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Using Telehealth in Your Practice
As we continue to face unprecedented conditions and guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that physicians and surgeons find ways to continue engagement with their patients. Kidney patients, in particular, are among the most medically complex and at-risk patient populations, meaning continuity of care and finding solutions for care during this time of social distancing can be very important—especially as hospitals turn their focus to treating the sickest of the sick.
Since social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders have been put in place, many physicians have turned to digital options to help stay connected with their patients, such as telehealth platforms.
Telehealth can provide a direct connection to ensure your chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end stage kidney disease (ESKD) patients are keeping up with their health management, answer any questions they may have and offer guidance on what to consider in light of the current pandemic. For surgeons, telehealth offers a solution to pre-op and post-op visits, and for nephrologists, telehealth platforms are available to facilitate CKD follow-up visits, lab reviews and home dialysis care. It can also significantly reduce the number of patients in your office, which can help keep patients, your staff and yourself healthy.
If you are implementing telehealth in your practice, keep in mind that both your staff and patients will likely need information on how to use the technology. For your staff, you may want to schedule training sessions and identify individuals on your team who can continue training others on your practice. For patients, you will want to connect with them to make sure they have the needed technology to participate in a telehealth visit and make sure they are aware of the following:
- Directions for downloading and installing any necessary desktop or smartphone apps
- Information concerning privacy and personal health information, including any forms that may require signatures prior to the appointment and recommendations on maintaining privacy during a visit
- Guidance on how to connect to the platform, including whether they will encounter a waiting room or will need to input a password
You may also find that some benefits of telehealth persist even once social distancing measures have been reduced or lifted. While physicians have been slow in adopting virtual practices, patients want this connected dimension to care and the current COVID pandemic will create expectations for the future. According to American Well 2019 survey of physicians who use telehealth in their practices, many physicians found that telehealth enhances their ability to provide care.
- 93% said it improves patients’ access to care
- 77% said it contributes to a more efficient use of time for doctor and patient
- 71% said it helps reduce health care costs
- 60% said it enhances the doctor-patient relationship
Right now is an important time for physicians to discover more ways to engage with their patients while keeping health and safety at top of mind. Telehealth offers an opportunity for nephrologists to see their patients and deliver the critical and lifesaving care that your patients need to help them stay healthy and avoid hospitalizations. Although some effort may be needed initially in training your staff and patients on how to use the selected telehealth platform, you will likely see that the advantages of providing care in this manner are well worth the initial investments. In fact, you may decide to continue using telehealth long after the social distancing guidance is lifted and make it a regular offering in your practice.
To learn more about CMS’s stance on telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, please review their fact sheet. To find resources and information for kidney patients on protecting their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the DaVita COVID-19 information page.