Planning your telehealth workflow
If you already offer telehealth, you may need to change your workflow for scheduling and managing appointments. Planning each stage of your telehealth workflow ahead of time can save time and frustration.
- Plan Your Telehealth Workflow: a tip sheet to make telehealth part of your practice (PDF) — Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Digital Health Implementation Playbook Step 7: Designing the Workflow (PDF) — from the American Medical Association
- Sample Forms & Templates — from the Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center
- 3 Ways Health Care Providers Can Sustain a Telehealth Practice – Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Your telehealth workflow will depend on the platform you choose, but here are a few basics to consider:
Prepare for telehealth visits
Consider these workflow details:
- How you will prepare and train your health care team to deliver telehealth services
- What your availability will be for telehealth appointments
- How patients can schedule appointments
- How you will access the patient information you need for each patient visit
- Who will greet the patient first when they join the visit. A medical assistant may be able to ask a few initial questions before you join
- How you will support patients who do not speak fluent English
- How you will support patients with disabilities such as hearing loss or visual impairment
- How you will support a caregiver, translator, or other people who will assist a patient during the telehealth visit
Tip: Do a telehealth practice run with a co-worker first.
Talk to your patients about vaccines
Your telehealth patients will need information on routine vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are a few tips for talking about vaccines during a telehealth appointment:
- Start the conversation with an open-ended question, such as “What are your thoughts on getting a COVID-19 vaccination” or “What are your thoughts on an annual flu vaccine?”
- Reassure your patient that side effects are temporary and typically mild
- Listen with empathy, answer all your patient’s questions respectfully, and recognize that past trauma may have caused mistrust of the medical field
- Let your patient know you strongly recommend vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccine
- Help your patient set up a vaccine appointment if they agree to be vaccinated
- Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Resources About COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters contains the latest guidelines for discussing COVID-19 vaccine boosters with your patients
Read more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Conducting telehealth visits
You will want to check in with your patient before you dive into the reason for the telehealth appointment. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Identify yourself to new patients.
- Verify that the patient’s telehealth connection is working properly.
- Discuss what to do if connectivity gets interrupted.
- Confirm the patient’s identity and location.
- Create an emergency plan in case of a crisis, especially for behavioral telehealth patients
- Ask if the patient has the privacy they need.
- Keep the visit as much like an in-person visit as possible using friendly body language and eye contact.
For more details about telehealth visit best practices, see:
- Telehealth Best Practices (video) - from Hawaii’s State Department of Health
- AMA Telehealth practice implementation - from the American Medical Association
Follow up after telehealth visits
Document the visit and note that it was a telehealth visit.
Tip: Consider asking patients how your team could improve their telehealth experience.
Tips for expanding your telehealth program
Align your telehealth program with electronic health records. Electronic health records, or EHR, should be easy to merge with your telehealth workflow. Consider which remote monitoring devices easily integrate with your EHR, for example. You will also want to consider how you will share patient records back and forth with outside medical facilities — a hospital’s emergency department, for example.
Read more: Cybersecurity 101: What You Need to Know (PDF) — from the American Medical Association
Use telehealth as a bridge between in-person appointments. Telehealth is a convenient and safe way to deliver quality health care. But there are times when you will need to examine your patient in person. Incorporate in-office visits alongside telehealth appointments for acute care, monitoring, follow up care, and patient check-ins.