Streamlining operations is the name of the game for many industries today, and medicine is an area where that transition is long overdue. Increased costs, changing health insurance procedures, and a more educated patient base has led to a growth in telemedicine offerings from medical practices around the country.
The ability to stay home and contact a health professional is a big deal, considering that when telemedicine began to take shape over half a century ago it wasn’t considered a serious option for receiving care. Today, telemedicine is changing the way patients view about their health, and in turn, changing the ways that practices serve their patients.
Medical practices should all be looking at ways to embrace telemedicine and telehealth technology, since it will undoubtedly be crucial in the future.
How crucial? A 2017 survey found that 77% of patients would like to take part in a virtual care session. This statistic alone is evidence of the effect telehealth technology has already had on our society. Mobile health apps have made patients more proactive about keeping track of their health. This is an increase in patient engagement, which means better communication between doctors and patients. When doctors’ offices spend a bulk of their day calling patients, following up on appointments and info requests, another avenue to easily communicate with multiple patients at once is needed.
Telemedicine also helps smaller hospitals that may not have access to specialists or are short on staff, freeing up time to focus on patients currently in the building.
Another attractive aspect of telemedicine is the effect it’s having on costs, or rather the way it’s addressing unnecessary costs.
There are several reasons for why this is happening, including:
- Declining ER visits
- Adherence to medication / treatment
- Substitution of in-office appointments for video calls and chats
There are costs, however, for maintaining a telemedicine operation on a large scale. But any practice can integrate small telemedicine measures into their operation without fully replacing it. Small web cams are a start, and as patient needs change then the equipment needed will also follow suit. However, many offices are currently supplementing their practice with telehealth technology.
Get with the Program, or the App
The patient landscape is changing, and the use of apps like iBlueButton and MyChart are helping hospitals and medical practices evolve in tow. Your practice can take small steps towards telemedicine implementation by using one of the many popular apps designed for patients and healthcare professionals. There are also automated scheduling programs and apps currently being used by medical practices looking to stay ahead of the curve.
Some trends are permanent; if your practice isn’t taking advantage of telehealth technology then it’s not reaching its true potential. Telemedicine can make life easier for your patients, and equally as important, your staff.
From an early age we’re taught that teamwork yields some of the best results. It’s why in sports we pass the ball or, as students, get divided into groups for big classroom assignments; goals are reached and often exceeded when we harness the power of teamwork.
Traditionally, the relationship between doctor and patient has been one of “teacher” and “student,” where the doctor or physician hands the patient their homework in the form of prescriptions, diet recommendations, etc. We’d like to think that the patient always goes home and completes their homework right away, we’d like to think that. The truth is, a patient may get their prescription filled but fail to adhere to dietary restrictions, exercise, or make other lifestyle changes advised to them.
This disconnect is what’s driving more medical practices to push for more patient collaboration. Working together with patients ensures that the efforts of doctors or physicians remain effective even after the patient walks out the door. Patients also feel like they have someone on their team, who is also working toward the same goal, which is improving your health.
The need for increased accountability on the part of the patient is currently being met with the help of technology. Health tracking apps give patients a chance to monitor aspects of their health in between appointments. Other apps allow patients access to their test results, immunization records, and other aspects of their health. Miscommunication leads to problems in the healthcare industry, whether it’s missed appointments or insurance related issues, communication between doctor and patient is key to maintaining a successful practice. Scheduling apps that can reduce scheduling discrepancies, with less calls needed between appointment setters and patients, are now being utilized more than ever in an effort to keep the lines of communication open between doctor and patient.
Telemedicine is one of the driving forces behind patient collaboration, and with more practices taking advantage of new technology, software, and mobile apps this trend shows no signs of slowing. We’re not saying that opening an app at home is the same as going into an office for a diagnosis. In-person visits will never be obsolete, but they can be improved so that more patients can be treated in less time, with fewer repeat visits. In fact, you improve the quality and effectiveness of each in-person visit since prior to the appointment you will have had more communication with the patient and are aware of any recent symptoms, changes in blood pressure, or other issues they are experiencing.
Your practice’s commitment to patients cannot be undermined if you are taking steps to collaborate with them on improving their health. This is the ultimate measure of a medical practice’s worth, the ability to act as the patient’s teammate, setting both up for a winning season.
There are more than enough reasons to go pursue a career in the healthcare industry; where most industries are susceptible to downsizing, pay cuts, and increasing competition, healthcare remains a stable and promising job market for new workers. Despite the benefits of working in this industry, individual healthcare practices around the country struggle to retain their current employees. According to a CompData 2017 survey, the total turnover rate for healthcare was 20.6% in 2017.
So, where’s the disconnect?
The healthcare industry requires a bit of resilience on the side of the employees; dealing with extensive paperwork, constant changes in regulation, difficult patient situations, all while trying to maintain their personal lives is not a life everyone can live.
Simply put, your medical staff needs some R&R.
But we’re not talking about the “rest and relaxation,” think of it more as recognition and replenishment.
A job that requires listening to patients should warrant a workplace that encourages the same relationship between management and their staff. People want to be heard, they need to feel as if their frustrations are valid. You’ll find that many of them are, but just listening to them is the first step to ensuring you do your part to address them accordingly.
Recognize Hard Work
We know that there are members of your staff who receive praise daily from the patients they help, but they wouldn’t mind hearing the same from management.
Even better, plan small events that offer you a chance to thank them for their hard work in front of their fellow employees. Realistically, your practice should have some sort of yearly event that says a collective “thank you” to your whole staff.
Depending on the practice, the day-to-day operations can be physically and emotionally draining on your staff. No one expects you to be the sole reason your employee has a good life; their quality of life also depends on the choices they make in and out of the workplace. But their job can be an area of their life that they view in an overall positive light. You can alleviate some of the fatigue and frustration felt among your staff by:
- Awarding time off to exceptional or long-time staff feeling burnt out
- Letting workers know how they can move up into a new role
- Offering training opportunities in areas that may interest the employee
- Planning fun events outside of work – you’ll get an idea of an employee’s situation this way
Turnover can have a serious effect on the bottom line at the end of the year, and in hospitals this can mean millions of dollars. Keeping a high retention rate ensures that your hospital not only avoids these costs, but also demonstrates the workplace culture you’ve helped to create.