Virtual Visits and Check-Ins are Here to Stay

A lot of practices may consider telehealth to be a temporary solution that arose during the pandemic. But the truth is, virtual visits and check-ins aren’t going away. The question moving forward is: How can we use virtual and remote tools to engage patients and families? 

Telehealth affords practices the opportunity to extend their care delivery beyond the office walls to provide care to patients when and where they need it.

How can you best engage with patients virtually?

Telehealth can enhance our practices and help to build stronger relationships with patients and families, but not if it’s an “extra” or a fill-in. Success requires investment in understanding and true integration into office workflows. Virtual visits can improve quality of care and outcomes, as well as make life easier for your patients and families. A critical question every practice should be asking is, “How can I best connect all of my patients to the care they need?”

If you think about virtual visits as part of your continuum of care, you can help to ensure that each patient gets the right care they need, at the right place and time. And the good news about telehealth and virtual visits is: in the right situation, it can be the best choice.

What type of visits work best with telehealth?

We sometimes hear people disparage virtual appointments, but there is no reason to view telehealth as “sub-par” care. It’s an excellent choice when used in appropriate circumstances. 

Here are just a few of the situations where a virtual visit makes good sense:

  • Using telehealth appointments to do enhanced triage –  This can provide important visual information to determine the most appropriate place for care, especially when used outside office hours. It provides a “next step” beyond the phone call and can save valuable office time for practices and travel time/inconvenience to families in the case of less urgent situations.
  • Extending your ability to give timely and convenient appointments to families who need to make decisions about whether their child can go to school/daycare by offering acute walk-in virtual visits.
  • Considering telehealth appointments as part of appropriate follow-up care, for both chronic and acute conditions. For example, the patient with cellulitis that you want to assess response to oral antibiotics. Or a check-in with a patient you are following for asthma and you want to assess their control, review their asthma action plan, and update their treatment plan.
  • Mental and behavioral health visits, both for initial evaluation and follow-up are well received by families and may give clinicians additional insight into environmental influences. 

Another way to identify opportunities for telehealth and virtual visits is to ask if your practice is delaying care because you can’t fit appointments into your office schedule. You may be able to conduct follow-up appointments or check-ins via telehealth, or create alternatives that help you reach more families to provide the most appropriate care.

Why shouldn’t we return 100% to in-person visits?

We should all be considering virtual visits as part of our practice offerings. Telehealth can help to build stronger relationships with families. As clinicians, we need to take the time to put ourselves in the family’s shoes. 

Healthcare is our focus and our priority. To many families, accessing healthcare is another burden in their day with competing priorities. Think about how you can reach more patients and improve patient outcomes with your virtual reach. Virtual visits can become an integral part of your care offerings from phone calls with triage nurses, to portal messages, to virtual and in-person visits. This is not about giving everyone equal care, but providing the most appropriate and equitable care.  

Then begin to envision a connected future. Pediatric practices can be on the forefront of using technology appropriately and safely. Can you imagine a day where you can use virtual connections to connect the family, yourself and a specialist, teacher or other care team member to discuss a plan of care? All while eliminating travel? Think about how much we have connected professionally and personally over the past year. We miss seeing each other, but a combination of in-person and virtual can work to meet everyone’s needs.

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