Telemedicine

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If Medical Professionals Are Super Heroes, Invisibility Shouldn’t Be Their Super Power

I recently attended a webinar on maximizing visibility with social media. At first, I thought no way. Certainly, all of the healthcare providers and physicians that I have spoken to over the last 6 weeks have been consumed with thoughts of how to just get through the COVID-19 pandemic. They really aren’t thinking of practice development. They are thinking of business survival. They, like all of us, are hoping this will be over sooner rather than later.

But maybe it’s best to consider where there are opportunities in this down time. For most private practices’ things are definitely slower. There are less patients to be seen; no elective surgeries; and less paperwork.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in shelter in place orders so your patients are at home.  And right now, more than ever, they are online consuming mor information than ever before.  So now is not the time to become invisible and hope for the best. Now is the time to be in front of your target market. You want to reach out to both current and potential patients with valuable information that they can trust. There is so much misinformation out there that you become the trusted source of information. They won’t forget. Set your practice up for success in the second half of 2020.

There is no better digital marketing tool than Social Media. You can stay engaged with your patient population in so many ways. Perhaps, schedule an online Q&A session where they can ask you questions in real time. This should be scheduled on the same day and at the same time so that people will know where to go and can also encourage their friends and family to join in.  Let your patients know that you are eager to return to the clinic. Don’t let them worry that you won’t be there when they need you.

Telemedicine is also a way to stay engaged with your patients. Certainly, it is a patient care option, but it is also a way to interact with your patients. If you haven’t implemented telemedicine contact your billing company or software representative to learn more about it.

Develop a plan now to contact those patients that had to cancel their appointments. Are there services that your practice can offer to get others to come back as soon as you are allowed to return to work? People are also eager for some positive news so sharing new plans for your practice or new services makes people hopeful for things to come. You might even consider temporarily offering extended hours of operation.

Staying visible is a process, one step at a time. Don’t become overwhelmed trying to think of everything at once. The Facebook Business Resource Hub offers 5 steps you can take today.  Query your staff, friends and family for ideas – think outside of the box!

Telemedicine – Fad or Future?

In 1968, a book called Five Patients introduced America to telemedicine.  At that time, it seemed more like science fiction than reality.  The book was written by Michael Crichton, who would later become famous for a better known book, Jurassic Park.  Skip ahead to 2015, the Mordor Intelligence report predicted that the telemedicine market will grow to be greater than $34 billion by the end of this decade.  And in February of this year, the Mordor Report was updated and now predicts that the telemedicine market growth will reach $66 billion by 2021.

As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, deductibles continue to increase and companies drop health benefits altogether, telemedicine offers an appealing alternative to traditional healthcare settings.  Telemedicine works well for the elderly, those in care for chronic disease, time bound individuals and the less mobile or rural populations.

Advocates of telemedicine cite several benefits.  Not the least of which is convenience. Patients could access their provider virtually on demand.  It is anticipated that hospital admissions and readmissions will be decreased because of improved patient compliance and ongoing monitoring.  Patients who live in rural areas will have greater access to care and those who are time-bound would be more inclined to set a telemedicine visit then to try and schedule a traditional visit.

The Challenges

Despite the positive aspects, there are factors that stand in the way of immediate growth.  One of the challenges is that many providers 55 or older are more comfortable practicing medicine in traditional settings.  The older they get the less likely they are to want to make changes in how they practice medicine.  And then there are reimbursement and legal issues.  Currently, telemedicine laws for reimbursement are handled state-by-state.  Inconsistencies in reimbursement and legal definitions of what constitutes care are continually addressed by organization like the American Telehealth Association.

It is not unreasonable to assume that such hurdles will be overcome and that telemedicine will indeed grow.  Many have embraced technology and more will demand such access.  More and more physicians will adopt telemedicine in their practices to bring convenient, low-cost, high-quality care to their patients.  Undoubtedly, future physicians and providers will see telemedicine as simply another tool to serve and care for their patients.

For state-by-state information visit the ATA State Policy Resource Center.

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