Author: Nicole Brinson
4 Pitfalls That Hinder Telehealth Success, Part 1
Healthcare companies recognize their need for closer collaboration—internally and externally—but several pitfalls are keeping this goal from becoming a reality.
Telehealth and videoconferencing technologies have both been around since the 1970s. Advances in internet bandwidth and technology within the past five years coupled with lower technology costs and increased video communication among consumers have led to an explosion in adoption of these systems. Previously, corporate videoconferencing users and telehealth users rarely crossed paths, and their systems weren't connected to one another. However, in today's collaborative work environment, healthcare organizations recognize multiple benefits of deploying enterprisewide solutions that optimize hardware, software and human labor resources and improve productivity.
According to a report from Tractica, telehealth video consultation sessions will increase from 19.7 million in 2014 to 158.4 million per year by 2020, making it a $34 billion market. However, there’s sure to be several casualties along the way. In 2015, for example, telemedicine kiosk provider, HealthSpot, which touted partnerships with RiteAid, Kaiser Permanente and Cleveland Clinic, shut down with no warning—after raising $40 million. Additionally, American Well, a telehealth provider with $150 million in investments is reportedly suffering from low video usage.
As a consultant and managed services provider and partner to dozens of healthcare organizations, Bedroc recognizes the challenges and pain points businesses face when it comes to videoconferencing and telehealth systems. To mitigate these challenges, it’s imperative to develop a comprehensive telehealth strategy and avoid the following pitfalls.
Pitfall #1: using customized/proprietary APIs (application program interfaces)
Achieving a collaborative work environment requires integrating communication systems. And the goal of unifying corporate videoconferencing and telehealth systems entails much more than just a one-to-one integration between two technologies. Each system is also integrated with other business systems and applications. On the clinical side, for example, a client may select a popular telehealth software package such as Philips tele-ICU. After implementing the software, the client may wish to integrate its telehealth software with its EHR (electronic health record). If the client is using Epic EHR, for instance, it might find out that there’s no API to the Philips telehealth software. Similar problems exist on the corporate side of the healthcare business. For example, perhaps the client is using an on-premises videoconferencing system like Vidyo. It may want to integrate with its EHR system until it discovers its proprietary API has limited interoperability with Cisco and Polycom video systems.
Creating custom integrations between software systems is expensive, and it's not just a one-time process. Each time there's a significant upgrade to one of the systems, the customized API must be updated to maintain the seamless two-way flow of information between the two programs. Plus, as the healthcare company grows, scaling its communication systems becomes highly sophisticated, making it a logistical and financial nightmare.
Pitfall #2: Failure to consider all workflows in advance
When an organization contemplates a telemedicine or videoconferencing investment, it's easy to focus only on the short-term goals, overlooking feature and functions that may be desirable a few years down the road. Add to the situation growth through mergers and acquisitions (M&As), and inevitably the video technologies won't be aligned with the health system's workflows. For example, corporate may use Skype for Business for videoconferencing while the clinical side of the business uses a variety of technologies from Cisco, Microsoft and Polycom. In this mixed-technology environment, it would be nearly impossible for human resources or payroll managers to set up a video session with a clinician or share a computer screen to have a conversation.
Healthcare is driven by workflows. And the way an ICU uses technology and interacts with patients is much different than the workflow for a caregiver in pediatrics or behavioral health. When user workflows fail to take this into account and workers are expected to conform to the technology rather than vice versa, layers of complexity are introduced, hindering productivity and resulting in video and telehealth systems being underutilized or abandoned altogether.
In part two of this blog, we’ll look at two additional pitfalls that can hamper a healthcare collaboration project and we’ll offer suggestions for avoiding these problems at your company.