Imagine the next scenario. You see a patient in a face-to-face consultation and you evaluate his health, as usual. Finally, you come up with a customized meal plan in a bid to change his/her life. After leaving your office, the patient starts to prepare his meals and eat as you discussed, but a few days later or even the next day, some questions come up that you haven’t come across during the initial appointment. Or maybe, there are some reactions that the patient is experiencing and he/she needs counseling.
The only problem is you are fully booked and it’s complicated to synchronize your schedule with your patient’s. What other options do you have? Online consultations, virtual consultations or e-consultations are a thing of the present and are quickly replacing face-to-face sessions or phone calls. It is easier and more convenient, but, of course, there are some challenges. Most of the issues are related to security and privacy measures. We came up with a short guide that could help you transfer part of your practice online and serve your patients more efficiently. This is also a great way to appeal to the younger generations, which, as we know, often deal with diet disorders.
The first option would be e-mail. It’s the easiest of all online consultations and requires no schedule synchronization. However, it presents the most risk and it can be unsafe to share a patient’s private information via e-mail. Still, there are countless nutritionists and RDs that provide such services. From our research, we found that most package their offers around the number of sessions the patient needs/wants. It can be a three-day package or a regular, monthly subscription for those who are looking for more guidance in their day-to-day life. Some nutritionists prefer to have an initial face-to-face session and then continue with online consultations. We would also encourage this method, as it allows doing all the necessary tests and to properly create a bond with the patient.
A second option would be Skype. This is also popular for general medicine doctors or psychologists. It is easy to use and offers better interaction. Just like e-mail, it’s an option you and your patients can have at your fingertips—on your smartphone or tablet. Such online consultations usually take up to one hour and include all the elements of a normal consultation, minus the physical tests and assessments, of course.
The solution we would encourage is creating an online platform—linked to your personal website or not—that offers all the technological features necessary for online consultations (including video calls). A platform is the best solution if you are looking at long-term goals. This not only will strengthen your personal brand as a nutritionist or RD, but also make it possible for you to exchange sensitive information more easily, as you can invest in stronger security software. For this, there is a small checklist that needs to be completed:
- Identify your partners. It’s best to work with tech specialists that can assist you anytime in case you run into difficulties. They can also help you evolve, grow and update whenever necessary.
- Design the platform. Link it to your personal brand and use it as a marketing tool, too. Create a logo, a catchy motto, an interesting and strong identity.
- Ensure patient privacy. The tech specialists we mentioned can help you here, especially if you choose to work with some who have experience working in health-care systems.
- Think through the process. There are so many things that can come up, so it’s best to plan everything as careful as you can. Take your time and ask for the help of those who are already doing this
- Set up a payment plan. Usually, online consultations require pre-payment, so make sure your patients have all the necessary tools to do so securely.
- Start a pilot program. A testing period is essential just to make sure everything goes according to plan and to find out if anything needs to be improved or changed in your online consultations system.
- Allow and ask for feedback. The platform can have a review component where your patients can talk about the experience so far and what needs to be improved. This is a valuable element to your growth.