The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many new challenges in healthcare. Most importantly, providers want to ensure the highest quality of care and treatment to patients while minimizing the spread of the virus. Healthcare organizations have had to adapt quickly from their typical strategies of seeing patients in clinic, to moving towards virtual care through the use of video visits. While video visits were already a strategy in place in some areas prior to COVID-19, the adoption grew exponentially during the months of the pandemic.
Now, almost a year into the expansion of video visits, healthcare organizations are shifting their focus to long-term strategy and optimizations to enhance the video visit experience for patients. Video visits have removed external factors that previously impacted the patient experience, such as encountering traffic on the way to a visit, issues with finding parking, or having to sit for long periods of time in a waiting room. The removal of these factors has positively impacted the patient experience; however, new factors and considerations prior to the actual visit have taken their place. A few examples include:
Patients want to schedule their appointment upon first contact with the healthcare organization, but not all appointment types are appropriate to be conducted via video.
- Patients do not want to request a video visit, then wait for a period of time before being called back only after the organization gains approval by a provider.
- Organizations can streamline this process by clearly identifying the types of visits that can be conducted by video while still providing the same standard of care to patients.
- Specifying conditions that are appropriate for a video visit into scheduling protocols can help to streamline the process both for the patient and the organization.
Patients have varying preferences for how they want to receive care and different comfort levels with technology.
- Some patients may be skeptical that a video visit can be as worthwhile as an in person visit. These patients also may not feel comfortable using the technology required to complete a video visit. Patients should be able to continue to voice their preference for how they wish to receive care.
- Organizations can work to mitigate concerns by developing scripts for scheduling staff to ensure patients there is a vetting process to determine when video visits are appropriate.
Patients may request a video visit but struggle with the technology when it comes time to connect with a provider.
- Front-line staff need to be accommodating when a patient has technological issues and work with the patient to troubleshoot the problem so the patient can successfully connect. It is important to remember this is a new way to receive care for many patients, and as such, there will be a learning curve involved.
- Organizations should create videos, tip sheets, and highlight frequent issues a patient may encounter. These should be shared prior to a patient’s video visit in order to proactively assist the patient with not only understanding how a video visit works, but also with troubleshooting common problems.
Videos visits will continue to be a strategy used by healthcare organizations to provide convenient care to patients and expand their reach. The experience and touchpoints with the patient may be different than in person visits, but they are still just as important to focus on, and improve upon, for long-term success.
Chelsea Kleen is currently the Manger of Health System Emerging Strategies at UT Southwestern Medical Center where she assists in leading the virtual and digital health strategy for the health system. She is an experienced healthcare professional with a focus in project management, ambulatory operations, strategy, patient experience, and technology.