Telehealth was already available and gaining recognition before the pandemic, and it has only boomed in popularity since. Virtual visits offer increased flexibility, better intake options, lower wait times, and improved access for many patients. What's more, telehealth can diagnose and provide high quality care and in most cases is equal to in-person visits.
All of this might sound like doom and gloom for your in-person practice, but you should not let it worry you. While virtual visits and telehealth are amazing, they will not reduce the need or demand for in-person doctor's visits. What's more, telehealth has improved the overall health industry in many ways, thanks to the fact that it necessitates a lot of streamlining and improved communication. Finally, adding a telehealth component to your existing in-person practice is a great way to expand your client base and retain your current patients.
Let's take a look at many ways that telehealth isn't a threat to your physical business, but how it can actually help your practice thrive.
Telehealth can Bring in More Patients
Giving people more access to healthcare is one of the biggest improvements in medicine in the last 50 years. For patients who are rural or for those who have transportation deficits and/or mobility problems, telehealth makes it so they can actually see a physician much more easily. Many people, however, prefer seeing a doctor in-person and telehealth fills the gap for them until they're able to actually come into your practice.
Even if only some of your telehealth patients convert to physical visits, that's still more people for your practice and more patients to care for. Additionally, the fully remote patients are not conflicting with your brick-and-mortar business—they're still your patients, even if they're remote. This is why adding a telehealth component is an economical way to reach more clients without affecting your in-person patients or your physical metrics.
Many Patients Still Prefer to see a Doctor In-person
Seeing a doctor is cathartic and oftentimes, simply seeing a physician physically can make a person feel better. It makes them feel like tangible resolution is coming to them when you check them out, ease their fears, and prescribe medicine. Many patients have a distrust of telehealth as not as effective or somehow not as thorough, and for that reason alone they will stay with in-person visits, but it's also worth your time to impress upon them the benefits of telehealth for when they cannot or do not want to make a trip.
Surprisingly in many rural areas where you might think telehealth should thrive as access to a doctor is harder to come by, the move to adopt it is the lowest. Even though virtual visits make it easier for patients to get medical attention, the impact of telehealth on physical practices—at least in terms of "siphoning" clients—is very low. Attitudes towards telehealth in urban areas are brighter, but still many patients would prefer to see their own physician remotely, rather than a stranger.
Patients View Telehealth as Impersonal
Your patients are coming to you for reassurance as well as treatment. If they feel like you're impersonal or cold, they will seek out a new doctor. For that same reason, many people believe that virtual visits do or will lack the same personal, human touch that an in-person visit provides. This feeling—whether warranted or not—drives more clients to seek out office visits over telehealth.
For physicians who want to start a telehealth practice, it's imperative that you are significantly more warm and welcoming than you would be in person, even if you're already very personable. The biggest hurdle for telehealth is the mindset people have that it's robotic or not comforting. The fear of an impersonal visit will still have your patients looking to your office for answers, and if you can master the art of empathy during virtual visits, you'll be ahead of the game if you add in a virtual practice as well.
Telehealth Provides Additional Income Streams
If you’re looking to add additional revenue, telehealth gives you more options. Many physicians look at virtual visits as encroaching on their territory when it can also be useful to existing practices. Not only does telehealth provide more access to more clients, it can bring in new patients who would otherwise not have seen you in person.
Some telehealth practices see patients who are fully remote, who would never set foot in their physical office, and that’s perfectly fine. You are a skilled physician and people want to pay for your care, no matter where they are. Telehealth gives patients the ability to easily find specialists and get second opinions, and you can make that access profitable.
You don’t need to see telehealth as an either/or, but simply as a more—more patients, more healing, and more revenue options.
Unfortunately, not Everyone has the Technology to use Telehealth
One of the main reasons that people aren't using telehealth over physical visits is that simply they cannot. Internet access in rural and very poor communities isn't as common as it is in other areas, and many people also do not have the equipment needed for a virtual visit. Though this is unfortunate, it does mean that for this reason, more people will be coming to your office instead of going the virtual route.
Additionally, certain demographics of people are distrusting of technology or simply lack the desire or capacity to learn how to use it. For these people, an in-person visit will always be preferable to messing around with a computer and webcam.
You Shouldn't be Afraid of Telehealth
Embracing telehealth as an addition to your practice is one of the best things to consider going into 2021. If you have the time to see more patients, then telehealth allows you to access more people over a bigger area. Simply being able to bring health and wellness to areas where people often go without doctor's visits is a great reason to invest in virtual platforms.
The advancement of telehealth will continue and more people will adopt it going forward. You do not want to be left behind in a changing industry that requires flexibility. The need for an in-person doctor's office will never go away fully, but being able to see patients remotely as well gives you and your patients more options.
Vitel is ready to help you make the leap into telehealth, or to improve your existing telehealth practice. We offer assistance with billing, staffing, supplies, referrals, and all other aspects of the healthcare field. We can help you free up time, decrease your time spent on tedious office work, and allow you more time to focus on your patients.
Contact us today to see a free demo of our platform and see how ViTel Health can help your practice move forward, both in-person and online.