COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated telehealth adoption, which has proven a highly effective alternative to in-person care throughout the pandemic. However, for many healthcare practices, virtual care services are still a relatively new initiative.
Facing a learning curve and needing to act fast, a number of practices are leveraging free or commoditized solutions as a quick fix to their telehealth-related challenges. Although healthcare practices can still benefit from using free solutions, more comprehensive telehealth and patient engagement technology is available—and many providers agree it’s well worth the investment.
With the newfound telehealth momentum continuing to fuel changes in the way providers deliver and patients experience care, healthcare organizations must evaluate whether they’re equipped with technology that offers value. Is your telehealth solution valuable for patients and providers? Let’s find out:
The Pros and Cons of Using a Free Telehealth Solution
First, let’s talk about the pros and cons to using a free solution for telehealth services. The biggest benefit in the “pro” column is of course cost-effectiveness. While somewhat limited in functionality, free and commoditized solutions can still do the basics in terms of video conferencing.
However, there are still many downfalls that come with using free solutions for telehealth services. For one thing, they’re almost never secure enough to ensure protection from security breaches and compliance with (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) HIPAA regulations.
Additionally, many of the free video conferencing tools on the market are not designed with healthcare in mind, so they may not offer end-to-end features that enable easy virtual care. Free telehealth solutions almost always lack integration capabilities, meaning your platform may not be able to sync up and communicate with existing technologies, such as your electronic health record (EHR) system.
What Telehealth Solutions Need to Offer to Provide Real Value
Now you know the pros and pitfalls to using basic platforms—but what does a telehealth solution need to offer to provide real value to patients and providers?
Digital solutions do their best work when they’re talking and working in unison. Look for a telehealth system that integrates with your existing EHR, as well as your practice management, billing, and patient engagement technology. Seamless integration allows clinicians to access all the tools and data they need with one single system, introducing cost savings and workflow efficiencies.
Solid User Experience
As with many digital tools, it’s important that your telehealth solution delivers a great user experience (UX) for practice staff, providers, and patients alike. In other words, the design needs to be user-friendly for all parties, including your less tech-savvy and elderly patients who may have limited experience with technology. Ideally, the solution you choose will be designed in such a way that it makes the virtual care delivery process easy for both patients and providers.
Data security and HIPAA compliance are top priorities for healthcare practices—especially for those now offering telehealth services. It’s absolutely vital that the solution you choose is qualified for secure medical use to avoid violating your patients’ privacy and ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations. A secure, encrypted platform with top-notch data security protocols will allow you to offer virtual care, minus the potential security and compliance risks that may come with unprotected systems.
End-to-End Virtual Care
To realize the full benefits of your telehealth technology, look for a solution that offers end-to-end virtual care. All-in-one solutions provide a convenient way for patients and providers to communicate without barriers. Integration with your patient engagement technology will allow you to manage everything from scheduling and intake, to a virtual waiting room, discharge, and analytics—basically your office operations, mirrored for a digital experience.
Chances are, you’re looking to invest in a telehealth solution that won’t break the bank. Fortunately, there are several paid alternatives you can use to deliver cost-effective virtual care that’s convenient for you and your patients. A great telehealth vendor will offer flexible pricing models designed to meet your needs.
These days, nearly every healthcare solution is cloud-based and easily accessible via a web browser, which is definitely the preferred route for most practices. Cloud-based telehealth solutions don’t require software installation or complex maintenance and updates that can lead to downtime. Instead, consider using a tool that enables you to connect with patients right in a web browser.
Along with these must-haves, you might also look for a telehealth solution that can be customized to your practice’s needs, as opposed to many of the free, cookie-cutter platforms available. This way, your telehealth solution can scale with your practice as you grow and meet both your current and future needs. Great technical support is another factor to consider—although with a user-friendly solution, you shouldn’t need to use it.
Healthcare practices of all shapes and sizes are still figuring out the best technology, strategy, and processes to deliver quality virtual care during COVID-19 and beyond. Contemplate these must-have features and whether or not your telehealth solution is truly offering value to your patients and providers—and if not? Let’s talk!