New Telehealth Certificate Helps Primary Care Providers Make the Most of Online Care

By Dr. Salim Saiyed, Vice President and Chief Medical Information Officer at UPMC in Central PA.

 The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the way healthcare providers operate.  In the blink of an eye, a huge proportion of outpatient care has shifted toward telehealth as providers and patients search for safe, reliable ways to continue critical relationships.

Nowhere has this change been more apparent than in primary care practices.  During the early days of the pandemic, primary care practices were staring down unprecedented decreases in patient volume as lockdowns and social distancing kept patients out of the office.  So they quickly pivoted to telehealth.

One recent study found that primary care telehealth visits increased from 1.4 million during the first quarter of 2019 to a staggering 35 million by the middle of 2020, and numbers are likely to stay high for the foreseeable future.

More than a year into the pandemic, patients are now more familiar with the idea of using telehealth. Many are highly satisfied with online visits and are eager to continue using telehealth even after the pandemic.

Telehealth can bring extraordinary benefits to the primary care environment, but there are challenges to moving the patient-provider conversation online.  New technologies, new regulations, and new expectations can make it difficult for providers and patients to work together efficiently and effectively.

That’s why the American Board of Telehealth is offering a new, self-paced online program to help primary care providers make the most of their digital opportunities.

The Teleprimary Care Certificate program is designed to help providers maximize the value of telehealth and keep online care as a cornerstone of the post-pandemic environment.

This innovative program will offer physicians and clinicians the training they need to remain productive, follow legal, regulatory, reimbursement, and ethical guidelines, and use telehealth to improve health equity and combat the social determinants of health.

Our goal is to help primary care providers use telehealth to grow into more spaces, adopt more robust technologies, and provide seamless experiences that integrate home monitoring and remote devices into the care process.

In order to do so, providers need to learn how to optimize telehealth tools for productivity, efficiency, and quality.  They also need to know how to adapt traditional care strategies to work with remote care technologies.

As a physician at one of Pennsylvania’s first completely virtual primary care practices, I know that providing care through telehealth isn’t always as easy as it seems on the surface.

When we go through medical school, nursing school, or other clinical training, we learn how to elicit different responses from patients depending on their conditions, their culture, and their personalities.  What we don’t necessarily learn is how to coach a patient to unmute their microphone or how to generate trust and show true empathy when staring at each other through the screen.

We need to help providers translate all of their experience with face-to-face care into exceptional relationships through telehealth.  That’s why we want to share the best practices we’ve developed with as many primary care providers as possible through this new program.

It’s time to make structured, effective telehealth education accessible to clinicians at the forefront of the online revolution.  As the largest specialty in medicine – and also the largest group of telehealth users –our primary care providers must be armed with the knowledge and experience to make telehealth work.

The Teleprimary Care Certificate, developed by leading experts from across the country, is a huge step forward for telehealth training and will equip primary care practices with the skills and insights they need to take advantage of the powerful tools at their disposal.

To learn more about the Teleprimary Care Certificate or to register for the program, please click here.