Telemedicine and telehealth have been increasingly becoming mainstream service offerings over the years as technology has improved, the prevalence of internet and smart devices has exploded and more clinicians across the healthcare spectrum have adopted the practice. Some of this expansion can also be traced back to changing insurance reimbursement rules which allow more clinicians to charge for a larger range of services and patients.
Today, many clinicians see telehealth as an essential business offering while some patients and clients choose a psychiatrist or therapist based largely on the availability of this option.
Clinician Benefits of Offering Virtual Health Appointments
- A larger of pool of potential patients and clients
- Reduced number of missed appointments due to patient/client conflicts such as travel, work hours, transportation challenges, childcare and healthcare issues
- The ability to quickly schedule an appointment and connect with a patient/client in crisis
- The potential to work remotely
Telehealth Benefits for Patients and Clients
- Wider range of services and clinicians to choose from, especially in rural or underserved areas
- Saving time and money by reducing the need to travel for appointments
- Less time away from work and family
- The ability to maintain an appointment schedule when traveling
- The perception of improved privacy as a result of not being seen at a clinician’s office
While it’s not uncommon for patients/clients to consistently choose either in-person or virtual office visits, clinicians often find their in-person clients will gladly accept a virtual appointment if they run into one of the conflicts mentioned above.
Things to Consider Before Offering Telehealth Services
- Check with your malpractice carrier regarding coverage and whether there are any specific requirements you need to follow in order to use this feature.
- Make sure you have the resources to offer a high-quality internet connection including the capability of your device(s) and internet speed.
- Ensure the telehealth service you choose is HIPAA compliant
- If you accept insurance, find out what services are billable within your contracts
Setting up Telehealth in Your Practice
- Run a test appointment with a colleague or friend to get an idea of how everything works.
- Explaining to them how to access the call will also prepare you for communicating with your patients about this feature.
- Ensure that your office is free of visual distractions and any outside noise.
- Consider using headphones to provide the clearest audio connection without feedback.
- Wireless headphones can have trouble pairing in a timely manner, and can run out of battery suddenly, so wired headphones are suggested.
Preparing Your Patients for a Virtual Appointment
As you offer this new option to your patients, they may need some assistance to get everything going on their end. Consider sending a message to your patients/clients a few days before their first telepsychiatry or teletherapy session. You may want to include the following information.
- A list of instructions on how to access their appointment.
- Encourage patients to set up a few minutes early to make sure they have a good internet connection and that their camera and microphone are working properly.
- Request that clients use headphones to reduce feedback and improve privacy.
- Ask patients to find a comfortable place they can sit during the entire call to reduce noise and visual distractions or the potential loss of their internet connection.
- Instruct patients to be as close to their router as possible if they are using a WiFi connection.
- Remind your clients to charge or plug in their device before the session begins.
- Request patients refrain from operating any machinery while in session, for safety reasons.
- Be sure to provide your patients with a contact number should there be any technical challenges that cannot be resolved quickly.
Offering telehealth in your psychiatry or therapy practice can be a great way to compliment the services you already provide, reduce loss due to client challenges and grow your practice by expanding your potential audience. These tips will help you know when you’re ready to offer virtual appointments to your patients and optimize the experience for client and clinician alike.