Telehealth: Some of the Future Is Here, Now.
Telehealth services are experiencing a surge of demand across the country, even with physical therapy practices turning the corner of the health crisis. According to InTouch Health, 75% of all clinical visits can be handled safely over video, increasing patient reliance on technology when administering care. Physical therapists aren’t exempt either, with meaningful studies showing wide-scale patient satisfaction.
So, how can your practice boost patient satisfaction and wield the benefits of telehealth? Read on to discover six ways to conduct a successful physical therapy telehealth visit.
1. Pick a Designated Area for Telehealth Visits
Choosing the right area for your telehealth visits can be the difference between a productive session and a virtual blunder. While utilizing telehealth platforms at home and in the office, you should select a quiet and well-lit space for your meeting. Avoiding external distractions is imperative, so make others aware you’re in a meeting (especially if you’re at home).
Select a location with the proper hardware and software (more on this later) and a door for patient privacy. It’s also in your best interest to be connected directly to an internet router or have one nearby—ensuring you have the best connection possible.
2. Use the Proper Hardware, Software, and Connection
Technology can make running a PT practice more manageable, but it goes both ways. The demand for telehealth has exploded, and technology is racing to catch up. Practice owners without the proper hardware, software, and connection speeds can lose business. Patients expect convenience, which is why the future of telehealth is bright.
PTs should have the necessary equipment before exploring telehealth options. And while it seems pretty basic, if your hardware isn’t up to snuff, it could reflect poorly on the practice. Here are some basic hardware suggestions before you start video conferencing with your patients:
- Laptop or desktop computer with at least quad-core processing and 2GB of RAM.
- Webcam with at least 720p resolution.
- Earphones with a high-quality microphone or a separate USB condenser microphone.
- Built-in external speakers, corded, or Bluetooth earbuds.
- High-speed internet connection with a speed of at least 20Mbps
Once you’ve sorted through the hardware requirements, you’ll need powerful software for telehealth conferencing. Unfortunately, you can’t just hop on any video conferencing program and start your call. HIPPA compliant software is a must. Consider using a telehealth platform with full integration with your EMR.
3. Test Your Equipment and Practice Before the Meeting
Once you’ve decided on a prime location and set up your hardware and software, it’s time to test it out.
Start by running a speed test on your connection to make sure you won’t turn pixelated or drop your call. If you need a faster connection, you can call your internet service provider, get closer to your router, connect your computer to the router using an ethernet cable, or reset the router before the call.
Next, try a test video call. Coordinate with someone else in the office and have them check your audio and video connection. When you’re on the video call, use all of the software you’d be using during the patient meeting. It’s imperative to stress test your system, especially if you’ll be running multiple programs.
Finally, practice your routine. You’ll need a plan of action during the call, and if you’re new to telehealth, it takes time to establish a rhythm. Move from program to program, take notes, or even conduct a faux telehealth meeting with a co-worker to calm your digital jitters.
The patient will appreciate the fact their physical therapist has the proper equipment, connection, and demeanor to handle telehealth services. This is new for many physical therapists right now, so mastering the telehealth experience can separate your practice from the rest.
4. Have a Formal Visit Agenda
When you’re conducting in-person therapy sessions, you want to make the patient comfortable. The formality of those visits can vary, depending on the treatment plan. However, telehealth services require different tact. Physical therapists should remember telehealth is new for everybody, including patients.
As a PT, you should ensure patients feel they’ve received valuable treatment, especially during telehealth sessions. Take time to familiarize yourself with the patient file before the meeting. Create a formal agenda based on their file. Building an outline before you’re on the call will underline professionalism and highlight value for patients.
5. Survey Patients on Their Telehealth Experience
Telehealth’s recent adoption was necessary during 2020, but PTs are not touting it as a temporary solution. The benefits include increased accessibility, convenience, and better HEP compliance. The reliance on technology and taking the physical interaction out of physical therapy isn’t the best fit for some patients.
So how do you know what factors are holding the patient experience back?
Surveying patients on their telehealth experience is a surefire way to gain valuable insight into digital treatment solutions. If practice owners can pinpoint patient gripes, they can maximize the exposure and benefits telehealth offers.
Create a short survey and compare results amongst patients. Use a Net Promoter Score (NPS) to compare new patients using telehealth and patients who have recently switched. Use the comments and feedback to make appropriate changes.
6. Construct a Telehealth Contingency Plan
There are many reasons a telehealth meeting could go wrong: connection issues, hardware malfunctions, software glitches, user error, unwanted distractions, etc. PTs should have a plan to combat these issues and create a seamless experience for the patient.
Simple preparations can significantly reduce the margin of error during a telehealth visit. Here are some rapid-fire solutions to consider:
- Set up a backup computer nearby in case your main one is on the fritz.
- Know where the router is and how to reset and reconnect in case there’s a connection problem.
- Employ two different video conferencing platforms in case of vendor outages
- Have patient contact information close in case of disconnection.
- Consider when it’s time to pull the plug on unsuccessful meetings and try again later.
The Bottom Line
As telehealth rolls into the mainstream, practice owners should look to improve their services and procedures. PTs are likely to find success if they designate an isolated area for all patient visits, check their hardware and software, and maintain a stable internet connection. Other helpful pointers include conducting a test run and using a formalized meeting agenda.
Providing an excellent patient experience starts with smooth sessions followed by meaningful results. Surveying patients and having a plan in place if something goes haywire is essential. Practice owners should look to feedback—specifically Net Promoter Scores—to measure their telehealth program’s success. If you’re looking to bring value to patients and enjoy a seamless telehealth experience, check out MWTherapy’s all-in-one physical therapy software. We’ve integrated our most powerful features—including telehealth—with a complete EMR to provide your practice with affordable patient-oriented solutions.