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Steps to Manage a Mix of In-Person and Virtual Visits

Posted by Lea Chatham on Jul 29, 2020 11:34:00 AM

Healthcare has been moving toward a hybrid care model—a mix of in-person care and care at distance—since COVID-19 hit in early 2020. The need for this model will likely continue in some form through the pandemic and beyond. Success with hybrid care requires a series of workflow changes and technology adoptions that make it possible to easily support both types of visits. Below is a list of some of the important changes healthcare organizations should consider.

  • Scheduling: First, it’s important to set clinical guidelines to determine which appointments can be done via telemedicine and which need to be in-person. Then, appointment types need to be set up accurately for both scheduling and billing purposes. Create a script for staff so they know what information needs to be collected or shared for successful telehealth visits.
  • Reminders and Pre-Visit Instructions: Automated reminders are more important than ever to ensure patients know what type of appointment they have scheduled—in-person versus telehealth. The reminder should also provide instructions and links for telehealth. If in-person, the reminder should contain pre-screening information (i.e., call first if you have COVID-19 symptoms). If you are using a “park & text” waiting room, it should be included in your messaging as well.
  • Registration / Intake: Supporting a combination of virtual and in-person visits requires tools that support a digital workflow. Intake forms should be sent via text or email to be completed ahead of time electronically. At this time, consider including a COVID-19 pre-screening form. Another good way to screen patients is to do a short survey a day or week ahead of visits to identify patients who many have symptoms. Digital forms not only allow patients being seen virtually to complete their forms, but also protect patients with in-person visits by eliminating the need to touch clipboards or devices in the office.
  • Telemedicine: Obviously, to conduct telemedicine visits you need the technology to do so. There are many telemedicine options, but the best options will include telehealth visits through real-time audio and video. You want it to be a HIPAA-compliant, secure, high-resolution tool that is easy to use for both providers and patients. Another important option now is the text-based check-in. A two-way text tool allows providers to do a quick five to ten minute text exchange to determine if the patient needs to come in or do a full telehealth visit. You can also do telephone visits and check-ins as well as visits using secure email or a patient portal.
  • Digital Bill Pay: Allowing patients to pay electronically is also an important piece of supporting both visit types and removing risk for in-person visits. A digital bill pay solution makes it easy for patients to pay their copay ahead of a telehealth visit as well as post-visit balances.
  • Follow-Up Surveys: Finally, with so many changes, it is critical to track the patient experience. You can’t know how things are going if you don’t ask. Digital surveys are easy to deliver to patients and are more likely to be completed. They are also easy to change as you work to gauge patient experience as things change.

Hybrid care will continue to evolve, but these basic steps will help you support a mix of in-person and virtual visits no matter what that mix looks like in your organization. To download or print this checklist, click here.

Lea Chatham

Written by Lea Chatham

Lea Chatham is the Director of Content Marketing at Solutionreach and the editor of the SR Health blog. She develops educational resources to help healthcare organizations improve patient engagement. Her work has been published in many leading journals including Physicians Practice and Medical Economics and she has presented webinars for industry groups like MGMA.

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