From the upcoming appointment reminders, to virtual calls with healthcare providers, telehealth is prevalent in today’s tech-based world. As technology advances at exponential levels, so does the widespread affordability and accessibility to basic telehealth tools.
As the industry evolves, there is a demand for technology to meet the specific needs of nutrition professionals providing telehealth nutrition services.
Ways to Incorporate Telehealth Into Nutritional Care
Telehealth is defined as “a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies.” Although can be used interchangeably, telehealth is more of a broad term that focuses more on telehealth communications technology with regards to any type of health service, whereas telemedicine refers specifically to clinical services.
Telehealth’s forms of communication makes it easy for you to provide nutritional care to your clients without seeing them in person, face-to-face. Depending on the telehealth platform you decide to leverage, most include:
1. Live-video conferences (video chat)
Video chatting is the most popular and well-known type of telehealth because it’s a live, two-way conference between your client and yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re in private practice or working at a hospital as an RD, live video conferencing is a great means of virtual communication.
2. Asynchronous video (store-and-forward)
Asynchronous video is the electronic delivery of a patient’s documented health history outside of real-time, used by a healthcare provider. This type of telehealth service also helps bring healthcare to areas where it is limited, such as in rural areas.
3. Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
Remote patient monitoring is the collection of a patient’s health data from a patient or resident in one location that is then electronically sent to a healthcare professional (in your case a dietitian or other health professional) for review. For the most part, RPM is utilized by individuals in senior living areas in order to keep an eye on residents’ vitals.
4. Mobile health (mHealth)
Mobile Health, or mHealth, is the use of smart devices, such as smartphones and tablets and health-based apps developed for these devices, that supports continued healthcare. Many health-based apps exist now and can monitor everything from a diabetic patient’s blood sugar level to one’s daily water intake (ie. MyFitnessPal). These apps help to encourage healthier lifestyle behaviors and also (if designed to) can integrate with a patient’s personal health records.
From using video conferences to asynchronous video, there are many ways that can help you communicate information virtually without seeing a patient in person. Telehealth eliminates commute time and stress for both the client and healthcare provider.
Discussing Telehealth Services with Wellness Clients
When working with clients in any virtual capacity, it’s important to have a conversation of how and when you’ll be using telehealth. Even the most tech-savvy clients may not know what to expect when working with a nutrition professional. They may be unfamiliar with the technology platforms or apps you utilize, and they may be new to nutrition counseling altogether.
Helping clients feel comfortable, and clear, on the ways they can utilize telehealth tools is critical. It allows you to support your client in different ways, and facilitates a good working relationship. Here are some tips to keep in mind when introducing telehealth services to your wellness clients
Outline the virtual services your wellness practice provides
When talking with either new or prospective clients, it’s important to outline the wellness services that you provide, both virtual and not. Client’s won’t always know to ask for virtual services (ie. telehealth or phone calls). Since virtual services are primarily on the newer side, many people who seek professional healthcare help don’t even know what virtual services are and how beneficial they can be. Virtual collaboration allows both you and your clients to successfully, and proficiently work together to meet certain goals that are tailored to each of them. Not only this, but leveraging virtual services also decreases any financial burdens and increases productivity.
This is also something you may even want to offer to your in-person clients. One of the most common misconceptions about adopting virtual work is that it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. People think that if they can work together remotely, then why meet in person? What benefits come out of doing both one might ask? However, with our digital age, it is inevitable that adding virtual services to your current in-person business, will only set you apart and ahead in the wellness industry.
Make sure your clients feel comfortable with the telehealth technology
Age is not always an indicator of how tech-savvy a client may be. It’s even likely that you don’t feel “tech-savvy,” — which is absolutely OK and common. However, when working with clients, they are going to turn to you for guidance, so competency is key in communicating how to use any telehealth tools. You can start by using the platform or app as a test client, which allows you to learn a client’s perspective. If there’s any aspects of the technology that you are struggling with, chances are your client may struggle with it as well. You can be prepared to answer their questions, and know how to find them support if needed.
For example, if you’re asking your client to log photos of their meals, you may want to take a few minutes to have them download the desired app, and walk through the steps of actually logging a meal. Most people learn by doing, so after showing your client how to log a meal, ask them to take the next step and log a meal on their own.
Really take the time to educate your clients. Walking through the teletools and apps that you use in your practice can help clients understand how to use that specific tool and how to connect with you as their provider. You want them to feel comfortable enough to use the telehealth services you are providing them with so when they are not in-person with you, they can confidently and effortlessly, utilize the tools correctly.
