Telehealth Training to Improve Quality of Care
The use of telehealth rapidly increased due to COVID-19 precautions, and it’s becoming an essential form of care delivery. However, this rapid increase comes with concerns—and one of the top concerns recently cited by providers is the possibility of diminished quality of care. While telehealth delivers patient care safely and conveniently, it creates more barriers to effective communication. There’s a need for telehealth training for providers in order to build specific skills needed to improve telehealth outcomes.
The Rise of Telehealth
Telehealth has been slow to grow in the U.S., but after policy and reimbursement changes due to COVID-19, practices across the country have adopted telemedicine at a rapid rate: four out of five U.S. physicians have conducted virtual patient consults amid the pandemic. This use of real-time, audio-video communication has transformed healthcare offices. Over half (53%) of patient consultations from providers who have adopted telehealth have shifted to remote visits.
Telehealth comes with many advantages, with safety being the driver of recent widespread adoption. But it also can provide greater access to patients—particularly patients with disabilities or transportation challenges—while improving efficiencies: doctors can increase the number of patient consultations they perform by as much as 800% by offering virtual care.
Reduced risk of infection. Greater access. Improved efficiency. This all sounds wonderful, but at what cost? Does patient care diminish with the lack of face-to-face interaction?
How Does Telehealth Affect Quality of Care?
Among the providers who have opted not to offer virtual consultations, the top reason cited was the possibility of diminished quality of care. This concern is also shared among healthcare professionals who do conduct virtual visits, as 58% of all surveyed physicians in the U.S. have lingering reservations about the quality of care they can provide remotely.
A nurse interviewed in this telehealth study addressed a common concern surrounding interpersonal communication:
“Telehealth, no matter how real, it is a virtual environment. So you do not have the person to person interaction, you cannot feel how much the person is understanding what you want to say, if they are finding it valid or not.” – Nurse
The concern surrounding interpersonal communication is valid, and telehealth communication skills need to be a focus (we’ll get to that later).
However, it should also be noted that a growing body of evidence shows that patients actually prefer remote visits. For example, in a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine:
- 94% of telehealth patients reported being very satisfied with the treatment plan and educational materials they received.
- Over half rated telehealth visits as “just as good as a traditional visit”.
- One-third of patients who received remote care prefer this method of treatment.
- 95% of patients appreciated the convenience of the service.
- Nearly all telehealth patients reported that they would use telehealth again personally and would recommend telehealth to someone else.
It’s clear that telehealth has a lot of benefits, and that it is here to stay. It’s not perfect, and one of the biggest barriers to overcome is the loss of face-to-face communication.
Telehealth Communication Skills: A Critical Component to Effective Remote Appointments
Effective interpersonal communication plays a huge role in healthcare. Numerous studies have linked interpersonal communication in healthcare to improved patient outcomes, including:
- Higher patient satisfaction
- Improved adherence to treatments
- Reduction in psychological effects (depression/anxiety)
- Increased patient confidence or self-efficacy
- Symptom reduction
- Improved quality of life
- Increased survival rates
Thanks to video-conferencing technology, some forms of non-verbal communication can still be portrayed in telehealth visits to express empathy and portray confidence. It just takes some intention and practice from providers to include these skills when having conversations with patients remotely. A few tips are offered below.
Tips for expressing empathy in a telehealth visit:
- Make eye contact with the patient through the camera.
- Say out loud how you believe the patient is feeling, what they are going through, etc. (ex: “I can imagine how uncertain you must be feeling right now.”)
- Give the patient space to speak and give them your full attention.
- When listening, pay attention to both facts and emotions.
- Be mindful of your tone of voice and body language.
These are skills that providers may already have (especially if they’ve used one of Kognito’s interactive trainings), but putting these skills into practice in a remote environment takes practice.
Additionally, there are some considerations specifically for telehealth visits—such as setting the appropriate camera angle—that can effect patient-provider remote conversations. That’s where telehealth training for providers, telehealth training for nurses, and telehealth training for social workers can make a significant impact.
New Telehealth Training for Providers, Nurses, and Social Workers
Now that more providers are getting up to speed on issues like reimbursement, technology, and equipment, there remains a need for solutions to improve the quality of these telehealth visits. Kognito’s new telehealth simulations answer the need for training that builds communication skills specifically for synchronous visits.
Kognito’s telehealth simulations walk users through best practices for good “screenside manner.” Users then have the opportunity to practice using evidence-based techniques like motivational interviewing and patient-centered communication through role-play conversations with virtual patients. A “Telehealth Checklist for Success” is included to emphasize the new skills needed to successfully provide patient care remotely.
Telehealth scenarios are available in the following behavioral health products:
Ready to enhance your practice through evidence-based communication skills and remote care best practices? Learn more about Kognito’s new telehealth offerings here.