The 5 Worst Telehealth Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Offering telehealth and virtual care to your patients is essential.

It improves access to care for more people, it allows your providers to work at the top of their license, it can improve health outcomes for patients with chronic diseases, and it can make providing care more cost effective.

But it must be done correctly.

Bluestream Health entered the virtual care world long before the pandemic brought in-person care to a halt. That means we’ve seen both the good and the bad of telehealth.

Our goal has always been to make better healthcare more accessible to all. We want everyone to be able to provide an excellent virtual care experience for their patients, which is why we put this list together of the top 5 most common problems we’ve seen over the last few years. More importantly, we wanted to share how to avoid these problems in the first place!

Mistake #1 – Require patients to download an app

“There’s an app for that” may have been an exciting phrase when Apple coined it in 2009. Five million plus apps later, no one wants another app that they will only use once in a while.

When you require your patients to download an app for their virtual care, you run the risk of alienating those who don’t have a new enough phone or enough storage space, who don’t want to learn a new interface, or who simply don’t want to download yet another app.

What to do instead:

Your providers can—and should—offer virtual care without requiring patients to download anything.

Web “apps” are the way to go.

A web app doesn’t need to be downloaded. It runs directly on a website. WebRTC makes it possible.

Simplify the process for your patients and providers to connect by reducing the number of steps your patients must make. You’ll improve access to care for more individuals and you’ll improve their satisfaction rates because it’s easier and more convenient to use.

Consider the example of NYC Health & Hospitals. In September 2020, NYC H+H launched Virtual Expresscare Services. New Yorkers who need non-emergent care can connect to a provider with a single click. Patients don’t need any apps, downloads, or plug-ins.

(Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/276623/number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/)

Mistake #2 – Require patients to create another new account

Depending on which EHR your practice uses, your patients likely have an account with MyChart, FollowMyHealth, HealtheLife, or something similar. An EHR account is just one of at least 100 accounts and passwords your patient already keeps track of.

Asking them to create yet another account in order to access your virtual care services is an unnecessary hurdle.

What to do instead:

There are two ways you can offer virtual care without requiring patients to create a new account.

  • Offer a virtual care solution that integrates with your EHR. Your patient will simply log in to their online medical account and select the virtual care option from the website or within that mobile EHR app. 
  • Use a web based solution, like how NYC Health & Hospitals is using RapidResponse to offer single click virtual care.

(Source: https://tech.co/news/average-person-100-passwords)

Mistake #3 – Offer video calls only

Video calls do not equal virtual care–they are video conferences. Video calls are fine if the goal is simply communication. But video calls limit the possibilities of virtual care and fall short of providing the longitudinal care that patients need to maintain their health.

Video conferencing software wasn’t designed for healthcare. It’s not readily HIPAA compliant. It doesn’t integrate easily into an EHR. It focuses only on the method of communication between the patient and the healthcare provider, not on making the connection more efficient or effective.

Video-only can also alienate patients who want to use virtual care services but are too embarrassed to turn on the video, don’t have access to or are unable to use a camera, or don’t have stable enough internet connection.

Video conferencing provided a quick Band-aid solution for healthcare in 2020, especially at the height of the pandemic, but is not sustainable long term.

Still not convinced? We’ve written about it here. And here. And here’s a checklist to know if you’ve outgrown your telehealth solution.

What to do instead:

  • Absolutely keep offering video, but use a method other than video conferencing software to connect with your patients.
  • Allow your patients to choose the way they want to virtually connect: whether that’s via a landline, a text message, a smart phone or tablet, or a website they access from a desktop computer.
  • Consider how your patient and provider will walk through every aspect of the virtual care appointment. Just as your practice has an inviting reception and waiting room, your virtual practice should have an inviting and accessible virtual “front door.”
  • Choose a virtual care platform that helps your practice maintain a human touch, albeit virtual, by providing a warm handoff and putting the patient experience first.

That brings us to the next telehealth mistake that quickly alienates even the most patient of patients:

Mistake #4 – Keep the patient waiting

Patients expect to wait at least a few minutes for their in-person appointment to begin. Many are even accustomed to waiting again after the nurse has checked them in and taken their vitals. Afterall, if the wait is longer than expected, a friendly nurse will let them know. Or they could even seek a person out for answers.

But the expectation for virtual meetings—including virtual health visits‚ is that they begin on time. When patients are left waiting on a virtual call without a timer letting them know when their doctor will arrive, they’re simply stuck. Hanging up to seek tech support risks losing their appointment altogether.

What to do instead:

Upgrade your virtual care experience to include a virtual front door that mimics the kind of care and attention your patients receive when they arrive in person.

  • When the doctor is ready, text your patient with an easy-to-use link that takes them directly to the appointment.
  • Make sure your providers can communicate with your patients if they’re running late.
  • Add a countdown timer so patients know when the doctor will be off their other call and able to join them.
  • Enable a warm handoff by selecting a platform that allows more than two people on the call at a time.

Mistake #5 – Force established workflows to fit a telehealth solution

Virtual care may be disrupting the establishment of healthcare in a positive way, but it doesn’t need to disrupt the way your team operates.

It’s easy to see why some doctors may be resistant to change or skeptical about virtual solutions. Doctors have spent years establishing efficient workflows so they can help as many people as possible in their finite amount of time. Forcing them to learn new software and upend their workflow takes them away from that goal. The last thing a physician needs is to track down tech support to help them care for their patients.

What to do instead:

When developing your virtual care solution, make sure to mirror your providers’ process as much as possible. This will minimize training time and increase adoption.

  • Determine what should happen when an On Demand call comes
  • Develop a simple workflow for scheduling appointments, reminding patients of appointments, and following up
  • Give your providers at-a-glance insight so they can virtually triage incoming calls and consults

Bluestream Health: Your Partner in Virtual Care

The best virtual care solutions are the ones that work with you, not against you. They’re as flexible as they are powerful, personable as they are cutting edge. Your virtual care solution should enhance the unique way your practice, clinic, or hospital already operates so you can continue providing the best care to the most people.

Bluestream Health is committed to helping you do just that, whether your solution is simply for a one-partner practice, or as complicated as a fully-EHR integrated multi-city health organization.

We look forward to partnering with you to provide your patients and providers the very best virtual care experience.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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