Despite having been around since the 1970s, many healthcare providers have yet to embrace telemedicine. Fortunately, if you’re reading this article, you’ve taken a step in the right direction.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has made telemedicine more important than ever. People are stuck in a paradox. They are more aware and concerned about their health, but less willing and comfortable to visit their doctor for fear of catching coronavirus. Telemedicine solves this issue perfectly.

Setting up your telemedicine workspace

While implementing telemedicine should be a fairly smooth process, you may need to make some changes to your current setup. We’ve put together some key steps to help you on your way. Read on to find out how to set up your telemedicine workspace.

Upgrade your phone system

Pretty much all of your patients will have access to a phone. This makes phone calls one of the main ways you can provide telemedicine appointments. Take a look at your current phone system. Is it up to scratch?

Currently, your inbound calls probably go directly to your receptionist. This is fine when people are just trying to book appointments, but it doesn’t quite cut it for telemedicine.

Investing in multi-line VoIP phone systems will ensure your patients can always reach the right person. Each physician can have their own dedicated line, meaning your patients won’t wait on hold just to end up speaking to the wrong doctor. However, you’ll probably also need a cloud PBX system. This can assist with call routing — and also forward your calls to a receptionist or voicemail when you’re in another appointment.

These tools will also help you in the future should you need to scale your business. You can easily add new lines whenever a new physician joins your practice, or if you want to add a new department.

Setup your ‘studio’

Telephone appointments are great, but what is world-class customer service without a friendly face?

Investing in video conferencing software is a great way to offer virtual appointments. Businesses have been using video calling for virtual project management for some time now, so there are plenty of options out there.

When your patients are video calling with you, they should feel like they are with you in the doctor’s office. Invest in a high-quality webcam and microphone so that your patient can see and hear you clearly. Make sure your broadband is up to scratch so that you have a clear picture without lagging and freezing.

You also need to think about where you’ll be sitting and what’s behind you. It might sound silly, but move some furniture around to give the best possible impression. Pretend that you’re dressing a set for a TV show. Ensure that your background is neat and tidy, have any relevant certifications on the wall, and make sure your shoulders and head are comfortably in frame. If you’re really struggling, remember that a blank wall is better than a messy apartment!

Use visual aids

Visual aids are important for telemedicine, as they can help both the patient and the physician gain a better understanding of the issue. You probably already have several visual aids that you use for physical appointments. Whether it’s a pain scale, a BMI chart, or a diagram of the body, these can help the appointment run smoothly.

Make sure to tailor these aids for use on a video call. A small, detailed diagram may be fine for people visiting your office, but will it be clear on screen? Aim for large, simple diagrams that are easy to see. You may want to have digital files available so that you can screen share, rather than trying to hold it up to a webcam.

Visual aids like this will also help patients feel more comfortable using telemedicine. Familiar charts and diagrams will remind them that this is no different than visiting you in person.

Don’t forget about privacy

When conducting a virtual appointment, it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with sensitive and private information. You need to make sure your standards don’t slip. Treat a video or phone appointment in the same way you would treat a physical appointment. Ensure you are somewhere private where you cannot be overheard, and advise your patient to do the same. You need to remember that you will still have patients coming in for physical appointments, so conducting a video call on the receptionist’s computer won’t do!

It’s important to note that your video software should be HIPPA-compliant. This will ensure that your video appointments are secure and private.

There’s a chance that you and your patients may also need to securely share PDFs online, especially if they’re signing consent forms. Remember that emails are not secure. Either use specialist software, use a fax machine, or post it.

Give your patients options

The whole point of telemedicine is to make things easier for patients. If you restrict the ways patients can get in touch, then you’ve defeated the purpose of telemedicine.

The best call center software is packed with features that can streamline the process for you. As well as phone and video calls, they offer text, fax and email options. Many also let you manage social media accounts, but you’re not going to need that for appointments.

Telemedicine also means you can offer services outside of your normal working hours. Patients can leave voice or video messages to be securely stored until you’re able to respond. This can help patients who work long shifts or unsociable hours.

Don’t be afraid to adapt

If telemedicine is new to you and your patients, don’t be afraid to adapt. Listen to feedback, ask whether patients would help with anonymised surveys, or get a friend to do a test call. This way, you can set up a telemedicine workspace that works for you and them.