It’s Patient Safety Awareness Week, a time to take stock of the measures the healthcare industry has put in place to ensure patient well-being and to improve health outcomes. While articles, webinars, and podcasts typically focus on raising awareness of patient safety in a clinical or hospital setting, it’s just as important to share patient safety best practices for the growing number of medical professionals embracing telehealth.
1. Prioritize Data Privacy
A 2022 an American Medical Association (AMA) survey found nearly 85% of physicians deliver care using telehealth. This widespread adoption of telehealth services is having a profound impact on expanding access to healthcare but also brings new considerations for protecting sensitive patient data.
The rise of telehealth is a boon for cybercriminals, who have compromised an estimated 29 million records a year since 2020. Healthcare professionals who engage with patients via telehealth will want to ensure systems are secure. This includes prioritizing HIPPA-compliant technology platforms, employing data encryption, and educating patients on phishing scams that might involve hackers impersonating medical professionals in order to access credit cards, medical records, and Social Security information.1
Teaching individuals to identify possible phishing emails is one example of the ways in which healthcare professionals can provide guidance on telehealth best practices, keeping in mind that certain populations might require more guidance than others.
2. Provide Guidance on Telehealth Appointment Best Practices
Elderly populations with limited mobility often find telehealth appointments especially convenient. Unfortunately, this patient population might be unfamiliar with videoconferencing technology. Prior to a scheduled appointment, healthcare professionals can send an email that provides access to a videoconferencing tutorial. Knowing how to turn and angle the webcam, speak into the microphone, and access closed captioning features can help individuals get the most from their telehealth experience.
This positive experience can also encourage individuals to continue engaging with their care and see the benefits of connecting virtually. More often than not, elderly people miss appointments due to not having transportation or not being able to keep up with a schedule. Having them understand and use virtual care methods can result in less missed visits, quick access to healthcare professionals between office visits, and ultimately better adherence to their care plan.
3. Assess an Individual’s Environment and Lifestyle
Recent estimates attribute 40-50% of a person’s overall health to behavior and 20% to their social and physical environment. Unfortunately, these social and environment factors are oftentimes overlooked during in-person doctor visits due to time constraints. Or, if discussed, individuals do not feel comfortable enough to disclose personal, but health-related, information. Meeting individuals where they are physically, most likely in their own home, can contribute to a more emotionally open relationship. In a virtual care setting, people might be more willing to share details about their routine or include care partners during a telehealth session than they would be during an appointment at a healthcare facility.
Patient Safety for Outstanding Outcomes
This Patient Safety Awareness Week, it is important to acknowledge that telehealth brings unique benefits, opportunities and concerns that healthcare professionals must consider in order to provide safe and effective care. Professionals that prioritize data security, guide individuals on telehealth appointment best practices, and leverage telehealth’s ability to reveal a more complete view of patient health are well-equipped to deliver the highest standard of care and continue improving overall health outcomes.
Patient Safety is a Priority at Cecelia Health
As pioneers in human-led virtual care since 2009, we understand the importance of virtual patient safety. It’s essential that we keep personal health data safe and protected, so we operate with the highest security and compliance standards. Cecelia Health is proud to hold both SOC 2 and HITRUST certifications.
We’re committed to making sure our clinicians—and the individuals they support—feel prepared for virtual visits and are always improving our standards of care. Beyond that, our clinicians are trained in active listening and motivational interviewing techniques to help put individuals more at ease with peace of mind about sharing personal information related to navigating their health management. Some unique ways we do this include:
- Ongoing training of clinical staff on latest platform updates and teletools
- Auditing clinician-participant calls for quality purposes
- Sending participants an email that outlines what to expect with the virtual support program before the first call
- Allowing multiple secured channels for engagement, including chat, email and phone calls as well as text messages
- Sharing tips with participants on how to make the best use of time with their doctor in a virtual setting
- Providing community support and other resources for those individuals who have social determinants of health (SDOH) concerns surface through telehealth engagement
- Building trusted clinician-participant relationships which open the conversation to uncover and address barriers to care
- Supporting participants with one-on-one guidance to make gradual changes that lead to lasting behavior change based on their unique preferences and motivations
To learn more about behavior change through clinician-led support, read our latest white paper.
1 ThriveDX, “Cybersecurity In Healthcare 2022: Privacy Risks Of Telehealth” October 4, 2022