How a remote and virtual workforce model can benefit your practice and patients

New technology can make a remote workforce a pleasing reality.

As technology integrates itself into more and more of our daily lives, it was only a matter of time before healthcare leaders joined the conversation.

Sooner or later, every medical practice and hospital will need to evolve and implement the growing list of game-changing digital conveniences. Bold decision-makers, early adopters, and their patients will benefit most and see the greatest return on their investments.

Statistics show, though, that many practices are receding back to the “old-fashioned,” pre-Covid ways of treating patients – with most patients coming into offices to be seen in person. Granted, telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions are becoming more popular, but adoption has been much slower than industry insiders expected.

To compound the challenge of delivering patient care, the healthcare workforce is stretched thin, and burnout is devouring overburdened staff members. The unfortunate result is often a lower quality of care and a less-than-ideal care experience for all.

Things need to change

Today, medical practices need to think about ways to incorporate hybrid work models that resemble methods used in other industries. Thanks to innovative technology, there are more opportunities for providers and staff to work remotely — this a win-win for practices and patients.

This technology also lessens the workload for team members at the office who have seen double and triple the amount of tasks piling up due to staffing shortages. As a bonus, many of these game-changing solutions can be implemented fairly quickly.

For example, many existing front-desk assignments can be performed remotely:

  • Check in patients for in-office visits. Today’s technology allows patients to mark themselves as “arrived,” allowing staff to simply review that all check-in tasks are completed and payment is collected. If there are missing tasks, push notifications can instantly be sent to the patient’s phone. When the patient has everything complete, a staff member only needs to click a button to invite them into the practice for their appointment. It’s that simple.
  • Check in patients for telehealth appointments. It’s quick and easy to remotely make sure all check-in tasks are completed and copays are collected.
  • Convert appointments to telehealth calls. This has been huge for providers who are quarantining or working from home.
  • Prep appointments for tomorrow. Push reminders to patients that still haven’t completed their pre-check-in tasks.
  • Message with patients. Patients crave communication, especially when they have questions. This is one of the best and most impactful ways to improve patient engagement.
  • Review online scheduled appointments. This improves efficiency.

If each of the tasks above is handled by a staff member working remotely, in-office staff will have more time to focus on their priority of delivering exceptional patient care.

Technology also exists that allows medical assistants to perform many tasks remotely, as well. For example, staff can:

  • Review and complete forms and procedures. This includes patient health history forms, medications and allergies lists, and screening questionnaires.
  • Send messages. Contact patients and clarify if any information is unclear.
  • Include notes for providers. This is crucial if something requires a physician’s review.

Fortunately, several remote and hybrid opportunities for physicians and providers exist.
These include:

  • Prioritize the availability of telehealth calls. Patients who can be seen remotely are converted to telehealth calls, and all data needed for the encounter is collected ahead of time, including screeners, HPI, and ROS.
  • Monitor patients. Providers can review vitals from patients enrolled in a remote patient monitoring program, communicate via secure messaging, adjust medication when needed, and set up telehealth calls.
  • Answer patient questions. Improve lines of communication and message with patients, providers, and staff.

Preparing for success

As mentioned, technology is an important driver of the ability to incorporate remote and hybrid staffing models for a medical practice. For offices considering investing in these capabilities, it’s important to have an initial checklist prepared to help ensure that all needs will be met. These items may include:

  • Ability for patient arrival and initial check-in
  • Digital check-in for all required tasks
  • Telehealth availability
  • Secure messaging
  • Remote patient monitoring with alert functionality
  • Device ordering and management system
  • Post-procedural care management
  • Of course, EHR integration is also of utmost importance. All data should seamlessly and automatically transfer into the existing practice EHR.

Investing in a stronger future

It’s worth repeating. As physicians, we need to rethink how we deliver care. Our practice and providers deserve it. Our teams are depending on it. And our patients are craving it.

Monica Bolbjerg, MD is a physician, entrepreneur, and digital health pioneer. She is the founder of Qure4u and has been a speaker at several health innovation think tank forums.