Stress is a pervasive feeling in healthcare, and not just for patients. For physical therapists and other specialties within the healthcare spectrum, worry and uncertainty are an inextricable — and constant — part of the job, especially in these challenging times. From the emotional exhaustion of helping patients amid the backdrop of a global pandemic to the constant finagling with insurers, there's no end to the ways in which tension can make a difficult job even harder.
The good news is that, although certain stressful aspects of a health career track may be unavoidable, others are easy enough to curb. The right communication tools in healthcare can ease workloads, automate capabilities, and bridge distances, creating a better experience for patients and less unease for physical therapists and other healthcare professionals.
The Ease of Implementing Telemedicine Technology
By now, you've undoubtedly heard of telemedicine's immense potential in various healthcare settings. It’s proven to be critical in the management and assessment of COVID-19 cases. What you may not have heard about, however, is the ease with which this technology can be deployed. If you're like most overtaxed providers, this is good news. If a system doesn't work, it probably isn't going to be a very popular addition.
While telemedicine tools themselves are bound by HIPAA cloud compliance regulations — meaning providers should only use purpose-built communication tools in healthcare — the technical requirements are quite basic. If providers have a spare room and a computer with a quality microphone and webcam, they're all set to offer a telehealth service. Likewise, they can provide care to remote patients if they know how to place a video call.
Obviously, certain facets of physical therapy don't lend themselves to this type of medical attention. For example, anything requiring manual intervention is better suited to an in-person visit. Even then, there are unlimited benefits to a proper telemedicine setup, such as:
- Remote follow-ups. Instead of scheduling in-person visits for progress checks and simple questions, a therapist can engage with patients over a video call.
- Reduced workloads. Fewer patients in-house means a lighter patient load, all without impacting revenues.
- Shorter waits. For offices with long waitlists, a logical separation of services could reduce the time both in-person and call-in visitors must wait to receive care.
- A brighter future: Physical therapists and other rehab therapists currently excluded from Medicare telehealth billing may soon be able to do just that. This is especially intriguing with recent rule changes regarding telehealth and hip/joint replacement, two surgeries that generally require physical therapy afterwards.
Managing Administrative Functions With Communication Tools in Healthcare
Other common stressors in physical therapy come not from workloads or patients, but the tools that help administrate their visits. While there will always be a space for receptionists and schedulers, communication tools that automate certain tasks are a huge help — and a huge source of stress relief for the medical professionals running the show.
You don't need to be a computer expert to use the powerful features these solutions offer. A virtual receptionist, for example, offers a smart, effective way to reroute calls to the correct line or department, reducing the amount of busywork front-end staff must manage. Instead of placing —and paying — a human to ward off all the calls, a digital system takes button presses or spoken-word commands. Besides reducing workloads and automating critical previsit functions, this provides a better experience for callers themselves, many of whom would prefer self-service to waiting for a human to help them.
These systems are powerful, but they don't require much technical knowledge to set up. In most cases, you can build your receptionist's layout from a cloud-based portal, accessible anywhere you have a computer and an internet connection. This makes on-the-fly changes far faster than the old days, when redoing an interactive voice response system might have required significant contact with third-party vendors.
For larger offices with more complex personnel structures, tools can facilitate faster call routing and thus create a less stressful environment. Some systems enable professionals to call anyone within the organization without fumbling through their contact list or remembering individual extension numbers — a huge benefit in practice, considering the complexity even midsized organizations must deal with.
Stopping No-Shows and Latecomers
No-shows and latecomers may be the single biggest source of administrative stress in physical therapy, especially as weary patients opt to stay at home and isolate during the global pandemic. A missed visit means lost revenue and a lost chance to help another patient in need of physical therapy care. Here, customer notification tools can mean the difference between a fruitful visit and a wasted hour. Once built into your scheduling system, a communications application programming interface can automatically text an appointment reminder to the can-be-reached number on file, ensuring that patients always have a quick way to remind themselves of their appointment time.
Patients can use the same tools to confirm and even reschedule the appointments via text, further cutting back on missed appointments and late arrivals. In busy offices, a relatively simple change like this can significantly improve response, reduce manual error, and lessen workload for human assets, who can then be assigned to more appropriate tasks. Since appointment times and visit purposes can be considered electronic protected health information, the tools can also be configured in a manner that is HIPAA compliant, with sensitive data only moving across approved channels.
In all these instances, high-tech communication tools offer roughly the same high-level benefit: Combining advanced functionality and convenience with an easy-to-use interface. With the unique stresses placed upon physical therapists and other healthcare professionals, many of whom don't have an extra minute to learn new systems, these tools represent an irresistible mix. Throw in the additional benefits for patients — consumer satisfaction itself being a considerable source of stress for providers — and you have a set of healthcare solutions that work for everyone.
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