• David Chou

Current Telehealth Systems Are Not Enterprise Ready


Telehealth has helped expand access to care when the Covid-19 pandemic has severely restricted patients’ ability to see their doctors. The problem is that current telehealth solutions are not enterprise platforms, they mainly function as a standalone video conferencing solutions meeting HIPAA requirements. What would happen to the telehealth solution industry if your iMessage is HIPAA compliant? It may dominate North America the same way that WhatsApp and WeChat are the preferred communication platform for telehealth internationally. While hospitals have seen the uptick in telehealth usage across hospitals, there is still room to improve the technology experience.

Current telehealth solutions are missing the opportunity with interoperability. Next-generation telemedicine solution must provide a mobile-first experience with similar interoperability features in the retail world. I recommend enterprise telehealth vendors sharpen their attention in the following areas:


Instant Communication

Patients need the ability to communicate to the clinicians, integrating two-way messaging capabilities between the patient and clinician is a requirement. In addition to a patient to clinician communication, physicians that refer patients to a specialist will need a simple mechanism to communicate in an enterprise telehealth solution. An example of the workflow today is one doctor will use their EMR or telehealth solution to document the patient’s visit. When a referral is required to a specialist, they fax the notes and patient information. This is not ideal, two-way communication must be simple and easy similar to the text messaging capabilities.


Pharmacy Integration

Patients trust pharmacists for advice about managing their medications and their health condition. We need an integrated enterprise telemedicine solution providing the personalized mobile experience connecting to the drug SKU level, making it easy for medication refills and delivery tracking to the home. Reordering of medication can be as simple as ordering a pizza from an app.

I would incorporate instant communication with a pharmacist so that patients can speak to an expert about their medication intake. A pharmacist must have the ability to call a specialist to consult on specific drug therapy with a patient in a three-way call, optimizing the care coordination process. Currently, the majority of telehealth systems lack pharmacy integration.


Payviders

Healthcare providers are becoming payers and playing the role of payviders. Robust payer integration and connectivity to all external out of network providers can streamline the financial cost for the patient while finding the appropriate provider for the patient based on their insurance coverage. Price transparency and easy bill pay improve patient satisfaction allowing the patient the ability to choose between an in-network or out of network provider.

Health systems should use the telehealth platform as the initial triage entry point with the patient. If the need arises to visit the hospital during the telehealth consult, provide an estimated cost of the visit to the patient. A hospital bill is a black box for majority of the healthcare consumers.


Device Integration

Home health medical device usage will be prominent as telehealth usage increases. Patients are prescribed medical devices to monitor their vital, heart rate, and other items related to remote patient monitoring. Future hospital trend is focusing on keeping patients healthier and out of the hospitals, therefore the usage of monitoring technology will be part of the care delivery. Enterprise device integration with the telehealth solution will be required as the shift towards population health continues for the health system.


Frictionless user experience

As I am working virtually using different types of video conferencing solutions, my preference is to have a frictionless experience without installing any third-party video conferencing app. I want to initiate the video solution by clicking on a link and using the web browser of my choice. Patients also want the same experience from their telehealth solution where they can initiate the visit by clicking on a link sent through email or a text message. This frictionless experience makes it easier for patients that may be technically challenged, avoiding the need to install any third-party apps.


The ideal enterprise telehealth solution will be an extension of the EMR, and EMR plays a complementary role with some overlapping features. The key to a successful telehealth product is the relentless focus on user experience. Healthcare technology solutions are under pressure to transform, and I am witnessing a shift where many vendors are changing their strategy to offering a telehealth solution. For example, many healthcare secure messaging applications are adding video capabilities and rebranding the product as a telehealth solution during Covid-19. This creates a crowded space in the telehealth product offerings. I recommend that telehealth solutions adopt the features that I have laid out to be enterprise-ready versus functioning as a standalone system.


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ABOUT David Chou

David Chou serves as the SVP/CIO for a public academic health system.  Chou has held executive roles with the Cleveland Clinic, Children's Mercy Hospital, University Of Mississippi Medical Center, AHMC Healthcare, and Prime Healthcare.  

David is a dynamic keynote speaker and industry commentator working with clients to transform their business models using technology. He has spoken around the world at healthcare tech-related conference including keynotes for leading industry events and intimate executive settings. Chou is also one of the most mentioned CIOs in the media and well quoted in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Modern Healthcare, HIMSS Media, ZDNet, CIO.com, Huffington Post, and Becker's Healthcare.  David is an active member of both ACHE and HIMSS while serving on the board for CHIME. 

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