Caitlin Clement|9/8/2022|4 min read

7 Tips For A Better Virtual STD Care Plan

Give your virtual providers the tools to offer quality sexual health care via telehealth

clinician holding tube containing blood labeled 'STI Test'

Sexually transmitted Disease (STD) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) health care has come a long way from the HIV and AIDs crisis of the 80s and the centuries of inadequate sexual education and “hush” culture that came before. Yet, 40 years later, there are still population disparities preventing access to quality STI/STD care and education.

However, the increased use and presence of digital health companies has given these populations health care they can easily access. The recent outbreak of monkeypox across the globe has shown us that telehealth can again assist the country in a public health emergency.

For those looking to strengthen their STI and STD virtual care services, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog we’ll cover the 7 ways you can optimize your digital health company to offer quality sexual health and STD/STI care.

Provide educational resources

The first step in preventative care is investing in resources that providers can utilize and patients can access to educate themselves on their sexual and reproductive health. In light of the global outbreak of monkeypox, digital health companies have started to do what they do best. Fill in the gaps.

Folx, a virtual care provider designed by and for the LGBTQ+ community, has developed a monkeypox care plan for its patients. It includes a four pronged approach of education, counseling, evaluation of symptoms and referrals. Notice that the first step is to educate. Giving patients the knowledge they need to put their health first has been effective across all areas of care, not just sexual health.

About 98.9% of those affected by the monkeypox virus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are described as men who have sex with men. It’s no secret that, historically, preventative care has been a struggle to access for the LGBTQ+ community. This often leads to a lack of education and therefore higher rates of transmission among the community—opening the door to stereotypes and stigma.

Many studies have shown that increased education, especially among adolescents, reduced the transmission of STIs and STDs across demographics.

Here are some common resource models you can tap into:

  • Resource link page

    • Maybe you don’t have the resources to make your own educational material—that’s okay. Instead, you can use ones already created by trusted organizations and consolidate them into an organized list of links.

  • Internal blog

    • Make your own educational material that’s focused on patient questions or interests, treatment plans or discusses how your services work.

  • Virtual brochures or whitepapers

    • Different from blogs, these are typically deep dives into a specific topic for patients to download or view often as a PDF file.

Offer and advertise preventative care

For the companies that provide primary and preventative care, it’s probably time to think about offering sexual and reproductive health services if you haven’t already. The CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection according to data collected from 2018 to 2021. The demand for care and treatment is there and needed, the challenge is advertising it and making it easy for patients to seek out the care they need.

Although it’s getting better, stigma still surrounds sexual health and patients may not always be as forthcoming when talking with their provider. Fortunately, diagnostic companies are partnering with verified physicians and health systems to offer at home STI testing.

At home testing has given patients the freedom to put their sexual health first without ever having to leave their home. Not only is it convenient, but for companies like EverlyWell, test results are communicated within days instead of weeks.

Hire sexual health specialists

This might seem straightforward, but it’s an important one. If you want quality sexual and reproductive health care for your patients, then you need to hire competent and qualified specialists. Prioritize them in your next hiring round or outsource them from telehealth support companies like OpenLoop.

Outsourcing a clinician network like ours gives you access to pre-vetted and qualified clinician specialists in all 50 states without having to put in the work of internal recruitment, hiring and onboarding. Letting you focus on expanding and scaling your patient network without sacrificing patient care.

For smaller telehealth companies who lack the internal resources, it allows them to spend less time on the logistics and instead focus on providing quality care to their patients. Even health systems can benefit from tapping into locum tenens. Staffing shortages, especially in rural hospitals, are still felt around the country. Tapping into a virtual clinician network expands the pool of providers they have access to, filling the specialities they need.

These specialist include:

  • Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs)

  • Urologists

  • Urogynecologists

  • Women's health nurse practitioners

  • Psychiatrists

  • Pain management specialists

Offer treatment counseling

Again, this may seem like a no-brainer, but in this current fee-for-service world, treatment consultations are underutilized. An STI or STD diagnosis can be scary for a patient to hear and a consultation offers a safe place to discuss options.

Not only does it give the provider the opportunity and platform to explain and educate the patients on their treatment plan, but it opens up the floor for any questions the patient may have. Going back to the importance of education, a treatment consultation is another chance to educate and understand a patient's needs.

Outsource administrative services

Want to focus more on providing the best in sexual health care? Outsource your administrative work.

Just think about all that time spent on scheduling, registration, filing complaints and documenting performance reports. What if that time was instead put toward building out a better sexual health care plan.

OpenLoop offers our clients practice management solutions for those looking to offload their administrative work to a dedicated team of experts. It empowers our clients to focus on providing outstanding patient care in all areas of healthcare including sexual health.

Expand your payer coverage network

Building a better sexual health plan and STI/STD care would be hard without first expanding your payer coverage network. Luckily, OpenLoop has a dedicated whitepaper resource called "A Guide to Payer Enrollment for Telehealth Companies" that conveniently lays out the process and timelines for you.

Accessing and partnering with more major payers is going to increase the amount of providers, or sexual health specialists and patients you have access to. As a result, it will expand the amount of care and type of care your organization can offer.

Partner with clinics and health systems

So, you’ve created educational resources, hired more sexual health specialists, outsourced your administrative work and invested in the expansion of your payer coverage network. Now it’s time to find patients in need of care for your providers.

Brick-and-mortar clinics and hospitals are still facing staffing shortages and with the continued prevalence of STIs, sexual health specialists are no exception. For those located in more rural areas of the United States, even more so. Tapping into these health systems creates a synergistic relationship, benefiting all parties involved when properly organized and negotiated.

Powering sexual and reproductive health

Now that you have the seven ways to grow your virtual STI/STD care, let’s get you started toward offering better sexual healths services.

We’d like to reintroduce OpenLoop. We’re a telehealth company supporting other telehealth companies with our full stack of unrivaled support services. OpenLoop also partners with hospitals and clinics across the country to match patients with our vast network of multi-state licensed and credentialed clinicians to deliver the best in virtual care. Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here! Our suite of Telehealth Support Services include:

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