Over the past two years, COVID-19 has greatly affected how we approach and practice medicine as podiatrists. One of the biggest trends across all medical professions is virtual practice. However, is telemedicine possible and appropriate for professionals involved in podiatric medicine? Read on as we address physicians’ biggest concerns and provide tips to strike a balance between virtual and in-person care.
Doctors’ Top 3 Concerns with Telehealth
While naysayers may find many reasons to dislike a new methodology, below are the three most common complaints that medical professionals have with telehealth.
1. Providing Appropriate Quality of Care
When assessing patients’ conditions and concerns, there is no replacement for physical diagnoses. However, the question is whether virtual appointments are a viable alternative in certain cases. Can virtual visits be enough to discover and treat concerns? Will there be less accuracy compared with in-person meetings?
2. Meeting Patient Expectations
When people feel unwell, they want solutions and answers right away. While that can be difficult to provide during the best of times, meeting those expectations can be less likely over the phone. This comes down to patients not understanding the limitations of telemedicine. Not only are doctors limited to verbal information gathering, patients may describe their conditions inaccurately, leading to false conclusions.
3. Increasing Physician Burnout
Some podiatrists may find that telehealth helps them better manage their work-life balance. However, others believe it blurs the lines between work and rest, thus adding to their stress.
Why Consider TElemedicine
For podiatrists who want to be more available for their patients, we have collected some information on how to adopt or further incorporate virtual visits into your practice.
Understanding the Types of Virtual Visits
When it comes to providing remote care for your patients, there are four main options at your disposal:
- Telehealth – using real-time telecommunication technology to provide services that are normally handled in person
- Medicare Virtual Check-In – check-ins with podiatrists or staff using audio and video communication technology, like a phone or computer
- Telephone E/M Services – providing consultation services to a patient exclusively over audio technology
Online Digital E/M Services – providing consultation services to a patient through online technology
Empowers Comfort and Convenience
Patients love telemedicine because they can “visit” your office from anywhere. Who says that sentiment can’t work both ways? By meeting with patients over the phone, you can better manage your time, add personal errands to your day, and even provide care outside of your office.
Keep Patients and Peers Healthy
As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, distancing can help people avoid illness. If you or patients are feeling under the weather, you can help keep everyone well by tending to them virtually instead of bringing them into your office.
Tips for Adding Telehealth to Your Practice
If the idea of helping patients from afar sounds amenable to your workstyle, consider these tips:
Understand the Strengths of Virtual Visits
While podiatrists won’t be performing surgeries from afar any time soon, it’s important to know what podiatric services can be provided remotely. To make telehealth a natural resource, understand and embrace where it can shine. The top five services podiatrists can easily provide virtually or over the phone are:
- Chronic disease management
- Medical management
- Care coordination
- Preventative care
- Hospital/emergency department follow-up
Know the Patient
As with all relationships, the longer you work with a patient, the better you understand them, their conditions, how they describe their statuses, among so much more. There’s an intuition you gain as a podiatrist that can translate when interacting with them through remote means. However, this may prove more challenging with new patients, so you may want to avoid telehealth with this demographic for a period of time.
It’s easy to ensure patient privacy while they’re in your office. However, confidentiality stills needs to extend to virtual visits. Take extra time to check if there are any unapproved ears in the vicinity – staff, patients, family members, or strangers, for example.
Prepare the Patient
Without having the patient in the office with you, a little extra preparation can make everyone’s experience smoother – yours, your staff, and your patients.
This includes setting expectations for what can and cannot be done remotely, gathering information ahead of time, emailing paperwork for review and signatures, and what to do in case of a technological malfunction.
Rely on Your Community
When it comes to incorporating new technologies or finding better ways to support your patients, turn to your fellow podiatrists. CPMA members are always ready to help one another learn and grow. As part of our association, we can connect you with peers and mentors as well as countless resources to improve your practice. Start learning more here.