What skills do you need to work in the flourishing telehealth industry?
Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services through telecommunication technologies, allowing for long-distance patient care and advice by clinicians and physicians – known as telemedicine. Remote admissions also fall under the umbrella of telehealth.
Due to COVID-19, the telehealth industry exploded in certain countries like the US. According to Fortune Business Insights, “The COVID-19 outbreak has created immense pressure on existing healthcare infrastructures around the world, necessitating the employment of technologies that allow patients to contact with their doctors from distant locations.
“Moreover, since healthcare facilities are focused on dealing with coronavirus patients, treatments for other diseases have taken a backseat. In this context, telehealth technologies have enabled medical professionals to ensure that patients with chronic and other serious conditions are provided with the necessary medical care during the pandemic.”
Additionally, telemedicine tools are safeguarding frontline healthcare professionals from getting infected as initial screening can be done remotely.
Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, Telehealth — A Technology-Based Weapon in the War Against the Coronavirus, 2020, recently showed that the demand for telehealth technology is expected to rise even further with the advancement of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Interactive Virtual Assistants (IVAs), and robotics that expand the telehealth deployment model.
With the rise of telehealth comes the addition of new jobs in this industry. If you’re interested to work in this field, here are the skills you need to succeed.
Communication and empathy
These are top skills needed if you intend to work as a telemedicine physician or nurse. Dr Mac McCormick recently wrote on Eagle Telemedicine, “Every physician must be a good communicator, but telemedicine physicians must go beyond the norm.
“Because two-way, audio-visual technology is the communication medium, telemedicine doctors can’t rely on body language to get their points across.”
Having a good bedside manner as a doctor or nurse is just as important virtually as it is physically – known as “webside” or “screenside” manners.
Melanie Esher-Blair, MAdm of the Arizona Telehealth Program, said, “Developing your screenside manners in today’s telehealth world is just as essential as developing good bedside manners. Patients still need to feel they are being heard and understood by their provider whether in-person or via video connection.”
Showing empathy is also another skill that telehealth practitioners must aim to develop to maintain a good rapport with their patients and their families. It’s especially challenging to convey empathy virtually due to lack of eye contact, so it’s something that clinicians should continuously work on.
Jonathan Mack, PhD, RN, NP, and the director of a telehealth training program at the University of California San Diego, said, “Telehealth visits may not be any longer than ten to fifteen minutes. So, establishing a rapport immediately is important.
“People tend to look down at the screen during video calls, so that translates to someone on the other side as not maintaining eye contact. The clinician needs to be trained to listen and look into the camera because that’s what’s going to appear on the screen for the patient as though the provider is looking at the patient.”
Telehealth is an evolving field due to heavy reliance on new technology. Thus, those who work in telehealth must be adaptable to new changes and be willing to learn new software and platforms.
Dr Mac McCormick wrote, “With approximately 500 vendors selling EMR and EHR systems, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the varying requirements of each system. Log ins are different. Some systems are more intuitive than others. Order sets and workflows differ. Telemedicine physicians must be prepared for all of them and, especially, must have a deep understanding of the EMRs in use by the hospitals in which they practice. They must be quick learners.”
If you’re unsure if you’re able to meet the rigorous demands of the telehealth industry, consider upskilling with an online training programme to help you develop the skills needed.
For nurses and physicians who want to work in telehealth, it’s likely they had limited training in the field during their university days or even at the early stages of their career as it’s a relatively new field.
A number of hospitals offer online training programmes in telehealth so that doctors and nurses can get familiar with the practice and software.
For more in-depth training, universities are also currently offering Master degrees where students receive instruction on how to utilise telehealth through simulation tools.