There have been a lot of think pieces on how the pandemic has changed the trajectory of telehealth. The truth is, that the pandemic has not changed the direction of telehealth services as much as it has accelerated trends that were already well underway.
What does that mean for your clinic or practice? It means that telehealth is here to stay, and it’s important to find a telemedicine partner that will support the increasing demands for virtual care while giving you a competitive edge.
Just like any other software that you roll out throughout your healthcare organization, you need to consider how your choice of a telemedicine partner will affect your patients, your providers, and your budget so you can continue to deliver the best care possible.
Here are ten critical things to consider when choosing a telehealth partner:
1. Security and Compliance
It doesn’t matter what other features a telemedicine platform offers, if your privacy and data aren’t secure, you’re going to run into several challenges. It’s critical that your telemedicine partner clearly stipulates how patient information is stored and shared within their servers. Ensure that your platform is HIPAA, PIPEDA or PHIPA compliant and that end-to-end encryption is included to prevent any third parties from reading or accessing private communications.
2. Flexible Access for Providers and Patients
The best telemedicine partners offer a platform that is hardware and platform agnostic - meaning that your software is cross compatible and can run undisturbed on any device such as a computer, smartphone or tablet. The browser and operating system should work smoothly and be reliable no matter what device or browser you’re using. Essentially, the software should run as smoothly on older laptops as it does on the newest smartphone.
The most flexible platforms are web-based and cloud-based. Web-based platforms allow you to easily use the telehealth platform on desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. They also don’t require installations or downloads, and can be accessed from any tool at hand that connects to the internet.
3. Workflow & Ongoing Support
We all know the stressors that can accompany the initial set up of a new platform, which is why it’s so important your telehealth company offers workflow support. A well organized telehealth company will be prepared to collaborate with you by creating a system that correlates with your existing workflows so you don’t have to manually enter your patient data more than once. Your telehealth platform should offer 24-7 support to troubleshoot any inevitable issues that may arise or answer any product inquiries you have.
Since each healthcare organization functions differently, it’s important that your telehealth company offers one on one or group sessions to ensure that your platform is tailored to meet your needs. Orientation and training should be implemented throughout your entire journey, from the trial period to when you become an avid user of the platform. It’s great if your telehealth provider has chatbots and knowledge-based articles because they’re helpful for FAQ, but they’re simply not enough. A chatbot can’t answer the difficult questions that you may encounter, nor can they provide you with guidance on cost saving setups and configurations. For that reason, it is essential that you have access to a support team member who can provide you with real-time responses, around the clock.
4. Provider Scheduling
A good telemedicine portal will reduce the administrative burden on support staff. You want to use a platform that allows patients to schedule appointments with their providers without having to burden receptionists. The platform also needs to be flexible enough to allow receptionists and other support staff to schedule appointments for patients. Be sure that your platform has features to send appointment reminders to avoid no shows.
5. Ease of Use for Providers
The most significant indicator for the success of any telemedicine platform in any practice is how easy it is to use.
Providers are already operating under tight time constraints. If the telemedicine platform is hard to learn or use, providers won’t want to use it. Before committing to a telemedicine platform, you should be able to try before you buy. You should have access to webinars and a walk through of a demo. Ideally, using the platform should be intuitive. There should not be more than three steps between logging on and speaking with a patient.
6. Ease of Use for Patients
It’s just as important for patients to easily navigate and use the platform. If it’s too difficult to learn or use, patients will opt out of using it, which can result in loss of business.
Remember, not everyone is tech-savvy and technically inclined. The system needs to be just as easy for everyone to navigate across the board, no matter what. Logging in, accessing the video session and using the features should be simple with limited steps.
7. Comprehensive Platform
Most health care providers already have to stay on top of several different platforms and software programs. The best telemedicine platforms will make your life less complicated, not more. It needs to be comprehensive so that you are not forced to invest in additional software down the road. Some key features of a comprehensive telehealth platform will include telemedicine triage and information capture.
You need a platform that is more than just a siloed web-cam application. You need to be able to meet the needs of a wide variety of different kinds of patients. You also need to find a platform that lowers the administrative burden on both your organization and your patients.
The ability to collect and complete medical history, triage questionnaires, symptoms logs, and intake forms is crucial.
8. Compatibility with Existing Systems
You need a telemedicine partner that knows how to integrate with other systems, especially your electronic health record (EHR) system. EHR integration helps your providers deliver better care, improves patient outcomes, and makes your administrative staff more efficient.
9. Scalable and Adaptable
How much has your organization changed over the past twelve months? When investing in a telemedicine platform, you need to find a partner with a track record of developing software that is scalable and adaptable.
You do not want to grow out of your telemedicine platform in one year, two years or five. You want a platform that scales as your organization grows, and that is adaptable as conditions change.
10. Real-Time Support
When something goes wrong, you need to be able to get a hold of someone. You want a partner that offers real-time supportIt can be very frustrating waiting on responses for someone to contact you, especially when it can jeopardize the way you provide care to your patients. You need to be able to phone your telemedicine company and email them. A company’s customer service and commitment speaks volume about their business. You should feel comfortable, supported, and well taken care of.