Many hospitals are challenged with supporting their patient capacity with staff physicians. Physician staffing shortages and overall physician retention contribute to this problem. However, by using outsourced telemedicine to help fill in the gaps, hospitals can reduce physician burnout, improve physician retention and increase their ability to attract new physicians.
As President and Chief Operating Officer of Eagle Telemedicine, I’ve seen this staffing problem impact rural hospitals the most, where recruiting physicians can be challenging. These hospitals, especially when trying to provide critical night coverage, can place an undue burden on staff physicians who after working a full day shift, can find themselves overworked if also on-call during the night shift. However, these rural hospitals risk revenue loss if patients must be transferred to other facilities overnight, if care is not available.
Telemedicine services help solve this problem for rural providers by covering the critical care gaps. Staff physicians can have a better work-life balance and hospitals can provide increased access to care and keep patients closer to home. Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you’re thinking of offering telemedicine options at your hospital:
A Physician’s Webside Manner Matters
When a patient visits the hospital or emergency room, they are likely worried, in pain or ill.
Having a physician that attends to them on screen, versus in person, is not what your patients are expecting. For telemedicine physicians, it’s important to recognize this and set expectations.
By working immediately to build rapport and empathy, skilled telemedicine providers can go beyond a great bedside manner to deliver an engaging “webside” manner. In many cases, they can even create a patient experience where the screen just “melts” away, delivering care like they are truly in the room.
Physicians with a superior webside manner are experts at showing their presence during the patient visit. They use clear language, eye contact, attentive facial expressions and body language. When patients feel the physician is 100 percent focused on their needs and care, the telemedicine experience can be just as effective as on-site care.
Get Your Nurses and Technology Synched Up
The physician-nurse interaction is also a vital component of effective telemedicine delivery. In many cases, the nurse becomes the conduit for important senses not available to the telemedicine physician, such as smell.
Nurses can also provide valuable reassurance for patients in-person and can help properly set the stage for effective web communications and care delivery, based on the virtual physician’s instructions.
One final component that adds additional value to virtual physician care is using technology to further share and explain a diagnosis or condition. During the telemedicine session, it’s easy for a telehospitalist physician to show the patient additional information on the screen, such as X-ray images or lab results. Using technology can make the telemedicine experience more interactive and informative for the patient. It can further support compliance to care recommendations and improve outcomes.
Why Telemedicine Is an Attractive Option For Physicians
When recruiting physicians, we find that offering opportunities for flexibility and the ability to control their practice is attractive. It goes back to the desire for work-life balance. With telemedicine, physicians can work as much or as little as they want, which offers an opportunity for physicians at every stage of their career.
We attract physicians that are augmenting their practices, those that want part-time opportunities or physicians that are beginning to ease into retirement. In each case, we often find that physicians have a personal connection to the telemedicine opportunity and appreciate the flexible environment it provides to support them, as they deliver care.
This article, written by Jason Povio, President and Chief Operating Officer for Eagle Telemedicine, was first published in Healthcare Contact Center Times.