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The coronavirus pandemic highlights the urgent need to expand telemedicine services and communicate their availability to patients.

Telemedicine has been around for a while. But its adoption was limited to everyday ailments and chronic conditions, such as strep throat, ear aches, and hypertension. As many as 70 percent of patients and even more providers expressed openness to virtual care. But its full potential remained untapped.

The coronavirus is changing that.

Because of the pandemic, patients who aren’t sick are cancelling routine appointments in record numbers. Some WELL clients are seeing as many as 60 percent of appointments cancel. And patients with mild to moderate symptoms of the coronavirus are staying home, too. The result is that many patients aren’t getting the care they need. And health systems — contrary to popular belief — are already losing revenue.

Telemedicine solves patient and provider challenges

Telemedicine is an obvious solution. And recently relaxed regulations make it even more accessible.

For patients, virtual visits allow them to get the care they need from the safety of their homes. For providers, virtual visits reduce viral transmission, reduce the number of medical staff required, allow continued care in the event of an office closure, and reclaim lost revenue.

WELL streamlines telemedicine coordination

WELL supports multiple telemedicine workflows, including converting existing appointments to telehealth, onboarding patients to virtual visits, managing delays, and providing support when patients have technical questions. Here are some of the sample workflows used by WELL clients:

1. Broadcast availability of telemedicine

Let patients know they have access to virtual care. Initial outreach to patients can be sent by text message or email to large groups of patients. Chatbots can facilitate conversations to get patients the information they need without manual staff intervention until it is needed. Here’s sample language:

Hello Chloe, did you know you have access to telehealth services through your employer? Click here to learn more and to schedule a virtual visit [link]

2. Confirm and coordinate telemedicine visits

After a patient has scheduled a virtual visit, send an appointment confirmation by conversational text or email with a link to download instructions.

Hi Chloe, thank you for scheduling your virtual visit for Friday at 2 p.m. Please download the telehealth app and be prepared for your visit five minutes early. Text us back if you have questions.

3. Send appointment reminders

Appointment reminders can reduce no-shows by 70 percent or more.

Hello Chloe, you have a telehealth visit at 2p.m. with Dr. Lance. Learn how to prepare for your video visit [link]

4. Telemedicine appointment start time

Have you ever noticed that the reminder you get right before an appointment starts is the one that gets your attention? A reminder at the start of a virtual visit can prompt patients to turn off Netflix and join the visit.

Hello Chloe, It’s time to check in for your 2p.m. telehealth visit with First Medical Group. Check in: [link]

5. No-Shows in telemedicine

Surprisingly, no-show rates can be even higher in telemedicine than with in-person visits. One reason for this is that patients are often seeing someone other than their usual provider. Another is that when you don’t have to go anywhere, it’s easy to forget a meeting. When patients don’t show, WELL can help recover the visit with a quick text message.

Hello Chloe, Your telehealth visit with Dr. Lance was scheduled for 2p.m. Log into our app [link] or call 000-555-0000 for technical support.

6. Telemedicine high volume

COVID-19 has generated a dramatic increase in telehealth utilization. So, there are bound to be times when an appointment runs long or a provider is running a few minutes late — just like in an in-person clinic.

Hello Chloe, Due to high volume, your telehealth visit may begin 10 – 20 minutes late. Please remain in the virtual waiting room until your provider joins.

7. Telemedicine technical challenges

Even the most robust telemedicine platforms have technical challenges. Okay, patients do, too. When a connection is lost, WELL sends a quick message to the patient to bring them back to the visit.

Hi Chloe, it looks like we got disconnected. Click here [link] to rejoin the visit. 

8. Telemedicine post-visit followup

Virtual visits deserve the same level of followup as in-person visits. WELL can direct telemedicine patients to their post-visit summary.

Hi Chloe, You have information about your virtual visit with First Medical Group. Please click here [link] to access a post-visit summary.

WELL provides a wrap-around telemedicine solution

WELL is uniquely positioned to effectively communicate appointment changes to patients. We maximize the percentage of patients who enroll in virtual visits and coordinate telehealth appointments from outreach to completion. ♥

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