To say that 2020 was a year of change would be an understatement. In just a few weeks, cities have virtually closed, businesses have moved their entire workforce to a remote environment, and the government has enacted several sets of emergency laws. In the world of rehabilitation therapy, many clinics have completely changed the way they deliver care to their patients, with organizations of all sizes implementing home visits and telehealth options. While change often uncovers opportunities, it also inevitably comes with a learning curve – and for providers who have suddenly found themselves offering telehealth services for the first time, navigate this learning curve. is crucial for clinical and financial success. With this in mind, we asked a PT chief of staff – Kenny Sargent, PT, DPT, MTC, clinical director / partner of Spooner physiotherapy in Arizona – to share a few drops of wisdom gold based on their organization’s experience in adopting telehealth. Based on what he told us, here are some recommendations that you can apply in your own practice:
1. Educate current patients.
For most patients, telehealth the delivery model is a whole new concept. This is especially true when it comes to physiotherapy treatments. For this reason, some people may not even know that it is an option, which means that they will not necessarily make contact to schedule a telehealth appointment on their own. This is where a little help from their therapist can work wonders. According to Sargent, it is important for PTs to be proactive in communicating with patients to ensure that they are aware of their care options: “We have [patients] individually to let them know about the telehealth options so that they do not have an interruption in their care or a regression in their progress. “
2. Market your services on social networks.
It is also important to educate potential patients about the telehealth services offered by your clinic. After all, as patients go through their care plan, you will need a constant flow of new patients to ensure the long-term financial health of your practice. To attract new telehealth patients, Sargent suggests creating social media posts that explain and promote your clinic’s telehealth services. Some ideas for social media posts highlighting your telehealth services include:
- video demonstrations of telehealth visits,
- success stories and testimonials from patients who have used your telehealth services, and
- Informations about different telehealth appointment formats (e.g. video conference, telephone, email, etc.).
3. Offer a variety of delivery options.
Speaking of different appointment formats, make sure that you are equipped to provide a variety of secure visit options to patients who are not comfortable with live video conferencing as their primary method of treatment. As Sargent explains, some patients do not see themselves as tech savvy and may not have the equipment to complete treatment via live video. Fortunately, there are a wide range of options for providing distance care – from electronic visits through secure online portals to telephone visits. “Even if patients are not comfortable with videoconferencing,” says Sargent, “most are comfortable with telephone follow-up.”
4. Practice beforehand.
Patients are not alone in being uncomfortable with the whole concept of telehealth. Before the pandemic, most physiotherapists did not use telehealth at all. Although they have seen rapid drop in appointments as a result of COVID-19, many PTs have questioned how they can potentially deliver their services virtually while remaining effective. But, now that we know that patients can be successful with this delivery model – and with many TP practices turning to it as a way to support their businesses – it is crucial that providers learn the ropes of telehealth in order to ability to provide consistent professional service to patients. experience. To this end, Sargent recommends that therapists practice telehealth sessions with their colleagues, friends and family members. “Learning the configuration, the virtual connection with the patient, and then practicing how they would assess different parts of the body and conduct a telehealth visit will help them be more effective in treating patients once they will go online, ”he says.
5. Monitor patient satisfaction.
It goes without saying that monitoring patient satisfaction using tools such as the Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) throughout the duration of care is super important. However, when you are adding a new service, such as telehealth, it is not negotiable. “We continued to follow [NPS for] all of our new patients who started with telehealth as well as those who switched to telehealth during their care plan, ”says Sargent. “The NPS scores we have received from our patients who have started telehealth are very high. The comments and feedback on how accommodating it is for the patient and the high level of professionalism have been encouraging. “
In particular, Sargent notes that patients have commented on how much their pain has improved in the short time they have used telehealth. This is encouraging for providers and signals that they are doing something right. In addition, the clinic can use positive data collected through the NPS to advertise the effectiveness of its telehealth treatment offerings.
6. Have a designated area for telehealth sessions.
If incidents of viral video calls like Potato Boss or Daddy bbc What we have learned is that things can – and will – go awry if you are not set up for video conferencing in advance. While these shareable moments can be Internet comedies, distracting background noises or technological blunders during a call with a patient can be frustrating and, on the patient’s side, it can make you look unprofessional. Sargent says “having a designated and quiet space” is essential to the success of the treatment session. So find a suitable place in your clinic for these visits and make sure your colleagues know when you are on a patient call to avoid surprise interruptions.
7. Make sure you have the right equipment.
In addition to having a quiet place for virtual tours, you need to make sure your equipment is up to par. “An appropriate technological configuration (for example, webcam, speakers, microphone, angles, etc.) is an important part of the experience,” explains Sargent. “Dropping your Wi-Fi connection in the middle of a call can be frustrating, so connecting with an Ethernet cord can help.” You should also make sure that your equipment is ready to function properly before each call and have a Plan B in case of malfunction (for example, using a backup laptop or your phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot).
Now that several payers and states have relaxed restrictions on telehealth services for rehabilitation therapists – and therefore prompted many practices to add telehealth services to their treatment offerings – it is likely that this will remain here. As such, we strongly recommend that therapy providers optimize their telehealth processes and technological solutions over the long term. Pandemic or not, patients will continue to want and demand the flexibility that telehealth offers. As Sargent explains, “We are now fully engaged in providing PT services with this support and we certainly plan to do so in the future. We know that part of health care in the future will be to meet patients where they are. We couldn’t agree more.
Interested in getting started in telehealth in your clinic? Check-out this page to see how WebPT makes remote rehabilitation care a breeze. Do you have a question about telehealth? Leave it in the comments section below and we will do our best to provide an answer.