Updated: Jan 7
by Birgitta Bella PA-C
If you want to know what mistakes NOT to make as a Telehealth Provider, read on to be sure you can prevent these common errors in your own practice.
Telehealth made its grand global entrance during the early days of the COVID pandemic and it seems to be planting its roots, and sprouting branches everywhere.
Providers were forced to put on their telehealth hats rather unceremoniously in March and April 2020, a hat most of us had never worn before. For many of us, it was a scramble to get technology and ourselves camera-ready, and maintaining enough composure to “fake it until you make it” was really the most we could hope for, at least initially.
Now, 2 years into the pandemic, and this newfound relationship with telehealth, we need to take a look around for a better approach. We need more solid ground for this “tree” to grow in.
Let’s look at some of the most COMMON MISTAKES many of us made in the beginning and may still be making, as well as some good advice to help you overcome them:
Mistake: The first one is an etiquette mistake if you will, it is about Connection. This is not new to areas of medicine, where we use computers to chart while in the exam rooms with patients. We start to treat the computer screen and not the patient.
Our advice: Don’t forget to make eye contact, to look at the patient to fully SEE the person. (See our Blog on “The Art of Telehealth” for more on this.)
Mistake: Our second biggest mistake in virtual treatment settings, is to forget where we are and what is happening around us. Just because the patient is not in the same space with us, does not mean that they can’t see, hear, or even sense what is happening in our space. They can hear the dog, the kids and even the lawnmower. They can see the unmade bed, or the posters on the wall behind you. Also, many of the more observant and connected patients can even feel if we are truly present in our virtual meeting, or if we are distracted by our environment.
Our advice: Before getting on any virtual visit with a patient, make sure you are prepared and that your surroundings reflect that. For bonus points, look up your patient records, and the information from your last visit before connecting, as you normally would in a non-virtual setting.
Mistake: The next type of mistake we tend to make is technological in nature. The beginning of your first virtual visit of the day is not the time to figure out if your internet is connected or your audio is working.
Our advice: Do a “tech check” before your first client of the day, and do it every day, much like the ground crew at any airport would do. You need to be prepared for something to fail, because it will. That’s the nature of technology, and when (not if) it does fail in the middle of your meeting, don’t panic. Acknowledge the failure, and calmly work to fix it. If you can’t fix it, tell the client you will reach out to them as soon as you can, and then reach out in any way that works for both you and them.
Mistake: Probably the biggest mistake though that can be made in telehealth, is related to Federal and State Regulations. Including, but not limited to HIPPA compliance. Depending on the state(s) you and/or your patient are located in, as well as your license type and status, you may or may not have barriers to providing telehealth that can be geographic or regulatory in nature.
Our Advice: BE SURE that you know where and how you are allowed to practice. This extends to documentation, storage of Private Health Information, as well as transmissions of any kind. If you are working for a large company, the lawyers and CEOs are (hopefully) taking care of this for you. However, in solo practices you need to be on top of new and ever-changing regulations surrounding Telehealth, HIPPA and state licensure compliance at all times.
This alone can feel like a full time job, adding to the burden for providers, which leads us to another costly mistake that we as providers make when we provide virtual care:
Not taking care of ourselves. But that’s a topic for another day…
If you found this article to be helpful and want to learn more, be sure to check out all of our resources available on our website, and follow us on Instagram @shoonahealth.