The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that people will always find ways to adapt to meet their needs. The same can be said for patients seeking healthcare, as evidenced by the 4,347% increase in telehealth insurance claims nationally. In March 2019, telehealth insurance claims comprised 0.17% of medical claims compared to March 2020 totals of 7.52%. Clearly, as patients become more comfortable with telehealth for non-emergent health matters, providers are beginning to plan for continued telehealth services for life beyond the pandemic.
A recent article in Forbes magazine cited research that stated 59% of consumers reported that they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously. Plus, a surprising 33% indicated that they would be willing to leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access.
Some states are currently working on legislation that would make the temporary payment increases for telehealth services permanent and CMS administrator Seema Verma recently discussed extending the pay rates.
With so many consumers willingly adopting new technologies, healthcare providers should be considering telehealth experience when recruiting physicians to fill vacancies. Telehealth has proven to be a benefit for patients during the pandemic allowing them to receive care without the need for travel. Any time you can remove a barrier to accessing healthcare it is a benefit to physicians and patients. Let’s look at the characteristics of a physician that is well-suited to be successful in providing telehealth services.
- Recruit tech-savvy physicians. For anyone working throughout the pandemic via telecommuting, technical skills are critical. From troubleshooting video-conference call snafus to resetting your home router or Wi-Fi adapter, for many of us, the transition has been a challenge. Now, consider those issues if you were trying to consult with a patient about a medical matter. The only way to engender confidence and a feeling of assurance is to have a physician who can seamlessly handle the technical aspects of a telehealth consultation. Doctors do not need a minor in computer science to accompany their medical degree but having a comfort level with evolving telehealth services is crucial for their success.
- Look for physicians with outstanding communication skills. Technical skills are important, but the most critical aspect of a successful telehealth physician is the ability to communicate effectively with the patient. Screen for physicians who demonstrate superior listening skills. The telehealth provider must glean as much information from the patient as possible, without having the ability to perform a physical exam. Listening skills and an ability to ask appropriate questions are critical to a successful virtual visit.
- Don’t overlook the importance of being organized and thorough. Back in the days of the written prescription pad, many jokes were made about the quality of a physician’s handwriting. In the emerging world of telehealth, the ability to compose documentation is even more critical than in a typical outpatient situation but it’s done electronically. Telehealth physicians have to be able to articulate, almost verbatim, what the patient is saying. This requires an ability to construct clear and concise notes of the patient visit, as the documentation serves as a diagnostic tool and an audit trail. This is even more critical if the physician is working remotely and is away from the traditional doctor’s office. With no day-to-day administrative support, the physician will need to be able to handle some extra responsibilities.
- Experience matters.When recruiting a physician that is going to be providing telehealth services, the type of post-residency background he or she has will make a difference. A physician conducting telehealth visits will not have an abundance of resources at his or her disposal, and a physician who has had extensive experience may have a better understanding of what it takes to perform with limited resources. The physician must be comfortable making a diagnosis without the support of a team. Experience in a variety of settings can be an important consideration when recruiting your next physician.
It is safe to assume that life after the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be permanently altered. Healthcare administrators are quickly learning to adapt to the new normal, including adjusting their physician recruitment strategies and planning for the continued evolution of telehealth technologies and services.
If you need a strategic recruitment partner to help you navigate the post-pandemic healthcare world, Jackson Physician Search is ready to help every step of the way. Contact our experienced recruitment professionals today to learn more about how we can make a difference.