Patients today want alternative ways to visit their physicians. Because so many are tied to their computers, iPads and cellphones, e-mail visits and consultations offer one approach for meeting the changing market demand for care. Likewise, as providers look for more efficient ways to provide care to an increasing number of patients, there are a number of options to do so outside of a typical office visit.
Practice Makes Perfect: Could virtual visits work for you?
A provider who is comfortable using a computer can take full advantage of e-mail and video to treat patients. On the flip side, this may be a convenient alternative for the busy patient who lacks time for an office visit.
When considering the option of virtual visits, ask yourself:
- Will virtual visits work well in your marketplace? Maybe your practice is in a rural area with significant distances for patients and families to travel.
- What is the mix of your current patient population? Younger patients are more likely to take advantage of alternative office visits.
- Do you have sufficient tools for remotely monitoring cardiac events, hearing exams, blood pressure and blood sugar levels?
- What are the risks of alternative visits? Contact your malpractice insurance carrier
- Is your IT support staff able to set up a secure portal that meets Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act guidelines for patient privacy?
- Do payers in your market reimburse for virtual patient visits?
One of the simplest ways to talk with a patient is by e-mail. A more sophisticated approach is through the use of Skype, or other video services that allow providers to “see” their patients and view their ailments.
Another alternative that works well for patients who have similar diseases is to conduct group visits. This would give you an opportunity to identify patients who would benefit from education, routine office visits and are willing to be treated in as a group. Diabetic patients or expectant mothers may benefit from group visits.
Before implementing group visits, consider:
Giving patients the option of visiting with physicians by e-mail, phone or in a group setting is something for each medical practice to consider. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, these options allow patients to schedule appointments at their convenience. They are also very efficient and a cost-effective way to provide care to your patients.
Owen DahlIndependent consultantMedical Group Management AssociationEnglewood, Colo.
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