How to Prepare Your Clinic for Telemedicine in the UAE

/ Doc' A Talk

Clinics and hospitals all over UAE are shifting their focus towards telemedicine; training their teams, doctors and staff to adapt to virtual communications, audio, and video consultations. As announced by DHA recently, no telemedicine license is required to start providing telemedicine services.

Major healthcare groups like Aster, Medcare, Emirates Healthcare, King’s College etc have already started offering telemedicine services.

The telemedicine infrastructure in your clinic needs to be effective and efficient – targeting the right audience, with good marketing tactics, and positioning in order to enhance the revenue. It can be established by keeping the following aspects in mind:

1.      Having a telemedicine plan

With everyone jumping on the telemedicine bandwagon due to COVID-19’s social distancing and lockdown practices intact, there is more to keep in mind. Knowing why you’re opting for telemedicine is important. For example, it could be because you want to increase profitability and after in-clinic hours have telemedicine for off-hours, you might want some doctors such as psychiatrists, gynecologists, pediatricians, general doctors, dentists, dermatologists, and ophthalmologists to opt for video consultations where the demand is high, or you might want to target millennials, through virtual appointments.

Knowing the reason is vital as it will allow you to plan accordingly. After you’ve made a list of all the doctors who can provide telemedicine consultations, decide whether you’re going to have audio appointments, video, chats, or all. And then inform the patients about the respective doctor’s online services.

2.      Understanding DHA’s telehealth standards

  • As a healthcare institution nestled in the UAE, you need to read the regulations set by the DHA to make sure that you abide by the rules set.
  • Your clinic needs to use a HIPAA compliant telemedicine software.
  • The standard is classified into six areas; teleconsultation, telediagnosis, telemonitoring, mobile health, telerobotics and telepharmacy. Your clinic needs to decide what aspects of telehealth they’ll be covering.
  • The doctors need to take the consent of the patient before the appointment starts.
  • The doctor cannot share any patient information outside of the UAE.
  • The doctor needs to ask the patient for permission before forwarding the patient files to another doctor.
  • The healthcare providers can now prescribe medicine (except narcotics and controlled substances)
  • The doctors can also issue sick leave certificates.

The PDF file can be downloaded and read here.

3.      Informing the insurance companies

Take onboard the insurance companies so that they can cover the telemedicine consultations in their plans or reimburse the amount after. The rates need to be negotiated and these are usually lower than traditional visits since the services offered over teleservice are limited. For individuals who want to pay in cash, a telemedicine price should be set. The price for tele-vists is usually lower than in-clinic visits because of decreased overhead. Insurance companies such as Aafiya, Aetna, AxA, Dubai Insurance, Mednet, Metlife MSH, NAS, Neuron, Nextcare, NGI, Oman Insurance, and SAICO Health are already covering telemedicine costs for hospitals.

4.      Informing the pharmacies

Inform the pharmacies about your tele-services so that there’s no disruption with delivering and providing medications from them. You can also opt to issue an e-prescription to the patients for them to get the medications from any pharmacy. This can be sent through email or Whatsapp to the patient. Some clinics have pharmacies inside the clinic. If you’re one of them, you can have the patient collect the medication from your clinic.

A virtual representation of telemedicine.
A good virtual consultation feels like an in-clinic appointment, only better!

5.      Being technically prepared

The real-time interaction needs to be smooth and if possible, better than the traditional appointment. Keep the following tips in mind:

·         Invest in a high-quality web camera.

·         Have the doctor fix the camera at an eye-level preferable position.

·         Set notifications and alarms to be sent to the doctor and patient as a reminder.

·         Have the call in a distraction-free area with good internet signals.

·         Test out the software before the actual calls to make sure that it is glitch-free and that the patient’s data is safe.

Most telemedicine software programs require installation but Meddy’s telemedicine solution is not only compatible with all devices, but it also does not require any installation and technical expertise.

6.      Training the doctors and staff

The doctors need to comply with the DHA standards as malpractice can lead to suspension of the license. Dummy calls should be done with the staff and the doctor to make sure that the integrated software is understood by them. Since the payments will be made online beforehand, the process to take the electronic copay should be learned. The practice should be repeated if new features are added to the telemedicine software.

7.      Marketing your services

Like you, thousands of other clinics of the same specialty will be using telehealth services. Make sure that you stand out for potential patients. Telemedicine was earlier ideal for patients who were working, traveling, or busy but now it’s cost-effective and convenient for all, amidst the coronavirus outbreak. It is important to understand your patient, his/her routine, needs and wants, and keeping in mind those, market the virtual consultation. Here are some ways to market:

·         Send emails, texts, and calls to your existing patients and inform them about your telemedicine service; how they can book an appointment, etc.

·         Have promotional deals such as 50% off on initial calls to lure in more patients.

·         Offer the first call for free to build a strong patient-doctor relationship.

·         Have family coupons, which allow discounted consultations if two or more family members are signing up.

·         Offer extra consultation minutes on alternate appointments. Goes great with therapy.

·         Place the service on your website, social media platforms, and offer referral discounts.

Telemedicine is a leap into the future and it will greatly impact UAE’s healthcare system. Planning for telemedicine may seem complex, but with a reliable software and initial practice, the clinics can adapt to it with ease.

Do you seek to make up revenue losses from COVID-19? Telemedicine by Meddy is your key solution!

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How to Prepare Your Clinic for Telemedicine in the UAE
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