Travis Dailey, TheraNest
What not to do in your first telehealth session
Telehealth across the healthcare industry is a rapidly growing field. The advent of new and improving technologies make it easier than ever for medical providers to start offering telehealth services to their patients.
The benefits of telehealth are numerous for both providers and patients. Not only does telehealth make access to care easier and more convenient for patients (especially those in rural areas and/or for persons with disabilities), it also allows providers to create more flexible schedules and increase their incomes. It’s really a win-win for all.
Though getting started with telehealth is a pretty easy and straightforward process, all you need is an internet enabled device with a microphone and a camera, ensuring you’re going to have a successful telehealth session takes a bit more work.
We’re going to walk you through the top mistakes new telehealth providers make. Knowing where others went wrong will help you avoid the same pitfalls.
Mistake #1: not testing your internet connection
Reliable access to the internet is the backbone of your telehealth session. Without a good connection, your patient may not be able to hear or see you, your calls will drop, or you’ll have a lagging screen. All these scenarios make for a bad telehealth session.
A common mistake new telehealth providers make is that they do not know the strength and speed of their connection before they start the telehealth session.
Don’t be this person.
Make sure you have access to a high-speed internet connection. Though wifi is compatible with most telehealth platforms, we recommend you use a wired ethernet connection whenever possible––not only does it tend to be faster, but it also is far more reliable than Wi-Fi. Are we spelling it Wi-Fi or wifi as per the first line of the paragraph
Check the quality of your internet using Google’s speed test to get an understanding of the quality of your internet. If your download or upload speed is below 3 Mbps, you should consider upgrading your internet connection to a faster plan which will be better able to support your sessions. Additionally, before your session, close all other browsers and applications to ensure a better connection.
Mistake #2: not being aware of your surroundings
Conducting a telehealth session may seem like a breeze: sit down wherever you are and have your meeting, but this is not a good way to ensure a successful session. Creating an optimized space for an online, video session requires work.
You want your clients to feel comfortable talking to you. This is not easily done if the space they are seeing you in is not comforting.
It is important to create a designated space for your telehealth sessions, but what constitutes a good telehealth office?
A clean, uncluttered background that is void of distractions.
Good lighting that allows the patient to clearly see your face. Avoid areas in which you may be backlit. Backlighting makes it harder for your patients to see you.
Well placed audio and visual equipment so the patient can see your whole face and hear you clearly.
A space that does not allow others to hear what is happening to preserve patient confidentiality and HIPAA compliance.
Mistake #3: forgetting to maintain eye contact
It’s important that you maintain good eye contact with your patient while on screen (this also means not getting distracted by your surroundings).
Eye contact is an important step in showing patients they have your full undivided attention. Though maintaining eye contact should be an important part of both online and offline patient encounters, it is especially important in a telehealth session because you’re not physically in the same space as your patient, so they have fewer non-verbal cues to go off of.
Maintaining eye contact via screen does not always come naturally to everyone. We suggest conducting a practice telehealth session with a friend or colleague to get a better understanding of where you should be looking and to practice maintaining that eye contact. This will help you feel more prepared for your first session and will ensure your patient feels both seen and heard. Check out this infographic you can share with your clients that walks them through the do’s and don’ts of their first telehealth session.
Mistake #4: failing to market your services
Telehealth is a growing field and embracing this new technology helps you differentiate yourself from other providers. However, a common mistake new telehealth providers make is not advertising their new online services.
Offering telehealth is a great opportunity to expand your income and create a schedule that fits your needs. However, to convertthese potentials into actuals, you’ll have to market your services. Your patients can’t utilize this great new service if they don’t know it exists.
Put posters in your actual office to showcase this new benefit and inform patients when you meet with them. Mentioning that you offer telehealth is also a great addition for your website, online presence, and your email signature.
Mistake #5: not using HIPAA-compliant tools
The biggest mistake you can make as a telehealth provider is not using a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing tool to conduct your online sessions.
It is important to note here that Skype and FaceTime are not HIPAA compliant. Though it may seem easy to use these tools when you first start offering telehealth, in the long term it can be expensive. These tools do not provide security for protected health information (PHI) and can leave you and your clients vulnerable to having your information stolen.
With the wide array of free and paid HIPAA-compliant telehealth options out there, there is no excuse to be using non-HIPAA compliant telehealth tools. Proper telehealth tools offer secure video and audio feeds and ensure your patients’ PHI is being protected.
Additionally, some telehealth tools come with great benefits, such as being integrated into your practice management system so you can streamline your practice and have less to manage (and worry about).
Before you go
Remember a successful telehealth session comes down to one thing: preparation. Make sure you and your patient know what to expect before your first session, and you’ll be set up to succeed. Walk your client through how to work your preferred telehealth tool and ensure they feel comfortable throughout their session.
Telehealth continues to grow as an asset in the medical community. Leveraging this new technology in your office will help you expand your reach and ensure more people than ever before have access to quality care.
TheraNest is dedicated to helping you do just that. We offer an innovative
all-in-one practice management system with telehealth capabilities to help mental health providers go further. Spend less time worrying about your practice and more time caring for
your patients with TheraNest.