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In a country as spread out as Canada, it’s no surprise that telemedicine is becoming increasingly popular—particularly in remote communities that don’t have local doctors. In Ontario, telemedicine programs are growing an average of 30 percent each year, with no sign of slowing down as technology catches up to this emerging trend.

Patients are becoming more open to the idea of logging on to see a healthcare professional instead of waiting in an office. A recent survey south of the border found that 64 percent of Americans are willing to have a video visit with a doctor. Seventy percent would prefer an online visit to an office visit to obtain a prescription. And, approximately one in three parents would favour a videoconference with a physician for middle-of-the-night care, versus calling a nurse line or visiting an emergency room.

Telemedicine is a growing trend, and it’s predicted to be a game-changer, not just for patients, but also for the healthcare system as a whole. Sixty-seven percent of healthcare professionals currently use it to some degree or are planning to in the near future. And, this offering was predicted to increase 68 percent in the year 2015 alone. Those healthcare organizations considering enhancing service lines with telemedicine may want to refer to these tips and best practices to get started on the right foot.

  • Technology training: If your organization is adding telemedicine to its service offering, you’ll need staff thoroughly trained on the technology used to execute care. You’ll want to train staff on system operations and features, as well as how to troubleshoot software issues and connection problems. Patient training may be appreciated, too. Consider providing a “getting started” folder that includes software download instructions, troubleshooting FAQs, contact information for technical support and a set of logo’d ear buds.
  • Soft skills training: A bedside manner is just as important online as it is off. Consider training physicians on how to connect with patients and be personable when virtual. Address everything from facial expressions and body language to tone of voice and virtual distractions.
  • Patient promotion: Telecare may be a great alternative to address urgent care clinic needs. When wait times get long or urgent care is closing, you may want to refer some cases to telemedicine. Magnets, banners or floor displays can nicely promote your telehealth service line. Imprint them with a quick response (QR) code for easy software or app download.
  • Mobile options: You can go a step further with mobile telehealth services—perhaps at a clinic or business that offers onsite nurse staff. In the U.S., the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, for instance, placed mobile health carts in school nurse offices. When a student was ill, a virtual physician visit could be arranged, allowing for doctor/nurse collaboration for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

 

Telemedicine is growing, and it’s growing fast. This solution may be the answer to providing access to quality care, when and where it is needed. The majority of patients are willing to use it—why not give it a try!

Glauser, Wendy, Michael Nolan, and Andrew Remfry. “Telemedicine on the rise across Canada.” Healthy Debate. 25 June 2015. Web. Retrieved 30 Dec. 2015.

Hyatt, Ali. “Top 10 Stats To Know About Telehealth.” American Well. N.p., 21 Jan. 2015. Web. Retrieved 22 Dec. 2015.

Frist, Bill. “Telemedicine Is A Game-Changer For Patients, The System.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 12 Mar. 2015. Web. Retrieved 22 Dec. 2015.

Principi, Beth. “The Digital Doctor: A Telemedicine Review from a Doctor.” American Well. N.p., 20 Nov. 2015. Web. Retrieved 22 Dec. 2015.

Elliott, Christine. “How Pediatric Telehealth Is Enhancing Healthcare.” American Well. N.p., 09 Nov. 2015. Web. Retrieved 22 Dec. 2015.

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