Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines, telehealth has become non-negotiable overnight.
Between moving your practice virtual, taking care of your family, and stocking up on essentials, we know you’re insanely busy! And, we know it can be overwhelming, and easy to overthink, so I wanted to share with you the simplest and fastest way you can transition your practice to telehealth in literally 24-hours - seriously!
Read this, and by tomorrow you can be seeing and helping patients virtually.
A 9-step guide to start your telehealth practice in 24-hours or less:
1. Call Your Malpractice Insurance.
Check to see if telehealth is included in your policy, if not, have it added! It generally shouldn't affect your rates, and if it does it’s normally a small amount.
2. Pick Your Platform.
The next step is to determine which platform you want to use for virtual visits. Zoom & Doxy both have HIPAA compliant packages.
The most popular functional medicine EMRs also have telehealth platforms integrated, and many are offering the service for free right now. Charm, Cerbo, Power2Practice, Practice Better, and Elation are the top EMRs we see.
NOTE: The OCR announced that it will exercise its enforcement discretion and will waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients through everyday communications technologies during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. This means that for the time being, you can even use Google Hangouts, Skype or Facetime. Read more about emergency telehealth regulation changes here.
3. Take Any Prior Physical Processes Virtual.
Do an audit of your practice. What things were physical or in person? What needs to be moved virtual? Here are some common areas that need a modern upgrade.
- Phone: Do you have a separate office phone line or a physical landline in your clinic? Get a new phone line that can be routed to your cell or home. The fastest, cheapest way is getting a Google Voice number. Later, you can route this back to your office line.
- Labs: Do you physically store test kits and hand them to patients? Go virtual. Use Rupa to handle all of your labwork, drop ship kits to patients, and create a professional lab experience for your patients! :)
- Supplements: If you don’t already use a virtual dispensary, you can create accounts with Fullscript to send supplement orders to patients that are drop shipped directly to them.
- Patient Charts: If you have physical documents, it can be overwhelming to try to go virtual immediately (getting an EMR, virtual charting, etc). Instead of overhauling this one, just bring your charts home. This is one area you don’t need to go virtual immediately. After a couple weeks, when you get in a new rhythm, you can start to innovate here!
- Staff: This is a tough one. Moving virtual, you might not need all your staff. With all of the economic uncertainty, many companies are downsizing their teams right now. Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to make a thoughtful decision as fast as possible, and communicate it clearly. Show your team respect by being direct. Let them know exactly what is going on. e.g. “We are moving virtual for at least the next 1 month, and then it is TBD. We will be paying 1/2 time salary during this time.” This can be painful short term, but better in the long run and builds trust amongst your team.
As overwhelming as it might be, this is an excellent time to actually take stock of your processes and modernize your business. Take it as an opportunity to streamline and improve your business!
4. Set Up an Easy Scheduling System.
Calendly is the go to for an automated way for users to see your availability and book an appointment on your calendar. They are currently offering a free integration with Zoom, so when patients schedule an appointment, they will automatically be sent a private Zoom meeting link. It’s small, but these little things help knock out so much admin time! Using these schedulers also let patients rebook simply & have a lot of flexibility with customization.
If you have another system that you’ve used in the past, continue with that! Just be sure to send patients details of how to join your appointment virtually after they book!
Here is an example template:
Hi [Patient Name], I’m looking forward to our appointment on [Date & Time]. We will meet on [insert platform name, ex: Zoom]. [Please click this link] to access the meeting! Looking forward to seeing you. Best, Dr. [Your Name].
5. Set Up Your Virtual Office Space
Position your desk across from a window, clear clutter from your desk, have your headphones nearby. Position your computer so that it is straight in front of your face. Check your lighting ahead of time! Make your virtual office look inviting and clean. Making sure you’re not backlit and sitting across and facing a window is the best lighting for video calls.
6. Announce That You are Seeing Patients Virtually
Email your patients and post on Social Media.
Here's an Example Template:
Hi [PATIENT NAME],
I recognize that right now is an overwhelming time, especially when it comes to understanding your health and potential risks. My top priority right now is keeping you healthy.
I am grateful to announce that I have launched telehealth services so that I can continue to serve you and provide your care, virtually, during this pandemic. I am now available for online, AKA telehealth visits!
Your health is my top priority!
If you would like to book an appointment with me virtually, please [INSERT INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOW YOU'LL SCHEDULE APPOINTMENTS].
How/where are the appointments?
Appointments are hosted using a platform called [e.g. ZOOM]. It is very easy to use. Directly after you schedule with me I will send you the details for how to log-on for our appointment.
Are visits similar to an in-person appointment?
Yes! You can expect the same quality of care!
How much does it cost?
Costs are the same as in-person appointments - pricing structure has not changed!
What are the office’s hours?
Our hours [HAVE OR HAVE NOT] changed. We are open from [INSERT DATES & TIMES YOU'RE AVAILABLE]. If you send me a message, I’ll get back to you [WITHIN X TIME]
I look forward to continuing to support you!
7. Turn Off Notifications On Your Computer in Prep for Your First Appointment.
You don’t want your patient hearing you type away during your appointment or notification sounds from your email and social channels. To do this on a mac hold down option key, and click the notifications icon on the top right of your screen to quickly mute all notifications. On a PC: Open Control Panel, Click on Hardware and sound, Click the Change system sounds link, Under "Windows," scroll and select Notifications, On the "Sounds," drop-down menu, select (None), Click Apply.
PRO tip: If using FaceTime - your patient can hear the typing, but on zoom, they cannot hear the typing. if typing notes.
8. Be Clear About the Hours You’re Available.
It can be tempting to be available 24/7 to patients when you’re practicing virtually, however resist this temptation! Instead, let patients know exactly what days and hours you will be available, what forms of communication are open (phone, text, email, portal, etc), and the time frame in which they can expect to receive a response from you (within 24 hours, etc.).
9. Bill, and Follow-Up as Usual!
You got this! Don’t let yourself get in your way of best serving your patients during this pandemic - the world needs you!
You Might Also Be Interested In:
- Lab Tests That Can be Completed at Home (No Phlebotomy Required)
- What the Emergency Telehealth Regulations Mean for Your Practice During COVID-19
- How COVID-19 Will Impact Integrative Healthcare Practitioners.