When the American Optometric Association advised optometrists to postpone all routine eye care visits on March 19, 2020, many ODs turned to telehealth. Virtual visits have many advantages, like keeping patients safe from coronavirus exposure, improved access to care, and reduced health care costs. It is essential to have a written plan when incorportating telemedicine, before implementation.
Over the past month, we have learned a considerable amount about the process and what our current state of telemedicine can offer. When deciding to bring telemedicine into your practice there are a few pearls to take into consideration. To start, the primary focus should be an effective triage system. See Figure 1.
The time is now
– Get organized with a designated team
– Create a telemedicine triage protocol
– Delegate specific tasks
– Develop office protocols for key operations, including scheduling, patient instruction, allotted times for televisits, and billing
– Schedule regular meetings to review the process. Iron out kinks at the end of each day for the first week, then every other day, and move toward having a weekly meeting
Decide on a platform to perform televisits
– Some EMR systems have HIPAA-compliant software that can be used for this purpose. If not, additional software may have to be purchased. Although regulations surrounding HIPAA have been relaxed during the COVID-19 state of emergency, it is best to have appro-priately compliant software to future-proof telemedicine needs and train staff from the beginning. Even in the current environment, patient privacy still matters