My first encounter with telehealth occurred in 2016 during a road trip through California. A friend from Denmark, who accompanied me, needed to see a doctor.
With a direct-to-consumer app, we were able to meet with a physician via video on my friend’s smartphone. From the parking lot of a community health center that did not accept walk-ins, my friend paid for the appointment and received a prescription for medication if needed.
This experience inspired me to ask, “What do patients and providers want from telehealth?”
Patients want more virtual engagement
Patients, especially millennials, want to engage with clinicians in real-time without stepping into an office—to schedule appointments, renew prescriptions, pay bills, and email their providers. As patients become familiar with telehealth benefits, they increasingly choose medical providers who offer virtual visits.
Similarly, NextGen Healthcare clinicians prefer to see their own patients virtually and get paid for offering telehealth services. Naturally, clinicians also want telehealth technology integrated into their practice management workflow and electronic health record (EHR).
Patients prefer to personally know their telehealth provider
More than half (56 percent) of respondents to a 2015 consumer survey indicated it was critical to have an established relationship with a telehealth provider. Even more (60 percent) felt that it was important for a telehealth provider to have access to their health records. Patients who have virtual visits with their own physician have both.
Patients want healthcare providers who offer digital capabilities
More than half of patients surveyed expect virtual visits along with other digital communication and confirmed it would influence their choice in providers, according to recent consumer study by Accenture. In 2019, 70 percent of patients surveyed are likely to choose a provider who sends reminders for follow-up care via email or text.
Almost half (49 percent) of patients surveyed prefer to choose a provider that offers virtual visits. Both of these increased 13 percent when compared to 2016 responses (57 percent and 36 percent respectively). Not surprisingly, younger, more tech-savvy consumers are the reason for this increase.
NextGen Healthcare clients want to see their patients virtually
In 2018, NextGen Healthcare surveyed a subset of its physician clients to determine best practices for telehealth. More than half (56 percent) either used, or planned to use, telehealth. Of those offering or interested in telehealth, most clients preferred virtual visits with established patients (90 percent). Examples of these types of visits include:
- Follow-up visits for treatment compliance
- Reviewing labs and images
- Medication management and prescription refills
- Conducting pre- and post-procedure visits
Integration with practice management workflow and EHR is key
The client survey and subsequent focus groups highlight the value of integrating existing workflows with their EHR. NextGen Healthcare client clinicians have gone the distance to include virtual visit functionality throughout their services. They want the same processes for virtual visits as they have for in-person visits: scheduling, reminders, documentation, and payment processing. Physicians are more likely to adopt telehealth when it aligns with the way they practice medicine in person.
Food for thought
The evolution of telehealth creates numerous opportunities for practices to gain greater success and extend patient care beyond traditional boundaries. Physicians need to use virtual visits to expand trusted access to care for a younger, more digitally oriented generation. To facilitate this change, practices need easy-to-use telehealth technology that integrates into the EHR. Not only will the younger generation benefit from expanded access to care, but so will those of us exploring the country with a friend, like on a road trip in California.
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