Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the home care landscape has changed in numerous ways – including a move towards more virtual visits.
Many home care providers have embraced phone and videoconferencing visits, where appropriate, to reduce client/patient exposure to the virus while maintaining their access to quality care.
While it is clear that virtual visits cannot fully replace home care visits, if executed well they are shown to enrich home-based services and significantly improve a client/patient’s quality of life between in-person visits. They also offer agencies multiple benefits, including cost efficiency.
Applications like Zoom, FaceTime, and eVisit have helped to make virtual visits more easily accessible to all. However, there are still challenges to overcome to ensure your home care agency team delivers the very best experience possible for your clients/patients.
Here is our list of top tips to ensure your home care team maximizes virtual client visits: before, during, and after appointments.
With most things in life, the key to success is good planning and preparation, and virtual visits are no exception!
From a management point of view, it can be beneficial to meet with your team to create a plan for virtual visits to ensure they are delivered consistently and to identify any training needs. Planning may include:
- Agreeing guidelines for when it’s appropriate to carry out virtual visits.
- Setting training dates for stakeholders on technology use, HIPAA compliance, documentation/reporting required, etc.
- Identifying the best location(s) for video calls and how these should be set up, whether in your office or at employees’ homes.
- Identifying the clients’ needs and setting them up for successful virtual visits.
- Deciding how to gather feedback from clients and caregivers to continually improve remote services.
Preparation is key to ensuring confidence and reassurance for your caregivers and office teams, who will be conducting the virtual visits. Consider:
- Introducing clients and their families to your virtual visit system during an in-person visit and practice using the technology before the first session. Testing the setup at both ends will help avoid many technical challenges once you get started.
- Scheduling virtual visits in advance with clients/patients and their families, either in person or through phone/text messages. Text messaging can be set up for automatic reminders for clients ahead of their scheduled virtual visits.
- Agreeing on what will be covered and documented during virtual visits to maximize in-person interactions. It is good practice to include clients and their families in deciding the goals – including who will be participating.
- Making sure the internet connection at both ends is strong to avoid interruptions due to loss of connection.
- Setting up an environment that guarantees virtual visits look professional and are successful, including lighting, background, framing, privacy, etc. (There are plenty of introductory training videos on YouTube to grasp the basics, such as making sure the camera is at eye level and your primary light source is in front of you.)
- Identifying training needs, so your team is confident with the technology used and knows how to fix common audio/video feed issues quickly and efficiently.
- Ensuring any devices being used have fully charged batteries (or can be plugged into the mains) and that equipment is regularly tested before appointments to ensure it is in good working order.
- Checking client/patient notes ahead of virtual visits, to be clear on what each visit should cover and any issues that need resolving – to make the very best use of the time spent with the client/patient.
After two years of implementing virtual visits, most home care providers understand what is necessary to create a positive, valuable, and seamless remote client experience: including being on time, dressing professionally, and making sure the internet connection is reliable.
Here are eight reminders to fine-tune your virtual visits and guarantee clients/patients (and caregivers!) have the best experience possible.
- Five minutes before you link up with your client/patient, ensure that your visual setup is optimal. This includes lighting, framing, and background and can make all the difference between a positive and negative client experience.
- Do your best to limit disruptions, particularly if you are working from home where there may be pets, children, and other background distractions. As with an in-person visit, it’s essential that your client/patient has your undivided attention.
- Ensure your virtual visit is private, in a secure room where unauthorized access is prevented. Your technology should be HIPAA-compliant, along with your environment, to ensure client/patient privacy. Also, make sure any client/patient information you need is kept secure and out of view.
- Be mindful of how you come across to your client/patient, making sure they feel seen and heard. Meeting via video can often feel less personal, so it’s important to listen well, maintain good eye contact, smile and use a full range of verbal and non-verbal signals to show sincere warmth and empathy.
- If you need to take notes during the visit, or check on something, be sure to tell your client/patient what you’re doing – so it doesn’t look like you have lost focus or are disinterested in what they are saying.
- Pay attention to client/patient cues, and ask questions to clarify anything that seems unusual. For example, do they seem more distracted than usual, do they appear to be in any pain or discomfort, are they becoming more forgetful? There can be important clues to pick up during a virtual visit that might need further in-person investigation.
- Be clear on what is to be covered during the virtual visit so you can stay focused and maximize results. It is better to over-communicate what you are doing and why!
- Have a backup plan in case of any technical glitches.
Virtual visits require much of the same follow-up as in-person visits, so be sure your team completes any paperwork and reporting as standard.
Remember, a friendly phone call can be used as a follow-up to address any specific needs or simply to check in on clients/patients more informally before their next in-person visit. This is still an efficient and effective way to connect with clients and families, and can be an excellent way to gather feedback about recent virtual visits.
Collecting feedback is a great way to help your team continually build and improve on the remote services your home care agency is providing. So gather client/patient input and make sure you act on it!
When used to supplement in-person visits, the benefits of virtual visits are evident. For example, they can provide vital access to care and support, enrich your home-based services, enhance the experience for your clients/patients and families and significantly improve client/patient satisfaction with your agency.
As the home care industry continues to evolve, it looks like supplementary virtual visits are here to stay – and we hope these tips help you and your clients/patients to get the most out of them.
For more information about technology tools from Smartcare that can support client/patient and family connection and communication with your home care agency, please get in touch with us today or request a free demo.