3 Ways You Can Provide a Better Telemedicine Experience to Patients

As a healthcare provider, one of your many responsibilities is ensuring your patients receive the best quality of care. However, with heavily strained healthcare systems in all corners of the world and limited resources, juggling everyday challenges while providing the best possible care for patients can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many solutions available today, such as telemedicine, that healthcare providers can use to improve efficiency within their organization and better meet the needs of their patients.

Providing the Best Care for Your Patients

Many healthcare providers are utilizing telemedicine to improve patient outcomes and increase the capabilities of their healthcare organizations. Although telemedicine is still relatively new, it is seeing widespread adoption across most developed nations as an alternative to traditional in-person care. As more and more people begin utilizing telehealth, it is vital to learn how it can be used to treat patients most effectively. By understanding the best practices for providing a comfortable and effective telemedicine experience to patients, you can ensure your patients and staff can continue benefiting from its features and convenience in the long run.

Use a Platform That Meets Your Patients’ Needs

When providing care for your patients through telemedicine, the platform you use must be able to facilitate healthcare visits and appointments that are up to par with in-person care. For those with chronic health conditions who have trouble traveling to and from appointments frequently, telemedicine can connect them with their healthcare provider without the hassle. Suppose a patient’s condition requires regular vital sign assessments or other monitoring. In that case, you should ensure you are using a platform that can collect vital signs and conduct remote patient monitoring to lessen the need for in-person appointments.

For many patients, healthcare visits are a part of their monthly or weekly routine, so there will likely be an adjustment period where they will need to become comfortable with this new method of care. To make this transition to telemedicine smoother, the platform you use should also have a simple interface with features that allow them to access their care needs. Some popular features to look for include care plan management, clinical workflows, audio and video conferencing, and secure messaging.

Provide Patients With Educational Resources

As patients begin utilizing telemedicine as their primary care method, providing them with educational resources is one way you can ensure they will achieve a better experience. Resources such as educational self-management tools not only provide patients with a greater sense of independence and control over their illness but have also been shown to improve health outcomes.

While educational resources are not exclusive to telemedicine, it has been shown that patients have seen better outcomes when implemented through these platforms compared to traditional care. In an article published by PubMed, 16 studies were evaluated to determine the efficacy of education delivered through telemedicine for patients with chronic illnesses. Of the 16 studies, 11 showed to have improved outcomes for patients. By providing these resources to patients through your chosen platform, you can assess their results and continue with this delivery method if they achieve favourable outcomes.

Monitor Patients and Motivate Them To Continue With Their Progress

One of the most critical aspects of providing adequate care to patients through telemedicine is ensuring they continue treating and managing their illness proactively. As you will be seeing certain patients in person less frequently, some may need reminders for specific medications or adjustments in their care plans depending on their changing symptoms.

When making the switch to telemedicine, it is also essential that patients know their responsibilities when it comes to managing their health. A journal published by Viewpoint lists patient responsibilities as using medications properly, changing behaviours to improve symptoms, interpreting and reporting symptoms accurately, etc. If these responsibilities are not met, patient outcomes are likely to worsen. To ensure patients can adhere to these self-management practices and continue with their progress, you can help motivate them by addressing their efforts and doing your part to ensure the telehealth platform you use is equipped with features that allow them to track and manage their progress.

Improvements You Can Expect With Enhanced Telemedicine Delivery

With any healthcare process there will inevitably be some degree of variance among patient and organizational outcomes. However, when it comes to telemedicine, research shows that when implemented and continued correctly, there are distinct benefits that can positively impact everyone involved. Some key benefits include reduced overhead costs, access to better care for those living in remote areas, convenience for providers, and better support for those living with chronic illnesses, just to name a few.

By following the best practices for providing care through telemedicine, you can ensure your patients and the staff who administer their care are equipped with the right tools and knowledge to have a successful telemedicine experience.

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COPD Education – Onboarding

Objective

To complete a thorough needs assessment / initial evaluation for a COPD patient of an outpatient clinic

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT, the Physician could also be the educator)

Timelines
One 60-90 min session with the Educator

Description
  • This protocol should be established for all COPD patients from a given clinic, independently of whether they are new patients or they are known to the clinic. This protocol is the basis to engage the patient into other protocols such as education, exacerbation follow-up, etc.
  • We need to identify patient goals/concerns to guide the interventions
  • A thorough evaluation is carried on, with the objective of understanding where the patient is on their disease journey and follow-up treatable traits: dyspnea, exacerbation or dyspnea and exacerbation.
  • It includes the use of objective questionnaires such as the mMRC, CAT, HADS, Frailty Scale, etc.
  • Identify if the patient needs to be referred to other resources (e.g. Physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
  • Once Onboarding is completed, the patient continues to the COPD Education workflow
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COPD Education – Continuous Maintenance

Objective 

To cover in depth all the necessary elements of self-management education as per the LWWCOPD, with priorities based on patient goals and identified treatable traits

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
A number of “Core” educational modules have been identified which cover the basic COPD education from the LWWCOPD program. Additionally, optional modules can be used to respond to patient needs. The timeline (frequency, number of modules to be covered at a given education session) is fully customizable, although we recommend to have education sessions every 2-weeks during the “active” phase of education. Once this is completed, the patient continues to the Maintenance Mode (see below).

Description
  • Launched at the onboarding protocol
  • Provide basic overview of COPD self-management based on LWWCOPD (medication adherence, inhaler techniques, PLB technique & energy conservation) up to the development of an Action plan for early exacerbation recognition and management.
  • Prioritize self-learning by the patient (e.g. watching videos, reading educational materials, completing homework) in addition to live sessions with the Educator. Educational materials are sent to the patient directly via the platform, and become the patient’s own library. The Educator can customize which “homework” the patient receives.
  • Educators have access to “User guides” to standardise their educational intervention. These user guides include: objectives, interventions, suggested questions, evaluation of self-efficacy, and learning contracts for each module.
  • Once the core education is completed, the patient can continue to the Respiratory Status Follow-up Workflow (run in parallel)

The Maintenance Mode
  • As soon as the maintenance mode is engaged, the frequency of visits Educator/Patient is reduced to once every 6 months.
  • During the Maintenance Mode sessions, the educator has access to all the education modules and can choose any piece of content that needs to covered with the patient. 
  • A streamlined evaluation (similar to the initial eval.) is done during each “maintenance” visit to identify any substantial changes on the patient’s needs that will require some adjustment. The patient could come back to an “active” education mode (more frequent education sessions, e.g. every 2 weeks).
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COPD Respiratory Status Follow-up

Objective

Monitoring of stable patients from a clinic in order to identify early any aggravation of symptoms (exacerbation) and implement an action plan

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
Scheduled regular automated follow-up to the patient symptoms. Intensity/Frequency can be adjusted by the Educator depending on patient needs (e.g. daily, every week, etc.). Ongoing through the year.

Description
  • Launch: Patients who have completed the Core Educational including setting-up an action plan.
  • Regular automated questions allow to identify any change in patient’s symptoms and severity.
  • If an exacerbation is detected the patient gets a reminder to engage their self-management strategies while waiting for the Educator to call back.
  • An alarm is generated for the Educator, so they immediately call back the patient. At this call they will evaluate any further intervention required and schedule additional follow-up.
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