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Top 5 Tips to Help You Talk to Your Patients About a Hybrid Model of Care

The Return To Clinics

The long winter has finally ended, the trees are green and luxurious, the sun is shining, and new cases of COVID-19 are showing a steady decline across Canada1, indicating that the time to return to our respective clinics is upon us at last! 

The feelings of relief are unparalleled; constant uncertainty is finally yielding to the old feelings of comfort that accompany returning to what we love: Helping our patients. 

And help our patients we will! However, while celebrating, we must also remember that the post-pandemic world which we all now inhabit will not be the same. As healthcare practitioners, the return to clinic will require us to implement numerous changes including fewer appointment slots and increased safety and hygiene measures. Telerehab is a wonderful tool and asset that will help us cope with the new changes effectively. 

Many patients and clinicians have reservations about using Telerehab. Before giving you some tips for how to talk to your patients about virtual care, we will first address some of the most common concerns. Our list of concerns is non-exhaustive; if you feel that your concern was not discussed here, we welcome you to reach out to us. 

Patient Concern: 

  • Complex: Telerehabilitation has evolved considerably in recent years and is now quite simple to use. However, this is a very valid concern, especially for populations that may not feel as comfortable with technology, and we will discuss how to address it further in our tips below. 

Clinician Concern: 

  • Costly: Everyone should have access to telerehabilitation! Cost should not be a barrier to providing care to your patients. Telerehabilitation on Embodia is free for our members so any physiotherapist or rehabilitation professional can provide care to their patients remotely. Learn more about telerehab in our free course: Telerehabilitation on Embodia

Patient and Clinician Concerns: 

  • Decreased patient satisfaction: Contrary to the reservation that virtual care will result in decreased patient satisfaction, there is a wealth of information available in support of telerehabilitation; with few exceptions, the results are overwhelmingly favorable toward telerehabilitation. In fact, patients are often more satisfied when seen by telerehabilitation compared to face-to-face interactions2
  • Decreased results: In fact, studies have shown quite the opposite to be true. It has been shown that in recent years, telerehab has led to improved health outcomes3

Having now put those concerns to rest, we are ready to get started. But before we get down to business, we have to identify where our business lays. Telerehab may not be suitable for all your patients, knowing when to, and when not to, will ensure client satisfaction.

First, you must identify the right patients: Patients that may benefit from telehealth include those who travel for business, elderly patients with mobility limitations, millennials and gen Z patients who have shown considerable enthusiasm for virtual care, stay at home parents, and homebound patients recovering from surgery4. It is also important to note that telerehab may not be suitable for certain populations of patients such as patients with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, as virtual care may exacerbate their symptoms5

 

 

Not Many People Use It Though:

A recent survey asked 1,000 adult respondents if they use their smartphone to complete 10 healthcare related tasks. The results indicated that 70% of patients research their health symptoms online, while only 10% access video calls with providers. This indicated that when patients are aware of their tools and their benefits, they adopt them; signalling that the crucial factor in talking about virtual care to your patients is education4. If patients learn that telehealth is available to them and that it is effective, safe, easy, and covered by their insurance, they will be more inclined to use it.  

Education is Key! Top 5 Tips to Educate Your Patients on Virtual Care:

  1. Emphasize benefits: Think about this one from your client’s perspective, it has to make sense to them. Benefits you may mention to your clients could include financial savings, shorter wait times for appointments, staying home when sick, avoiding post-pandemic healthcare environment related anxiety, no commute, and avoiding the risk of nosocomial infections. Further benefits include patient empowerment to care for their own chronic conditions, improved communication between providers and patients, and an increased likelihood that a patient connects to the right practitioner (i.e. specialists can now see patients without being limited by distance)2
  2. Provide resources: Your patients may not know that you are offering virtual care. You may choose to send your roster an email explaining this new service to them in greater detail. Such an e-mail can include a step-by-step video that takes the patient through your virtual care platform. This information will bring awareness to patients about the service and serve as a reference guide. In addition, you may also create brochures or cheat sheets about telehealth and place them in your clinic; this additional step could function to spark conversations on the subject with your in-person clients.     
  3. Start a conversation in person, and give patients the opportunity to ask questions: If suitable, mention telehealth at the end of your in-person appointments. You may also hand them a brochure or cheat sheet mentioned in #2 above. If patients are interested, your reception staff may tour them through virtual care. Your reception staff may also mention that the clinic is offering telehealth to patients who call to book appointments. Lastly, you may consider hosting your own virtual or in-person (conditions permitting) meeting, where you demo a virtual visit and answer patient questions. Allowing patients to ask questions will allow them to air out any concerns and hesitations they may have with regards to using virtual care and have those concerns quickly addressed.  
  4. Tell patients what equipment they need: It is highly likely that patients already have all that they need to partake in virtual care, however, they may feel that they might not. You must communicate with patients clearly about the equipment that they need and the set-up that you may require6. Patients jumping into virtual care appointments unprepared will lead to decreased satisfaction and incrased frustration for all those involved.   
  5. Reach out to, and check up on your clients: If you have established clientele, reach out to them, not all of them will buy into telehealth, for those that are a bit hesitant, understand their reasons. Based on these reasons, determine what you can do to help. The only way to know is to ask your people what they want; do not assume you know what they want. Once you figure out what their hindrance is, ask if you can jump on a quick 10 minute video chat just to check in with them and see how they are feeling. They would likely value that you care enough to check up and check in. This call may also pique their interest and increase their comfort level with virtual care. 

Tip #5 above comes from Dr. Juan’s course: Navigating Telerehabilitation, available on Embodia. We’ve also included a short video from the course below. If you find it interesting, click this link to check out the complete course. 

The telerehab industry is here to stay and will continue to grow. Some of us may welcome this change with open arms, while others (on either side of the stethoscope) may be more resistant to the change. However, patients love virtual care, and as a clinician it is an additional source of revenue. Setting up virtual care for your clinic would not only allow you to keep up with the times, but will also make sure that you are prepared for a possibility of a second wave of COVID-19.

References:

  1. Government of Canada. 2020. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Epidemiology update. Retrieved from: https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html#a3
  2. Waller, M., Stotler, C. Telemedicine: a Primer. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 18, 54 (2018). doi: https://doi-org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/10.1007/s11882-018-0808-4
  3. Kruse CS, Krowski N, Rodriguez B, et al. Telehealth and patient satisfaction: a systematic review and narrative analysis. BMJ Open 2017;7:e016242. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016242
  4. Barthelemy, J.E. (2019). Telemedicine and the Patient Education Gap. Global Med. Retrieved from https://www.globalmed.com/telemedicine-and-the-patient-education-gap/
  5. Farrar, F.R. Transforming Home Health Nursing with Telehealth Technology. Nurs Clin N Am 50 (2015) 269–281. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cnur.2015.03.004
  6. Iafolla, T. (2020). 7 Steps to Educating Patients About Telehealth. eVisit. Retrieved from https://blog.evisit.com/7-steps-educating-patients-telehealth

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Blog writer, editor: Nataliya Zlotnikov

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