How to keep patients interested in virtual care post-pandemic

By: Dr. Richard Tytus

When the COVID-19 global pandemic began to surge, healthcare professionals and patients alike found themselves in a predicament. Patients, who needed non-COVID-19-related treatment, were often unable to easily see their family doctor in-person. Some of these doctors, meanwhile, had to either rev-up their virtual medicine services, or implement one on the fly.

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, virtual medicine solutions were readily available for medical clinics to use. Unfortunately, for a multitude of reasons, not all clinics were ready to adapt. However, once the pandemic forced doctors and patients to adjust how they regularly visit with one another, the usage of virtual medicine solutions rose incredibly.

Personally, I conduct virtual appointments with many of my patients on a regular basis. I find it to be a safe, easy and stress-free way to ensure my patients’ health is being properly monitored during a time in which some individuals are hesitant about visiting a brick-and-mortar medical facility.

Even when COVID-19 subsides, I will continue to offer my patients virtual appointments. I trust this technology, and believe it’ll positively evolve over time. The trick for doctors with the same mindset as myself is to find ways to keep patients interested in virtual care post-pandemic.

According to findings from Medical Economics, 83 per cent of patients plan to still use virtual medicine services once the pandemic concludes. While this statistic is encouraging, healthcare practitioners will have to work hard to keep that percentage high for years to come.

To accomplish this, I recommend that doctors and medical clinic staff do the following:


Choose the best virtual medicine solution

There are plenty of virtual medicine solutions available to those in the healthcare industry, which tells us the demand for such technology remains high.

While each virtual medicine solution is different in its own way, what a clinic needs to do is find one that best represents its needs, as well as those of its patients. Is it easy for the clinic to manage? Perhaps more importantly, is it easy for patients to navigate and understand?

Beyond ease of use, security is key. Doctors and patients want to know that any information disclosed during a virtual appointment remains private, and inaccessible to third-parties. Thus, I recommend a solution that is both HIPAA/PHIPA compliant, and features end-to-end encryption.


Embrace future virtual medicine innovations

As noted earlier, I expect virtual medicine solutions to continually evolve in a positive direction. However, improvements and advancements made in the virtual medicine space will not just fall into your lap – you have to keep an eye out for them.

By following closely, you will discover new service options or solution providers that could add a whole new dimension to your practice’s virtual care prowess. If you don’t follow along, you could find yourself continually embracing outdated technology that’ll eventually frustrate clinical staff and patients alike.

If you expect those you work with and treat to remain interested in using a virtual medicine solution, you have to stay in-touch with the current trends.


Always keep your clinical team up to speed

As such innovations emerge and become part of a clinic’s way of handling virtual appointments, it is important that everyone on the staff be flexible. The faster a doctor and their team can adapt to new technology that’s introduced, the better the experience patients will receive.

If patients always have access to the latest and greatest virtual medicine services and solutions available to them, the more encouraged they will be to participate in video calls with doctors.


Focus on expanding your reach 

One of the best ways to see that virtual medicine services remain top-of-mind for patients is to broadly market them at clinics. This can be done using in-house posters and brochures, as well as through a clinic’s website, email list and social media accounts.

Additionally, it never hurts for the doctor or clinical staff to discuss the overwhelming benefits of virtual medicine when seeing a patient in-person. Sometimes, a quick, yet informative conversation can motivate an individual to adjust their medical appointment routine.


Final Thoughts

Virtual medicine plays a vital role in our lives today, but in order for it to remain that way, medical clinics need to do their part. By clinics constantly embracing and promoting this evolving technology, patients will always have the option of seeing their doctor virtually.

While COVID-19 may have brought virtual medicine into a much brighter spotlight, it is the responsibility of healthcare professionals to keep it there.

Richard H. Tytus, BSc.Phm, MD, CCFP, FCFP is an Associate Clinical Professor, McMaster University, District 4 OMA Chair, Past Board Director, OMA & CMA and Co-Founder of Telemedicine Solution, Banty Inc.