As the adoption of telemedicine continues to grow, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health-care professionals are not fully aligned with the efficacy of this new modality. Many are on the fence about their satisfaction level related to this growing form of patient interaction.
When comparing telehealth satisfaction levels between patients and health-care providers there is a significant gap between the two segments. The health-care professional telemedicine satisfaction is significantly lower than that of the general population. Nonetheless, the vast majority of health-care providers overall expect telemedicine usage to continue to increase.
Low satisfaction levels among providers seem to be the result of a number of factors. One significant one is health-care professionals’ comfort with and ease of using videoconferencing equipment to communicate with their patients. With telemedicine clearly becoming a permanent feature of health care, providers will need to learn not only how to use videoconferencing equipment, but also how to best interact over this medium to consult and treat patients. They will need to understand how to best to maximize lighting, ask open-ended probing questions, and convey a calming and interactive environment.
Another factor impacting provider satisfaction is their technology infrastructure. Hospitals, health systems, and physicians’ practices will need to invest in increased internet bandwidth and greater handheld and/or video equipment that ensures reliability and connectivity. It is clear that consumers are liking the convenience of telemedicine and will be looking for providers that can readily provide this venue of care. The use of telemedicine will also bring with it more online-based patient interactions. Staff need to be fully trained on communication methods and respond timely to patient requests. Practices will need to readily capture patient emails and mobile numbers to be able to efficiently interact with their patients. Telemedicine will bring system-wide connectivity with ancillary services such as prescription refills, specialty referrals and patient access to electronic medical records. Electronic interactions bring greater HIPAA compliance and privacy issues that need to be addressed.
Finally, health systems will need to promote their adoption, quality commitment, and integration of telemedicine into their health-care delivery platforms through marketing efforts, particularly their websites. With many health-care consumers utilizing in-home digital assistants like Google Home, Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), Siri, and Cortana, it will be necessary for providers to have an active internet presence. Such a presence will allow these digital assistants to identify medical systems and assist with new patient identification, new service promotion, and build brand awareness.
Telemedicine will become a mainstay in health-care delivery and represents an opportunity for providers and health systems to distinguish themselves. The sooner this modality can be embraced by provider staff, the more effective it can be in augmenting care delivery.
Mark Dengler is president of Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a health-care marketing and research firm, whose work includes serving as a patient-satisfaction survey vendor.