Telehealth now permanent. Are you ready?
The Australian Government has just allocated $106 million to make telehealth a permanent reality in the primary healthcare system. So how ready is your practice to embrace the change? It means an irreversible shift for you as a doctor, and we thought today was a good time to speak with one of Australia’s key players in telehealth: Dr Silvia Pfeiffer.
Telehealth now permanent. Are you ready?
December 13, 2021
Dr Pfeiffer: Happy that telehealth is here to stay
coviu telehealth CEO
Coviu is the Australian Government’s chosen partner to provide a reliable telehealth platform for GPs, specialists and allied health. While the focus is on the funding and Medicare numbers, we thought the time was right to look at the shift this has initiated, a profound reform of the way doctors and patients interact.
Whatever your position so far on the topic of seeing patients on a small or larger screen, it’s worth listening to Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, CEO and co-founder of Coviu, rapidly becoming the reference in telehealth software solutions.
As Dr Pfeiffer explains, Coviu’s story has been more than just luck and good timing. The platform offers security, connection with the Australian Medicare system, payment options, a waiting room and integrated solutions for wound care programs.
How ready is your practice for telehealth?
While we’re discussing this shift, let’s do a quick self-assessment of your practice. Being more digitally savvy will be a non-negotiable for anyone involved in running or managing a private healthcare practice.
The Telehealth Top 5 Checklist I can see would be this one:
- Can patients book online?: With telehealth now becoming part of our DNA as a society, allowing your patient to make a booking through your website is almost a no-brainer. Even if a referral is needed, you can offer your patients so much more convenience if they have an alternative to booking online.
- Can patients find you? It’s all good and well to sit there waiting for telehealth consultations, if you’re not showing up when patients search, not much will happen. Now is also the time to double or triple your online visibility and to get familiar with data-driven content marketing to grow your online patient acquisition, as well as techniques to improve your Google ranking. Make sure that you add keywords around telehealth to your website, and connect those telehealth keywords with your specialty. For example: Telehealth antenatal consultations in Brisbane.
- Is your hardware up to standards? The requirements we all have to keep our business running have changed overnight with the pandemic. If your IT system can not cope with your new demands to include telehealth, or a variety of other video-driven services, it’s time to have a serious conversation with your IT provider.
- Do you master your video basics? Does the team know how to use webcams and USB-headsets? Mastering your essential video skills really makes a difference, both for telehealth and for Zoom meetings with peers, or DIY videos to illustrate topics on your website. Now is the time to crank up those digital skills so your practice is in tune with the patient’s expectations. They include understanding the basics of light and acoustics and positioning your webcam so the patient gets an acceptable visual experience.
- Are you using the fastest internet connection available? Your location will define what your options are, but if you are in an urban area you should check your overall internet speed and the options you have to improve your situation. Choppy Zoom meetings may have put you off when this big transition started, but going forward there are many good reasons why as a doctor you shouldn’t hate Zoom or any other video call platform for that matter.
Ideally, you can go over the checklist as the Doctor-Owner with your Practice Manager and ideally you would both be well aware of the Top 5. The resistance to technology is slowly fading out as we have all been through a few forced learning curves and exercises in flexibility over the last two years. So who knows, you might be having a small celebratory moment there, finding that you tick all the boxes of our digital savviness checklist.
Will telehealth work well with my booking system?
coviu telehealth integration
The Coviu telehealth platform offers plenty of resources on integration with your practice management and booking systems.
If you are operating in Australia, booking systems such as HealthEngine work seamlessly with the Coviu telehealth system. It means that your patient gets a smooth experience, from booking the consultation all the way through to entering your virtual waiting room, before their one-on-one time with you starts in the secure Coviu environment.
Quite often, making systems work together can be a bit daunting, and it’s good to scan the current market for what is already working. In this case, HealthEngine and Coviu have done their homework together and you should be good to go with an integrated solution.
The risks of using other tools for telehealth
The plumber’s solution often works in life but is not recommended in healthcare. The risks of using insecure tools have been highlighted well in mainstream media. In your private practice, they can take a nasty turn if a data breach occurs.
The small print and user agreements of mainstream tools such as WhatsApp, Skype or FaceTime are not designed for healthcare. There are no paragraphs on how a data breach in the medical realm will be handled. There are also no mechanisms in place to include compliant patient consent procedures at the start of a consultation. Fair enough, these tools were designed to show our new bike to a friend, the new couch to a cousin, or the new baby to the rest of the family.
Moreover, some of these platforms explicitly tell you that they will occasionally share some of the data you provide as part of the user agreement, to third parties. With patient information, that is never a good idea.
The need for dedicated telehealth platforms has been very real in the last two years: A secure waiting room system, built-in payment gateways, built-in features to communicate with the Government’s medical systems, or things like bringing in a translator for the consultation within minutes.
In Australia: Free for general practitioners
free coviu telehealth account
General practitioners under the Australian Healthdirect umbrella already have free access to Coviu Telehealth since before the pandemic. In origin, the first trials involved drought-affected communities, offering mental health support from their family practitioner via Coviu Telehealth technology, provided they had been to that practice at least once before.
The rest is history. We know that Coviu became a household brand for the entire healthcare industry in Australia in 2020 and with the announcement of permanent telehealth arrangements has paved the way for an entirely new view on medical consultations.
Starting the journey?
Are you about to transform your practice? Are you starting out in private practice? Book a free consultation to discuss the digital setup for your practice. You can take a look at Coviu’s website for all things telehealth, or book a consultation with us to define a general digital strategy that includes brand positioning, online visibility and lead generation.