In a recent US study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers delved into the key factors that enabled some primary-care practices to seamlessly integrate telehealth into their services during the pandemic. While the study focused on the US, Australian telehealth leader, Coviu, explored if the findings mirrored its own experiences Down Under.
The US study highlighted two crucial factors: prior experience with virtual health and clear triaging rules. Those practices with previous exposure to telehealth understood the value of grouping telehealth visits and efficiently identifying which patients could be treated virtually or required an in-person visit.
Interestingly, Coviu noted that primary-care practices in Australia had quickly adopted phone telehealth but hesitated when it came to video consultations, despite the government's push for video adoption. CEO Silvia Pfeiffer pointed out that, although phone telehealth had its merits, video often yielded better outcomes.
Coviu's observations revealed that adaptability to telehealth was significantly higher in practices that had already integrated it into their workflow, especially in rural settings. Clear triaging guidelines were another essential element that made a difference during the pandemic, reducing uncertainty for clinicians.
However, during the initial adoption of telehealth, primary-care practitioners faced several challenges, including a lack of necessary equipment and training. Even now, obstacles remain, including the stigma associated with video consultations, slow change management within healthcare organisations, reimbursement issues, privacy concerns and insufficient training.
Coviu identified several key factors for successful telehealth adoption in Australian practices:
- Digital Knowledge: Practices with existing digital communication systems in place with their clients had an advantage.
- Strategic Integration: Practices that seamlessly integrated telehealth into their workflows and embraced technology found it easier to adapt.
- Staff Training: Preparing staff with adequate training for virtual-care workflows was crucial.
- Triage Rules: Following industry guidelines, such as those proposed by the RACGP, helped streamline patient care.
As telehealth continues to evolve, partnerships like the one between MediRecords and Coviu are making it more accessible. This collaboration enables the easy booking of video consultations for practice clients, simplifying the process and enhancing patient care. Both companies, proudly Australian, are at the forefront of cloud-hosted health technology, ensuring that telehealth becomes an integral part of modern healthcare practices.