For busy, established healthcare providers, nothing sounds more unappealing than trying to learn and incorporate something new and different as part of their business. Sure it sounds good on the surface, but when you consider the time it will take to learn it yourself, perhaps even have to get your entire staff up to speed let alone the cost you usually do what most people do in these situations – nothing. Your practice is thriving, you are always busy so the first thought would be, “why should I pay to put myself through pain and disrupt my practice?”.
Certainly, telemedicine and HIPAA compliant telehealth platforms are not new. Telemedicine apps and telehealth platforms have been around for years and healthcare providers have had varying degrees of success using them. But these solutions have been, for the most part, difficult to learn and use and have caused a lot of frustration but a lot has happened in the last 20 years and even more recently than that which would suggest that it’s time to rethink your practice and more specifically the business side of your practice and how telemedicine can help you retain your business.
First there’s the advent of cell phones and mobile apps. “Generation Z” is the first generation that doesn’t know what the world was like without cellphones, the internet and cellphone apps. They are growing up, graduating college, getting married, working and doing all of those things that require healthcare services. At some point in their young lives they are going to need to see a doctor and the success of websites like WebMD would suggest that the first place they are going to look for answers isn’t their family doctor, it’s Google! When more patients go to Google with a question like “what does that pain in arm mean?”, and there’s a link to real person that they can click on studies would suggest that they’re going to click on that link rather than call you.
Second is the COVID-19 pandemic where for the first time in most of our lifetimes many of us were on complete lockdown. Sure, you could leave the home to buy food and carry out those “essential” activities but were advised against going anywhere that wasn’t important. So if I just need my prescription refilled, why would I take the time and risk to leave my home, go to my specialist just to do something that I can find someone else to do for me over a telehealth call?
The thing about this pandemic is it is now affected everyday life for several months and it’s been affecting it long enough that habits have started to form. As some of you know, behavior doesn’t change unless something disrupts that behavior. I’m going to keep buying the same brand of coffee until that brand goes out of business, the brand is out of stock at the store I go to or until a competitor can entice me to change to try their brand. Each of these is essentially disrupting my normal behavior. COVID-19 has disrupted many of the behaviors of the entire planet and after I’ve tried it once or twice, getting that prescription refilled or asking about my sore arm through a telehealth provider seems pretty easy. In fact, in many cases I’m not sure if there would have been a different or better outcome had I taken the time to see my healthcare provider. So have I formed a new behavior? So how do you make sure you not only maintain your practice but provide an inducement to see you? Many healthcare providers and practices are already fielding calls after hours. But there are several problems with how this is being done. The call is not documented which has potential legal ramifications and, most important, you are not getting paid! In fact, if you’re not getting calls after hours perhaps your patients are using Google and clicking that link to another healthcare provider.
Back to the obstacles for incorporating telemedicine apps and HIPAA compliant telehealth platforms into my business. OnCallMD’s telehealth solution is free to the healthcare provider and getting up and running is as easy as a few clicks so there is no cost and the time investment is less than a few minutes. Start with a few patients. Ask them if they would want to see you when they have question after hours rather than asking Google. You can put a link right on your website that will allow your patients to participate in a scheduled telehealth consultation.
Telemedicine has arrived and will now be a standard part of most healthcare practices going forward. It’s time to implement a telehealth solution as part of your business.