient and go through valuable information in their chart or perhaps look at photos. You can also share any medical documents, such as blood test results, in a secure manner.
Do you recommend and provide supplements to your patients? Integrating an EHR with a virtual supplement dispensary such as Fullscript is an easy and cost-effective way to improve patient adherence, expand your recommendations, hold virtual appointments, and add an additional revenue stream to your practice — all from one dashboard.
If you’re using an EHR that’s integrated with Fullscript during a virtual visit, you can effortlessly screen share the Fullscript catalog with patients. Walk them through the Fullscript supplement catalog, and show them the products you’d like them to use — without ever leaving your EHR window. You can guide patients through the process of finding specific supplements. You can browse the catalog or go over specific recommendations you’ve put together.
Did you know? Practitioners who have integrated their Fullscript supplement dispensaries with an EHR see an average increase of 16% or more in revenue per month — and more than 33% of supplement recommendations are filled when an EHR is integrated with Fullscript.
Other features you can use during virtual appointments are chatboxes or file sharing. The chatbox can be a great way to interact with patients who may need help setting up their video and audio. Keep in mind that for security and privacy reasons, the chat history will disappear once the meeting ends. Let patients know they need to download any files before saying goodbye. (18)
6. Follow up after the virtual appointment
After your virtual appointment finishes, you can instantly send follow-up notes or supplement recommendations via text message or email using the Fullscript app. You can also check in with patients by email several days to ask how a treatment plan is going.
It’s also easy to set up automated follow-up emails to patients, summarizing appointments, as well as confirming billing and insurance steps they may need to follow. (6)
And depending on how you are conducting your virtual visits, you could potentially set up recurring appointments for patients.
Did you know? Integrating your Fullscript account with an EHR is an incredibly fast and easy process.
What is Kalix?
Kalix is a HIPAA compliant EHR that can be used by healthcare professionals and dieticians. It intuitively brings together documentation, online scheduling, virtual appointments, email messaging, and billing to one single digital destination.
By using an EHR tool like Kalix, you can boost the efficiency of your practice’s services while also improving your patients’ experience.
Key features of virtual appointments from Kalix:
- Convenience: Clients can conveniently connect to virtual consults without having to download any software or applications.
- Easily schedule online appointments: Healthcare providers can easily schedule recurring appointments with its integrated calendar and booking capabilities.
- Group virtual sessions: Practitioners can add multiple clients to one virtual appointment.
- Automate recurring appointments: With Kalix, you can auto-schedule recurring appointments.
- Secure and HIPAA compliant: Kalix virtual visits are HIPAA compliant, which ensures any personal health information that is shared virtually stays private.
- High-quality video connection: Kalix supports high-quality video feeds without lag or glitching.
- The latest browser technology: Kalix online video appointments are now supported on all major browsers and digital devices.
The bottom line
In today’s healthcare, convenience and ease of access are key.
Offering virtual care to your patients or clients is a must. Not only is it increasingly an expected offering, but it also provides a lot of benefits. (13)
Remember: transitioning to virtual appointments with patients can take some time. Every practice or health organization is different in terms of specialty, structure, staffing, and resources, so implementation is unique to every practice. Ready to set up your virtual practice? Using Kalix and Fullscript in unison will get you conducting successful virtual consultations with clients in no time!
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