Anxious about using virtual care? There’s support for that!

May 25, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • The Virtual Care Support Team is improving access and experience for those who may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by video visits.
  • The team helps walk patients and caregivers through the process and ensures they have the proper technology to access virtual care.
  • If you have patients in your clinics who would benefit from this support, please include a referral as part of their next virtual care appointment.

Karen Anders lived 2.5 hours away and had a virtual pre-op appointment for her surgery at U-M Health. During her initial appointment, she indicated her nervousness about using the patient portal for a virtual care appointment in the Partners in Care questionnaire.

The Virtual Care Support Team received the referral from the clinical staff and connected with Anders.

“They were awesome, beyond awesome. I am old and illiterate about these things,” Anders said. “I was embarrassed to ask because I thought I couldn’t understand what they were doing. They made it easy for me. I couldn’t believe it.”

With U-M Health Virtual Care, patients can access the same world-class care experience in the clinics, now from the comfort and convenience of home.

“As a family medicine physician, I see patients of all ages for any and all concerns,” said Anna R. Laurie, M.D., director of population medicine at U-M Health. “Knowing that many patients have barriers (such as transportation, time, disability, stigma) to coming in for a traditional, in-person visit, being able to offer virtual care expands our ability to care for our patients even further by overcoming these barriers. We’ve embraced this technology to further strengthen our relationships with patients in a new and exciting way.”

A helping hand

However, many patients may feel intimidated or unsure of how to access this type of care. They may not have access to or know how to use the technology.

That’s where the Virtual Care Support Team comes in.

The Virtual Care Support Team works with patients who are referred by providers and clerks. Referrals are made in MiChart during the initial appointment scheduling process or by clinicians who have identified patients needing extra assistance. Referrals also come from the social determinants of health questionnaires where patients can note when they are not comfortable with using technology or need support.

Once a referral is entered, the team offers prompt support based on the needs of the patient.

To participate in Michigan Medicine video visits, patients need a strong internet connection or cell phone service, a MyUofMHealth patient portal account and appropriate apps/hardware.

After reviewing the referral, the team starts by checking whether the patient has a portal account. Once an account is set up, the team works with the patient to determine what additional support is needed. A common issue is access to WIFI for which the team provides a list of mobile hotspot locations. They also conduct a practice visit with the patient to get the patient comfortable with the technology and follow the steps to connect with a doctor or provider at the time of the appointment.

“Our Virtual Care Support Team helps many patients of various comfort levels with video visits through guided support that suits their needs,” said Ari Myers, customer service technician with the Virtual Care Support Team. “Our work stretches from patients and their caregivers who want a refresher or just test their device before the actual video visit appointment, to those who feel overwhelmed by technology and want step-by-step assistance with downloading the needed apps as well as joining the video visit appointment.

“We also help patients who have a bit of anxiety for their first video visit appointment, but then feel at ease after we guide them through the test video visit to practice the video visit process.”

The virtual support team started as a pilot project within the Frankel Cardiovascular Center and launched fully at U-M Health in January 2023. Since the launch, the team has received more than 1,000 referrals.

If you have patients in your clinics who would benefit from this support, please include a referral as part of their next virtual care appointment.

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