The pandemic created a frenzy for virtual care, with telehealth growing beyond 600 percent for many institutions. And because everyone wanted a piece of that pie, the quick-fix infrastructure supporting those encounters popped up practically overnight.
Some two years later, though, there’s a problem: The telemedicine landscape has become crowded, messy and duplicative. Different departments have piecemeal and one-off solutions that lack enterprise consistency and hamper efficiency. Most troublingly, clinicians and patients alike are getting frustrated.
And yet, telemedicine isn’t going anywhere: More than half of physicians say it’s become a permanent fixture of their care delivery. For better or worse, health care systems are beholden to virtual care technologies. But they’re not stuck with the ones they may have hastily chosen during the 2020 rush.
Leaders have an opportunity to rethink and reimagine their telehealth infrastructure for more efficient and effective care. As they do, these five best practices can help systems evaluate their options for a better and longer-term bite of the telehealth apple:
1. Adapt the user experience
The pandemic accelerated the consumerization of care: Conditioned to expect seamless encounters from other industries like banking and retail, healthcare consumers have begun—and will continue—to demand health interactions that center on choice, convenience and experience.
As hospitals and health systems navigate this rapidly changing and competitive landscape, they’ll need to treat patients as people. Solutions that help put users in control with more care options (choice), promote flexibility (convenience), and are a joy to use (experience) will be most likely to last.
2. Make it configurable
The operations environment surrounding health systems is due for some reining in: Practices that make their vendor ecosystem leaner, cleaner and more purpose-built are in a better position to accommodate the ongoing complexities and intricacies of hybrid care models. With streamlined interfaces and embedded (read: efficient) workflows, this in turn helps to improve user experiences among providers, patients and administrators while bolstering margins.
3. Prioritize interoperability
Solutions that can play in the sandbox without clunky workflows make for a better and more cost-effective experience for all. But it’s not just about making the technology interoperable; the workflows and training surrounding these tools should be too. This means consolidating clinical and operational workstreams in concert with telehealth tools to generate fewer clicks, costs and administrative labor.
And don’t forget the electronic health record, the cornerstone of today’s digital ecosystem. Identify where in the clinical workflow it lives and how to best use it with other technologies. Remember, however: EHRs shouldn’t facilitate patient-to-clinician interactions. There are other, and better, tools for that.
4. Scrutinize your vendor’s business model
Does your vendor compete with your business in any part of theirs? If they use a built-in provider network, they might. That is, their providers are essentially offering the same product as yours, which could result in patient leakage. Even worse, these models can do a disservice to patients as they may lack the historical contexts and trusted relationships that help improve outcomes.
In contrast, future-proofed solutions that are designed with the hospital system or healthcare organization in mind make the tech the commodity—not the clinicians. This model allows internal care team members to generate lasting revenue without jeopardizing precious doctor/patient relationships.
5. Don’t sacrifice security for scale
Telehealth platforms will need to address current needs; that’s a given. But at the same time, solutions should be able to flex toward future demand—from accommodating simple technical details (such as server space) to the more complex concerns like security.
Unfortunately, there are more tech upstarts than ever selling products that weren’t really designed for healthcare. There are also more cyber bad guys out there, eager to exploit those vulnerabilities. Address and invest in solutions that make security a priority now and you’ll benefit greatly long-term.
Ready your practice for whatever comes next
COVID-19 might have thrown healthcare a curveball, but it didn’t expose anything new that wasn’t already an underlying problem: Health systems have always had access to disparate technologies—and the question has always centered on how to use that tech mix in the best interest of practices, patients and providers.
Still, the influx of demand to see doctors onscreen and the quick-fix infrastructure it created has forever changed healthcare. Systems have a rare opportunity to reassess their tech infrastructure to make their virtual care programs more sustainable long-term. Prioritizing experience, configurability, interoperability, non-competitive models and security will be critical for the road ahead.
After all, telehealth isn’t going anywhere. If we’re lucky, though, maybe the hastily developed technology will.
Want to learn more? Watch eVisit’s collaboration webinar with Forrester. Panelists from each organization explore what hospitals and health systems should consider for a sustainable strategy in telehealth and hybrid care.