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Primary Care

Implementing Telehealth in Primary Care

While home-based healthcare has been around for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly progressed the use of telemedicine in primary care. In an effort to cut down on in-person visits, primary care physicians’ offices are transitioning to patient support through telephone- and video-based care. Are you ready to integrate telemedicine into your primary care practice?

Telemedicine’s convenience, low cost and low-risk factors offer revolutionizing possibilities for primary care practices to deliver patients better care than ever before. However, it also brings a new set of challenges for today’s doctors that must learn to adapt to new technologies and treatment methods. Effectively implementing telehealth in primary care requires a balanced and thoughtful approach.

Telehealth Modalities

Synchronous: Synchronous telehealth modalities allow primary care providers to deliver remote healthcare over real-time telephone or live audio-video interaction, typically using a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Asynchronous: Asynchronous telemedicine, also known as “store and forward,” ensures that information from a patient (digital images, video, audio and data) is collected, stored and sent electronically to a clinician for feedback at a later time. The provider and patient can communicate through patient portal messaging.

Remote Patient Monitoring: Remote patient monitoring uses a smart device to transmit a patient’s clinical measurements from a distance to their healthcare provider. The device may record abnormalities, such as cardiac palpitations.

Application of Telehealth in Primary Care

Get Comfortable with Using Technology

Telemedicine requires the use of several different technologies, from video conferencing platforms to remote monitoring devices. It’s important that your whole team is comfortable using telemedicine technologies to assist patients, especially if your practice lacks information technology resources. Ensure that your clinicians are prepared to start and join meetings and use online patient portals for communication.

Prioritize Patient Relationships

Telemedicine has the potential to enhance the level of individualized care and communication between doctors and patients. It can also help patients become more involved in their healthcare plan through improved accessibility. However, establishing patient rapport can be an obstacle for primary care providers.

Developing a strong ongoing doctor-patient relationship is more difficult to achieve virtually than face-to-face. This new way of interacting with a healthcare provider may be awkward or uncomfortable for many at first. “Webside manner” is a new concept for physicians in primary care telehealth. Physicians need to be even more conscious of professionalism, empathy, eye contact and listening skills when interacting with patients over the phone or video.

Address Virtual Healthcare Barriers

Primary care telehealth visits present new communication barriers that providers must be prepared to approach sensitively and effectively. Providers must address issues like privacy, diagnostic measures, liability and concerns of security of information and confidentiality.