Telehealth Best Practices for Driving Patient Engagement

Clearstep Media
Clearstep Team

Healthcare systems are turning to telehealth to provide better healthcare access to their patients. However, there can sometimes be a lack of engagement for patients using telehealth platforms. We’ll look at telehealth and provide you with the best practices for using it to drive patient engagement. 

Related: AMGA IQL22: Unlocking Access to Specialty Care with AI-Enabled Routing & Self-Scheduling

Starting with Telehealth

Telehealth refers to using telecommunications technology to evaluate, diagnose, and care for patients remotely without needing an in-person visit

One of the first steps in driving patient engagement with telehealth is assessing the patient’s familiarity with telehealth.

It’s also a good idea to provide them with a quick checklist of things that will help them understand the process, prepare on their end before the call, and set expectations. 

Here are examples of items to include on a patient’s pre-call telehealth checklist:

  • Please test your phone, webcam, etc., before the call
  • Provide the patient with an alternate way to reach you (email, chat, phone)
  • Provide the patient with tech-support information (phone, email) if there are issues
  • Recommend they sit in a quiet, well-lit space
  • Please have a list of questions for the doctor
  • Please have your medical information with you
  • Please have a pen and paper or someone with you to write notes

Giving the patient homework before the call will make them more prepared and comfortable during the telehealth visit.

Online Videos & Care Systems

Video is far superior to telephone, email, or text messages when communicating with patients. When using video, be sure to have plenty of lighting from the front, so it’s easy for viewers to see your face. 

You’ll also want to adjust your camera so that your face fills the screen. Again, do not have anything between you and the camera, like a desk or a table. Framing your face this way helps to give the call a more intimate feel.

It’s essential to make eye contact with the camera and use the facial expressions and body language you usually would. Smile, listen, and lean in and nod when appropriate.

Dress and act like you would for a regular, in-person visit.

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Telehealth Protocols

It helps to prepare for a telehealth call just like you would for an in-person call and review their charts in advance.

Having to look up information during the call can break the flow of the call and be an unwelcome interruption. 

Host your call from a quiet area, and turn off all other notifications on your phone, tablet, computer, and other electronic devices. Be sure to give the patient your undivided attention.

Please introduce yourself and acknowledge the patient and anyone who might be sitting with them. Please encourage them to speak up and ask questions or for you to repeat anything that wasn’t clear to them.

If you prepare and treat a telehealth call like an in-person session, the patient will be more comfortable and engaged.

Remember the Fundamentals

Build a rapport with the patient by asking them about their goals and priorities at the start of the call.

Use active listening and summarize what the patient says and reflect it to them. Ask plenty of questions and clarify any points as needed. Give them time to respond and use open-ended and inviting questions.

A telehealth visit is a great time to work on shared decision-making and letting the patient feel empowered in their healthcare decisions.

Have the patient repeat the agreed-upon plan of action to ensure they understand, and ask them if you can do anything for them at the end of the call. Then provide follow-up information and the next steps.

Five Telehealth Best Practices for Patient Engagement

The best practices for driving patient engagement all focus on understanding the high-risk populations, educating patients, empowering shared-decision making, providing ongoing care, and reducing the barriers to healthcare access.

Improve Patient Segmentation

Breaking down patient populations into segments is the first step in improving patient engagement. 

Patient segmentation can help reveal deep insights into individual patient groups based on factors like risk, demographics, disease, and age. 

You can then assign these segmented groups into high, middle, and low-risk categories and begin to identify the specific risk factors for that segment. 

Telehealth provides an effective way to engage patients and increase their engagement and participation in the care process. 

The ability to monitor patient vitals, live one-on-one video conversations, and chat remotely can connect healthcare systems to at-risk patients consistently and virtually.

Related: Optimizing Digital Customer Experience: What Healthcare Consumers Really Want

Help Patients Understand Their Condition & Diagnosis

Just because a patient receives services doesn’t mean they follow their medical treatment plan. A lack of adherence to medical treatment plans often results in increased hospitalizations, poor clinical outcomes, and a lower quality of life for the patient.

Education is critical in keeping patients engaged and adhering to their healthcare management plans. Patients who lack an understanding of their conditions are twice as likely to have poor outcomes.

Telehealth allows healthcare systems to communicate with patients by sharing informative videos, one-on-one teaching, brochures, and graphics. They can then quiz their patients to ensure they comprehend the information given.

Create a System of Shared Decision-Making 

Shared decision-making is a process where patients and clinicians collaborate to make decisions about the tests, treatments, medications, and care plans they will use based on clinical evidence. 

An article in the American Journal of Surgery pointed out that patients who felt they did not have shared-decision making in their care had worse reported outcomes.

Telehealth helps with shared decision-making by allowing patients and healthcare systems to communicate regularly, which motivates patients to participate fully in their treatment.   

Provide Ongoing Care

Delivering ongoing care is essential to improving patients’ overall health and lives. Telehealth allows healthcare systems to follow up with patients at customizable periods to ensure they progress in their care program.

Recent research has indicated that providing ongoing care increases patient satisfaction, reduces the number of visits to the hospital, and helps to increase the use of preventive care. 

Ongoing care is especially important for high-risk patients and those with chronic health problems. For example, a recent study of diabetic patients found that constant care helped significantly reduce their health complications and medical costs. 

Reduce Care Barriers

One of the most significant challenges driving patient engagement is that many people lack access to care, especially in underserved and rural areas. Unfortunately, in many cases, those who can’t access care are the ones who need it most. 

14% of chronically ill patients who were asked said that they were not getting the care they needed to help manage their conditions.

Telehealth solutions can help make healthcare more accessible. And provide personal care plans that can help treat and engage patients when in-person visits are not an option. 

Healthcare systems can use telehealth to support their patients in recovery by consistently providing them with meaningful interactions. 

Want to know how Clearstep’s Smart Care Routing™ helps increase patient satisfaction and retention? Click here to learn more about our patient-centric approach!

Clearstep Enhances Your Telehealth Capabilities

Clearstep Smart Care Routing can enhance telehealth capabilities by using an AI chat assistant to provide patients with personalized guidance to meet their care needs. 

Patients can engage with Smart Care Routing for virtual triage, patient services, and clinical journeys.

Virtual Triage can engage with patients and quickly and accurately provide them with clear, individualized next steps to getting the proper care.

Patient Services can help patients find a doctor in your healthcare system, provide custom clinical workflows, and automate many common patient requests.

Clinical Journeys engages patients with personalized healthcare management and remote monitoring to support them between and after each care appointment.

And because Smart Care Routing is an AI Chat platform, it can help reduce strains on the staff and resources of your healthcare system.

Related: Moving Beyond the “HealthTech Hype Cycle” to Improve Digital Health Strategies

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