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How to Frame Post-Pandemic Telehealth Use for Patient Satisfaction

Topic: How to Frame Post-Pandemic Telehealth Use for Patient Satisfaction

As the country works its way through vaccine rollout and hopefully out of the COVID-19 crisis, industry experts are grappling with where telehealth fits in a post-pandemic world. Central to that is understanding the relationship between telehealth and patient satisfaction.

Speaking generally, telehealth technology was a boon for patient satisfaction and convenient access to care. The tool, which was notable in healthcare circles before the pandemic, saw its true moment in the public spotlight when the novel coronavirus forced patients and providers to re-think in-person appointments.

When healthcare organizations shuttered their doors to non-emergency healthcare at the onset of the pandemic, telehealth became a gateway for patients and providers to stay connected. Clinicians conducted their chronic disease management check-ins via telehealth, while others used the tool to address and assuage patient fears about the looming virus.

All said, the early days of the pandemic drove a 9 million-patient surge in telehealth visits in Medicare alone, according to a July 2020 Health Affairs post from former CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Per the Department of Health & Human Services, telehealth visits jumped from 0.1 percent of all primary care visits in February 2020 to 43 percent of total visits in April of the same year.

Most experts agree telehealth is here to stay, at least in some capacity. Patients have expressed interest in a telehealth and in-person hybrid care access plan, with most recognizing that telehealth was helpful for low-acuity needs but in-person care is optimal for more serious matters.

But as providers prepare for telehealth to be a fixture in patient care access, they’re going to have to overcome some of the hiccups that have occurred since its vast utilization over the past year, according to Jessica Dudley, MD, and Chrissy Daniels, MS, chief clinical officer and chief experience officer, respectively, at Press Ganey.

The good news is clinicians are already excelling at driving interpersonal connections during telehealth encounters. The patient-provider relationship and the feeling that a patient is being cared for have always been essential to a good patient experience, but some were concerned those feelings would be lost over the digital platform.

“We were all concerned that there would be a barrier to human connection using virtual care and patients have spoken up loud and clear and said that, while they were concerned about that too, that is not the case,” Daniels said in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.

Instead, Daniels said patients have reported their clinicians are more focused on them, particularly because the EHR isn’t in the room. Clinicians can pull the EHR up right next to the telehealth window on their computers, letting them consult the tool while keeping eye contact with the patient. In some cases, the clinician will even share screens with the patient to use the EHR as a shared education tool, Daniels reported.

Topic Discussed: How to Frame Post-Pandemic Telehealth Use for Patient Satisfaction

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