How to Better Enable Physicians to Succeed in Telehealth

How to Better Enable Physicians to Succeed in Telehealth. A doctor on a laptop computer screen with connections shown to first aid, pharmaceuticals, a stethoscope, and vaccines. Various reports have documented the rapid acceleration of telehealth visits during the pandemic, with surveys showing that the vast majority of patients have been satisfied with their virtual care encounters. But what about providers?

Recent research into telehealth adoption found that providers’ satisfaction was directly proportional to the amount of input they had in program design and rollout within their institutions. This speaks to the importance of engaging with physicians and others who provide virtual care services.

Ashwini M. Zenooz, M.D., former chief medical officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, notes that health care executives and physicians will need to commit to change management and transparency as efforts to accelerate virtual care increase. Much like what she saw when overseeing the electronic health record modernization program at the VA, telehealth adoption will require a similar level of engagement and will be more successful if it is pulled into organizations and workflows by providers rather than being pushed onto them by leadership, Zenooz wrote recently in Harvard Business Review.

She suggests that doctors will need immersion training to seamlessly integrate new tools and modalities into their practices and to recognize and reduce digital fatigue in the process. Basic two-way video consults appear simple but, in some respects, clinicians will need to master a new language demanding different clinical and communication skills.

Diagnosing conditions like rashes from a smartphone screen image and identifying patient emotions from their words and facial expressions in a virtual visit can be far different from that of an office visit.

Likewise, as the flow of data from virtual visits, remote monitoring and wearable devices increases, providers may find themselves toggling among even more screens and data feeds to manage patient care. Zenooz says it’s critical for data to be brought together on a unifying platform where providers and staff have a single-pane view of the patient journey. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and voice technologies can play a vital role in reducing the documentation burden by quickly filtering and displaying the most useful and relevant data for diagnosing and rendering the right care.

An AHA Team Training webinar with Barb Edson, executive director for the University of North Carolina Health Care System’s Virtual Care Center, explores why teamwork is critical to telehealth workflows for e-consults between providers as well as direct patient care with ambulatory video visits and inpatient rounding and consults.

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