Set expectations upfront regarding telehealth communication
It’s essential that all new and existing clients understand the expectations they will receive from your care. Utilizing telehealth can sometimes blur the lines, and expectations of care you’ll provide.
Here are some questions you may want to consider, and address, when communicating with your clients:
Client Messaging Expectations:
- What is the best format for clients to message you? (ie. text, phone call, email, in-app messenger, etc)
- If clients can message you between sessions for support, what type of questions are appropriate to ask?
- When, and how often, can they expect you to respond to questions?
- Do you answer messages on the weekends, or holidays?
- What type of messages are appropriate, and which should be communicated in another way (ie. billing questions perhaps should be communicated to the billing office, not the wellness provider).
Client Food Journal Reviews Expectations:
- Which formats would you like clients to keep a food journal? (written, spreadsheet, app, etc)
- How often should a client send/share their food journal with you?
- How frequently can clients expect you to review their food journal?
- What will your food journal feedback look like? (direct comments on their journal, verbal discussions during session?)
Virtual Sessions Expectations:
- Will a client be on video during your virtual session? Can they turn their video off if desired?
- Are there any technological requirements to be aware of before launching your virtual session? (do they need to download a tool, app, or plugin?)
- What to do if their video chat isn’t launching? Is there an alternative way to connecT?
- Will they experience any fees for launching a virtual call? (ie. long-distance charges to their cell phone bill?)
Expectations for Using Apps and Platforms:
- Are there any fees to the client for using or downloading the app or tool?
- Is client information kept secure and private through the tool?
- How will you be able to connect with them, or view their information, utilizing this tool?
- If they are having any technical issues with the app or tool, who should they reach out to?
- How often do you expect your client to utilize this tool? Is it an option for them to not use it while working together?
- How does utilizing this technology benefit your client?
It’s important to inform your clients’ the services they would be receiving from you as their healthcare provider. If you have integrated telehealth communications as part of your wellness practice, set expectations upfront regarding this. Some healthcare providers choose to address these telehealth expectations directly within a written client counseling agreement, to prevent any misunderstandings.
Leveraging Healthie to Offer Telehealth Nutrition Services
Healthie is the all-in-one practice management telehealth platform designed for dietitians and nutrition professionals. All of the tools you need to run your business, such as client scheduling, charting, and billing, are all conveniently located in one platform.
The Healthie telehealth feature allows you to easily connect with your clients for virtual nutrition sessions. Even more, virtual care goes beyond video-conferencing. Whether you meet with your clients virtually or in-person, you can utilize the Healthie telehealth features to chat, review photo-based food journal logs and share e-documents to support your clients between sessions. You can even generate additional income by implementing telehealth services into your already established practice.
One-one-one video calls
Through Healthie, you can create appointments designated as “telehealth.” When clients book a virtual sessions, they are able to login to their Healthie client portal on desktop or the mobile app to easily launch a video chat. These high-quality and HIPAA-compliant video chat sessions allow you to easily connect with your clients for virtual nutrition sessions, or between session check-ins.
Group video-conferencing (Integration with Zoom)
Do you want to reach a broader audience without the hassle of renting space and organizing large events? Easily do so by providing group counseling sessions or support groups with telehealth.
Within the Healthie platform, you’ll have the ability to create a new appointment type and indicate that it is a group telehealth nutrition call. Easily add this new appointment to your calendar, and allow clients to enroll or manually add them. To join the call, clients will simply click the “launch” link included in their appointment reminder.
Pro-tip: Use a HIPAA compliant platform to deliver telecommunication with clients that contains private health information. The Healthie Telehealth platform is HIPAA compliant, so you can be confident that your clients’ information is being kept secure. Other forms such as Skype and FacecTime are not HIPAA compliant, and therefore your clients’ information can fall out of privacy and into the hands of someone who can put you at risk.
Telehealth represents the next frontier in medical care, and it’s something that many healthcare providers are feeling the pressure to ultimately digitally meet and connect with their clients in addition to seeing them in person. In the ever-growing telehealth market, there are many types of telehealth that can improve your patients’ lifestyle behaviors and boost their overall health. Likewise, telehealth provides you with a full scope of your clients progress, allowing you to take action and/or modify treatment in order to improve their health.
If you’re interested in learning more about telehealth and how to integrate it into your practice, start your free trial with Healthie today.
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