It would not be an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the healthcare sector for good. Just like in education, the circumstances certainly sped up the move towards digital, and today, virtual visits are nothing out of the ordinary at a modern clinic. Because telecommunication in healthcare is beneficial for both the provider and the patient, this model will not go anywhere even as things go back to normal. So, now is a perfect time to set up a successful virtual clinic if this has been a plan of yours.
There are several ways in which you can incorporate virtual consultations into your practice. You may already be using some asynchronous virtual care strategies if you communicate with your patients via text or e-mail. However, incorporating synchronous or real-time virtual consultations is what can take your clinic to the next level. Depending on the area of your expertise, you can use virtual appointments as a complement to your usual way of working or go almost entirely virtual. Here is what you should know if you are thinking about setting up a successful virtual clinic of your own.
The benefits of virtual visits
As we just mentioned, virtual visits have significant benefits for both parties involved. An in-person appointment that could be easily executed via a video call can be a serious inconvenience in a patient’s daily schedule. The cost and time needed for travel are also saved by going for a virtual visit instead. This model also allows healthcare workers to create a more flexible schedule and optimize their operational efficiency. If implemented right, it will not compromise the quality of care nor the level of trust patients have in their doctors. In certain situations, it can also be a safer option. There are several crucial steps to make sure it all goes smoothly, though.
Start with the legal aspect
Before you open the doors to your virtual clinic, you need to take care of the legal aspect of the business. But besides acquiring the appropriate licenses and registering your business, you also need to pay special attention to the laws regarding telemedicine in your particular country or state. Parity laws that deal with insurance and telemedicine can differ depending on your location. They may only cover certain aspects of telemedicine, or they may not exist at all. You can contact a lawyer who will help you sort this out.
Outline the services you will offer
Next, you will need to figure out what kind of virtual medical services you will provide to your patients. You need to be aware of what you are legally allowed to do in virtual appointments and what you realistically can do and outline your services based on this information. For instance, it is clear that checkups that require palpation or auscultation are not an option, but a wide range of checkups can move to the digital realm, including those related to skin problems, mental health, psychiatric telemedicine, and so on. You also need to decide whether you want to implement appointment-based consultations, or you will have drop-in hours during which anyone can connect to you.
Use solid software
Once you know the nature of the virtual services you will offer, you can start looking for the most suitable digital solution for your needs. When shopping around, keep in mind that the most important thing is that the software complies with HIPAA, and your patient’s data will be secure at all times. But worry not; today, many options satisfy this criterion. The second thing to look for is that the software offers multiple safe ways of communication, including written, audio, and video call. Finally, consider what extras you want to be included: in-app charting, digital prescription, streamlined booking, and secure record-keeping are just some of the examples. You can look into solutions like Doxy.me, Cliniko, Updox, or even Zoom for Healthcare.
Get the word out about your clinic
For your transition to virtual to be successful, you will need to make sure your patients know about the new services you offer. Since a virtual clinic is not as bound by spatial restrictions, you get access to a much wider customer base. However, you need to do your due diligence in getting your name out there. Start with your existing patients and let them know that now they can attend their checkups or get their prescriptions from the comfort of their homes. Introduce an automated questionnaire that will redirect your eligible patients to your virtual clinic. Have a handy FAQ that will help your patients figure out the technology. Do consider investing in some marketing to boost awareness about your virtual services. Social media, text message alerts, and posters and flyers placed around your clinic are good places to start.
Mind your website
Your website plays a crucial role in your digital marketing efforts, so you should give special attention to it and leverage its power in bringing your clinic more traffic. Today, web developers know well that SEO is the best way to make a business seen on the internet. So, make sure your website is user-friendly, optimized for mobile, exudes a professional image, and has a lot of practical resources. The design should be SEO-friendly down to the last image. That will help you appear in relevant searches and boost your authority.
Prepare a space
The fact that you will be conducting virtual consultations might make you think you can do this from any space. While it is true that it gives you some level of flexibility, don’t forget that a virtual visit requires an appropriate environment like an in-person one. A virtual visit should not be inferior, and patients should feel like they are getting the same quality of treatment and attention. The impression your office makes on camera will also influence whether your patient will be inclined to continue seeking out your clinic and perhaps go for an in-person visit in the future. If they see that your dental clinic is equipped with modern dental fit-outs, for instance, they will rest assured that they are in good hands. So, make sure the space is well-lit, and your patient can see you well through the camera.
Filter the patients right
To make sure the system is working effectively, you need a perfect system of filtering patients based on whether they are eligible for a virtual visit or not. The aforementioned questionnaire is one effective way to do it. Besides the purpose of the patient’s visit, the assessment should include their access to digital tools as well. While most adults are familiar with the tools used for video calls, older generations may not have a good internet connection or technological know-how. All in all, the key is designing a system that will take them to the right place intuitively and smoothly. Finally, you also need to evaluate the capacity of your clinic realistically and allow booking accordingly, just like with in-person meetings.
Prepare for virtual visits
When everything is ready for accepting patients virtually, the last step is preparing yourself. First of all, make sure you are familiar with the technology and test that everything is working as it should. The same goes for your staff. Revise virtual visit etiquette to make sure that your patients will not feel neglected. It is recommended that you devote a lot of attention to sending visual clues that compensate for those missing in telecommunication. Make eye contact with your patient so that they know they have your attention. It’s also a good idea to have a checklist so that you remember all the things you have to do before, during, and after each virtual visit. There is a lot of information to record and check before the visit begins. During the visit, be sure the patient is in a private space before sharing sensitive information. Don’t forget to obtain verbal consent.
A patient may prefer a virtual visit for a variety of reasons, and having a well-working system to conduct one can boost your clinic’s capacity and efficiency by miles. While there is a lot to prepare for the launch of a virtual clinic, in today’s tech-driven world, it represents the future so it’s worth investing in.