• Telehealth: technical tips to set up yourself and your patients for success

    Telehealth use has expanded dramatically during the pandemic, but not every patient is well-equipped for a video visit.

    Technical difficulties may hinder video visits at times. Some patients don’t have the necessary device or sufficient internet speed. Others may struggle to understand how to use the technology (especially if they need to download a new app). Sometimes the technical difficulties may occur on the physician side.

    There are a few things you can do to be prepared for these scenarios. Some practices have a form letter they send (via e-mail or “snail mail”) to patients before their appointment asking them to test their device to see if it supports their telehealth platform. The letters may include a few brief instructions for using the platform and remind the patients to stay close to a reliable internet connection during the visit.

    The letter can also include options for what to do if the technology isn’t working on the day of the visit, such as rescheduling if there are problems with the connection or converting to an audio-only phone visit if the patient cannot access video. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicare is allowing many types of telehealth services to be provided with audio only. (Here are five tips for performing better telephone visits.)

    Patients who are comfortable using the internet but don’t have a strong enough connection for video visits may be able to have their problems addressed through online digital evaluation and management (which has been reimbursable since 2020). This includes sharing text messages, photos, or pre-recorded video through a patient portal or other secure platform.

    Another thing you may want to consider is having a second screen for telehealth visits. That way, you can have the EHR displayed on one screen for documentation while you talk to the patient on the other screen. Just explain what you’re doing so patients will know why you’re occasionally breaking eye contact.

    It’s also useful to ask patients to submit vitals such as weight and blood pressure prior to a telehealth visit, since you won’t be able to take these measurements like you normally would in an office visit. 

    Additional resources:

    Read the full FPM article: “Operationalizing Video Visits During a Public Health Emergency.”

    Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.