Building a Bridge between Telehealth and Primary Care
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of telehealth for minor medical concerns. For a hacking cough that begins on a Sunday or a minor burn at the stovetop on a weeknight, virtual care is a quick, cost-effective and high-quality option for medical treatment.
While it’s not meant to replace primary care, telehealth is a wonderfully convenient option on nights and weekends when doctors’ offices are closed. But how do patients make sure their telehealth visit records are shared with their regular doctor? What if a follow-up visit with a primary doctor is needed?
Today, the majority of telehealth companies offer some type of solution for bridging virtual and primary care. The best telehealth providers take it step further with cutting-edge, adaptable technology that provides seamless reporting to primary care providers and ensures continuity of care for patients.
How do you know if your telehealth provider fits the bill? Start by considering these four factors:
- 1. Built-in solutions: For employers and groups, a telehealth solution should integrate patient reporting right into the electronic health record (EHR). In this way, the primary care doc will be alerted to the telehealth visit and will be able to view the patient’s symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up instructions right in the medical record.
- 2. Customization: Integrating with the EHR is easier said than done, as no two EHR programs are the same and there is no “off the shelf” option for integration. However, a provider with the tech know-how – not to mention a hands-on approach to client service – will customize a solution to meet the needs of any group.
- 3. Visit records: Not every telehealth visit comes through an employer group. When individuals or private-pay patients seek virtual care, how do they share visit records with their primary care physicians? A high-quality telehealth platform will enable patients to print and save a PDF summary of their visit – quickly and easily – to share with their regular doctor.
- 4. Doctor’s orders: In cases of sinusitis, bronchitis and the like, patients may not feel completely better for a week or more – even if they’re on an antibiotic. If they don’t understand that this is normal, they may go back to the doctor or urgent care, incurring unnecessary medical expenses. With a good telehealth company, providers will counsel patients on how to follow the care plan, evaluate whether they’re getting better (even if the improvement feels slow), and determine when follow-up care may be needed.
In the majority of cases, a diagnosis is made, treatment is advised, and the patient gets better. However, for elderly or medically complex patients, the path to wellness may not be so straightforward. In such situations, a good virtual care provider will take extra precautions to ensure the patient knows if and when to visit their regular doctor.