During early phases of the Covid-19 Pandemic, thousands of physicians and organizations quickly deployed a telehealth solution to avoid disruption to care. Many who stood up telehealth as a “rapid response” are now pausing to evaluate their long-term goals and tools for telehealth and virtual care, recognizing the need to ensure stability, security and scalability of their technology solution and services.
Additionally, many physicians and organizations have yet to deploy telehealth, but are quickly realizing it’s essential for competitive positioning, patient safety and digital presence.
Pivot Point Consulting’s “Telehealth Strategic Questions” provides an excellent primer on 8 essential planning factors to launch and expand telehealth services. In this Pivot Point Perspective, we focus on key considerations to assess telehealth vendors and products and find the right partner to meet your specific needs.
The (Ever-Changing) Telehealth Landscape
Broadly speaking, there are several types of telehealth — as noted below. Understanding the range of telehealth services, their enabling technologies and related terminology is an essential precursor to make an informed vendor and product selection.
- Video Visit: a live, interactive consult between a patient and provider
- Teleconsult: a live video–enabled consult between a primary care provider and a specialist assisting in rendering a diagnosis and / or care
- Store and forward (asynchronous): transmission of diagnostic images, vital signs and / or video clips along with patient data for later review by a provider for diagnosis and care
- eVisits: algorithm–driven online patient assessment to inform or establish diagnosis
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM): use of devices to collect and transmit patient data to a home health agency, a diagnostic testing facility or provider for monitoring and interpretation
- Mobile health (mHealth): use of phones and other devices to obtain health information, access provider and payor portals, and conduct video visits
Find the Right Telehealth Vendor and Product
With so many types of telehealth services and so many telehealth vendors (over 300 and counting), strategic success with telehealth requires a thoughtful analysis of your current/future telehealth needs and virtual care goals, as well as deliberate discernment of vendor and products. Contracting with a consulting firm specializing in telehealth and vendor selection to assist in this planning and vendor review can expedite the process and minimize long-term risk and/or product “mis-fit.”
A few of the essential factors to consider when evaluating telehealth solutions are below. This list, while not comprehensive, serves as a starting point for informed decision making.
- How established is the vendor in the market? How many years has it been in business, how many clients does it have and does the vendor have a solid reputation and market ratings?
- What is the profile of the vendor’s clients? Having a sizable client base akin to your organization brings confidence that the vendor knows your business and workflows.
- What is the vendor’s growth trajectory — before and post COVID-19? If they have grown significantly in volume over the past few months, can their services team support and sustain that growth? Conversely, if they have not scaled during this period it’s worth exploring “why.”
- What type of telehealth does it support? As described above, there are several types of telehealth. It’s important to be clear about your immediate and long-term requirements and that your vendor and product can (and has) delivered on them.
- Does the product enable good “webside manner”? The patient and provider visit experience should be equal to or better than in-person care — an easy to use, intuitive and stable product will expedite throughput and keep patients and providers returning to telehealth visits.
- Is it as easy as possible for your patients to use? If your need centers on visits for senior and / or home-bound patient population, assess the product from that perspective. Conversely, if you primarily see young and / or mobile-device fluent populations, carefully assess its functionality and ease from various devices.
- Can it integrate with your EHR? For workflow efficiency, integrating the telehealth video platform into the EHR should be a non-negotiable.
- Is it supportable, secure and stable? Does the product work seamlessly across all devices and operating systems? Is it a highly secure platform? What are its bandwidth requirements, and can you and your patients generally meet them?
There is no shortage of information on telehealth vendors and products — including the useful resources below. Ultimately, each provider and organization will need to carefully identify its needs and the vendors and products to meet them.
- American Telemedicine Association
- National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
- CMS Long-term care Telehealth Toolkit
Learn more about Pivot Point Consulting‘s telehealth planning and implementation services.