COVID-19 has greatly changed how we care for ourselves and has resulted in a massive change to how we connect with our doctors. Providers are seeing 50-175 times the number of patients via telehealth visits than they did before the pandemic, and Forrester predicts that virtual care visits will soar to more than 1 billion by the end of 2020, including 900 million visits related to the coronavirus.Telehealth has great potential to increase healthcare access for everyone during the pandemic, and this is especially important for older adults and other populations at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. But, virtual visits can also be stressful for those with an aversion to using technology to speak with their doctor.

As patients who might’ve shied away from technology in the past now need to use it to connect with their doctors, it’s important for healthcare providers to ensure their telemedicine platforms are inclusive for users of all ages and levels of digital literacy.

Fortunately, there are a number of things healthcare providers can do to improve the telehealth experience for all users.Be supportive

Providers need to do everything they can to make telehealth comfortable for users who aren’t confident using smartphones and computers, and this starts by developing FAQs, video tutorials and other resources to help patients understand the telehealth process, schedule an appointment, download the app and access the platform. Support can’t stop with onboarding — it’s also important to help patients troubleshoot and to offer technical support within the platform by providing a phone number and/or button patients can use to connect directly with someone who can help.Make access as easy as possible

Omnichannel support is the best solution for making telehealth accessible to the broadest user base. Even though older Americans are increasingly drawn to new technology, they’re using it in different ways — three in four (73%) adults 65 and older report using the internet in 2019, but 12% use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home and do not have traditional home broadband service. As such, platforms should let patients take their appointments from their preferred device, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or computer.Provide a simple, streamlined user journey

Simplify the user journey as much as possible by reducing the number of screens, giving your patients clear (non-jargony) instructions and making it clear why you’re asking for particular information.

Include accessibility features

Make it easy for patients to clearly see and hear during a virtual visit. Provide a large, clear view of the physician, and give patients the ability to control font size and adjust contrast. Enable voice control for those who prefer to speak instead of type, along with text-to-speech for those who might struggle to read a screen.

Ditch passwordsBy outfitting telehealth platforms with digital identity verification, it’s easy for healthcare providers to onboard patients remotely and authenticate their identity upon future virtual visits. Instead of needing to create and keep track of a username and password, a patient only needs to take a photo of their driver’s license or other government-issued ID using their smartphone or webcam, followed by a live selfie (at which time a 3D face map is created). This ensures that the person creating the account is who they say they are, and that they’re physically present. For future access, the patient only needs to take a new selfie, creating a new 3D face map that can be immediately compared to the original face map. This process takes just seconds to complete.

Making remote healthcare easy and accessible for all users — no matter their age or comfort with technology — is key to boosting telehealth adoption well beyond the pandemic.

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