If you're an allied health professional, the last few weeks will most likely have made you think of ways in which to adapt to the current situation. Whether you have had to change operating hours, reshuffle appointments or you have had to even close the doors, you and your team will undoubtedly have been impacted.
Are you wondering how you can keep you can help your customers during this time in ways that don't require them to come into the practice?
Have you considered whether video and remote meeting applications are viable tools for you to assist your clients and prospects at this time but you're not sure how to get started? This article steps you through it.
Right now there are plenty of situations where people can't (or prefer not to) physically attend your practice. They might be in isolation or simply feel anxious about visiting a health practice.
The dept of health recently announced new measures that mean that people will be able to access allied health practitioners via telehealth for bulk-billed services under existing Medicare items. The arrangements will remain in place until September 30th, 2020 when they will be reviewed.
The department says that videoconference services are the preferred approach for substituting a face-to-face consultation.
If you are interested in giving virtual consultations a try, there are numerous teleconferencing apps available today, like Skype and Webex. However, the one that you've most likely heard about in recent weeks is Zoom. Since the CV-19 Pandemic was declared, the brand name has become a verb (the holy grail of tech branding).
For the purposes of this article I'm going to use Zoom as an example. Please note that I am NOT affiliated with Zoom or in any way associated with Zoom other than the fact that I use the platform for myself and help my clients adopt it in their businesses.
All you need to get started with Zoom is:
- a secure and reliable internet connection
- a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device
- a microphone and webcam (most devices have these built in but please check before you get started)
- a Zoom account
Step One -set up your account
Set up your Zoom account by visiting this page. All you do is enter your email address after which you will receive an email that invites you to set up your account.
During the account activation process you enter your first and last name and set your password.
Step Two - Installing the app
Once you have set up your account Zoom gives you the option to invite colleagues (you can skip that step if you wish), before inviting you to run a test meeting. When you do go to the test meeting you are presented with the option to download the Zoom client (the app) to your desktop or device.
Even though you can run the meetings through your browser, I highly recommend downloading and installing the client.
Once you've set up your account you will be directed to a page like this page which automatically downloads (but does not install) the client to your device. Below is the screenshot of what that looks like.
After the download has completed you will be prompted to then install the app. There are a few steps involved but, as you will see it's easy and you will be prompted for each one. The whole process takes just moments.
Here's what you will see in the first step.
When installation is complete you will see this (or a similar) screen.
Now you're ready to schedule your first consultation.
scheduling Your First Zoom Consultation
To set up your first consultation you need to have your patient's email address so you can send them a link to join the video conference.
When you open the app you will see 4 bright coloured icons. Click the "schedule" icon after which you will see the following screen where you set up your consultation details. I advise against using your personal meeting ID and instead select "generate automatically" that way each consultation will have it's own unique meeting ID. Zoom now also enforces a meeting password for additional security.
When you schedule a meeting, Zoom automatically generates a calendar invite that you can then forward to your invitee. The invite contains the join link and the password. Alternatively you can copy and paste the invite with all the relevant details and links and just email it to your customer.
Does my client or patient need a Zoom Account?
Participants can join your meeting without needing to set up an account. All that you need to do on your part is to send them the details of your meeting and the join link. When they click that link they have the option to view the meeting directly in their web browser (I have found Chrome to be the most stable) or to download the client.
If I know my participants are new to Zoom, I usually recommend they join 5 minutes early so that they have time to test their own audio and video before you start the meeting. Zoom has a very intuitive self diagnostic tools that lets you test your speak and mic.
How Much Does it Cost?
Although Zoom does offer a basic free account, it does have limitations the main one being that meetings are capped to 40 minutes.
I recommend you sign up for one of their paid plans. They start at $20.99 (AUD).
A pro account removes the 40 minute meeting time limit and gives you features such as unique meeting ID. It also allows you to record meetings in the cloud or on your device.
Tips for Successful Zoom Consultations
- Be set up with some time to spare in a quiet space.
- Test your webcam and audio
- Make sure you have the right lighting. Avoid sitting with your back to a window if at all possible as the back lighting will make it difficult for the participant to see your face
- Ensure you're connected to a qualify WIFI
- Remember to look at your camera when you speak to your patient or customer. It is natural to want to look at the screen instead. Looking at the camera when you address the other person is akin to looking at them and enhances engagement, comprehension and trust.
- For privacy you can keep your mic (video) muted until the participant joins you.
why not just use the 'phone?
Why bother with a virtual platform? Does it sounds tedious to you?
For sure, adopting virtual consultations does involve learning new skills and a different flow to how you currently run (face to face) consultations. You will find though that today's technology is very user friendly and you will get used to conducting video consultations in a very short time.
Driven by consumer demand, there is a growing cohort of Australian allied health professionals who have already adopted video-consultation services. Increasingly, doctors and nurses use video calls for follow up consultations and monitoring of patients and it's easy to see why.
Video is the nearest thing to seeing someone in person. It allows us to maintain eye contact which communicates care and compassion. The recipient can see that you're actively listening to what they say. All of this is critical to building and maintaining trust.
Now especially, video gives you the opportunity to create a more connected and safer environment for patients who are not in a position to leave home.
Respond to the need that people have today. You could begin by offering the service for your existing base of clients for follow up consultations only. Or, you could offer selected services via remote access to start. Get feedback and expand your virtual services based on what your clients tell you.