HealthJune 24, 2022

When it comes to telehealth training, what you don’t know CAN hurt you

As a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has expanded its telehealth coverage, easing restrictions on factors such as location, the eligibility of services and providers, licensing, and cost-sharing.1 Many private insurers have followed suit, as it’s become evident that telehealth will be a valuable component of our healthcare system. But what about telehealth training? Are clinicians receiving all the information they need to maximize your facility’s, system’s, or practice’s investment in telehealth? Beyond the software, hardware, and communications necessary to make telehealth work, telehealth is most successful — for the patient and the practitioner — when everyone on your staff receives standardized training on all aspects of providing virtual healthcare.

Telehealth benefits patients and providers

Think about how telehealth has enabled patients to continue receiving care. It’s amazing to consider that clinicians can diagnose everything from heart attacks to fractures or provide physical, occupational, and behavioral therapy via virtual visits. A study by Stanford economist Liran Einav and his co-authors found no indication that patients who received remote care were misdiagnosed or received incorrect treatment. They also reported that telehealth had driven the average cost of a medical visit down 5% while the combined total of in-person and remote visits increased only 3.5%2.

Telehealth appeals to patients for many reasons, most significantly:

  • Less travel, particularly important for the elderly, those with accessibility issues, those who live in rural areas, and those who work or need child/elder care
  • Less time devoted to the actual visit (transportation to/from, waiting)
  • Less exposure to COVID-19 and other communicable diseases
  • More frequent visits, especially for those with a chronic illness or comorbidities.

Most clinicians have embraced the telehealth modality of care, too. They have more time to spend with their patients in a less harried way, reducing their burnout and stress. Even remotely, they have built relationships with the people who rely on their care. In some cases, the providers have gained greater insight into patients’ home or work environments. But are they making the most of every telehealth visit or making it up as they go along?

The onus of telehealth training

Although telemedicine existed, it was a limited element of healthcare practice before the pandemic. Suddenly, lockdowns and fear of exposure to the virus gave telehealth a vital role in ongoing medical care. However, most clinicians had to figure out how to do a telehealth visit on the fly as they incorporated it into their care portfolio.

Historically, most physicians, PAs, NPs, and RNs have not received telehealth training as part of their education. Clinical training is already jam-packed, so it’s challenging to find the time and opportunity to include more. With the surge in telehealth that accompanied the COVID-19 surge, some hospitals, health systems, and practices scrambled to develop homegrown training and quickly make it available to their clinicians. But did it include all the pieces necessary to enable the telehealth visits to mimic in-person care? Many providers were frazzled, and patients were frustrated.

Even now, in the third year of the pandemic, clinicians admit that they don’t have time to do telehealth training. They use what little free time they have to take care of themselves and their families. After working extraordinarily long hours and losing so many patients to COVID-19, providers are burned out physically and mentally. They also had no choice but to learn telehealth, so they may consider that an additional burden they were forced to assume when the coronavirus hit.

High-quality telehealth training is the “secret sauce”

Now that telehealth is ubiquitous, healthcare executives must ensure that their providers are adequately trained in administering the best virtual care that appeals to existing and new patients. The combination of consumer medicine and social media has made it all too easy for treatment to be widely praised or panned.

The following essentials of telehealth training and support are what to look for:

  • Self-administered, self-paced educational modules addressing all aspects of remote visits
  • Standardized practices that enable consistent, quality care and privacy for all patient demographics and situations
  • Regular updates on changing regulations, reimbursements, and other telehealth news.

In addition, you must mandate and communicate a commitment to top-notch telehealth training from the top of your organization. Giving your clinicians paid time off to complete this training would further demonstrate your dedication to your providers and virtual care. Yes, telehealth will never fully replace in-person care. But when your clinicians have the proper telehealth training, it can closely imitate actual visits with productive, cost-effective care — and become a sustainable, long-term diagnosis and treatment option.

Learn how to provide standardized telehealth training for clinicians from Lippincott TelemedInsights, enabling teams to stay updated on the latest regulations, technologies, and best practices in virtual patient care.

Learn About Lippincott TelemedInsights
Back To Top