Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the healthcare industry has had to adapt to closures, adopt automated processes and utilize telehealth more than ever before. Providers have been inundated with patient messages, phone calls and payments; in need of mobile-first solutions and custom workflows.
Relatient, a SaaS-based patient engagement company, helped University Physicians’ Association (UPA) to revamp its patient billing process for medical practices across East Tennessee, streamlining revenue cycle management (RCM) operations and extending a patient-friendly financial experience to patients and caregivers. The result was a 43% increase in patient payments with mobile-first billing.
Flexibility is key to meeting patient needs, and Relatient granted UPA the ability to extend self-service tools like mobile payments to the majority of patients who want this kind of access without neglecting those who still prefer to interact over a phone call. In addition to Relatient’s work with UPA, there are many other simple, practical ways to improve the patient experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed shed some light on the healthcare sector, especially in terms of how services are rendered. Even though remote care services have been around for a while, they have only now started gaining popularity.
These services continue to revolutionize the healthcare sector even beyond the pandemic, which is a welcome innovation. With the speed at which the world is moving, and with the changes that come with it, healthcare cannot remain the same since livelihoods depend on it. There is the need, however, for a more customer-centered approach when it comes to telehealth, that will be discussed in this article.
Why must telehealth focus on the customer experience?
There are a lot of benefits of telemedicine and telehealth in general, and there is evidence to prove it. It is cost-effective and speeds up the process of diagnosis, not to mention the convenience it brings. However, in conversations about the implementations, one of the things that are not at the top of the list is patient (or customer) satisfaction. This is surprising because when it comes to healthcare, patients need the reassurance of the results of the service they have paid for, and they need to reap all the benefits of the service and more.
What it means to create a patient-centered experience is to consider the patient’s satisfaction before other features, including how sophisticated the technology is, when evaluating the platforms. There are a few questions to answer in this regard. For example, how easy would patients find it to use the platform? Will they be eager to use it? Would the service be faster than when receiving care in person? And what is there any significant difference in the quality and outcomes of the service?
In creating a telehealth platform that answers these questions and many others for the benefits of the customer, there is an opportunity to reap certain benefits. For one, the financial incentive that comes from taking this initiative cannot be passed on. Facilities and organizations that go this route also get to gain new clients and hence more business.
The recent global medical crisis forced people into isolation and even quarantine environments. It also revealed weaknesses in such areas as medical translation and interpretation services that were previously viewed more as a matter of convenience rather than as an absolute necessity.
There is talk today of an imminent second wave of the Coronavirus crisis and further lock-downs and more extensive isolation being put in place to stem the spread of the virus. Is the telehealth industry ready for a new wave? What weaknesses in remote health care remain to be addressed? What does the future of telehealth hold to help not only in times of crisis but in everyday life?
Remote Healthcare, Telehealth, and Medical Interpretation Services
There was a time in the not-so-distant past, and even to this day in many cases, where medical interpretation services are seen as more of a nuisance than they are a real benefit. In the United States, this is especially common with Spanish interpretation but remains a common occurrence that can be effectively resolved with remote medical interpreters and other telehealth solutions. The role of remote medical interpreters should increase in use and importance in the world of telehealth and telemedicine.
The role of the medical interpreter can be exceptionally challenging, especially given the lack of specific knowledge regarding medical terminology. In lieu of a more pleasant sampling, the example here will focus on the specificity of relevant medical terminology that is especially important given the nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
When individuals are gathered in a more informal conversation regarding colds, cases of flu and COVID-19, they may refer to a more generic word like “spit.” In reality, this is not so much a medical term as phlegm, saliva, and mucus, all three of which have a more specific medical meaning, and all three of which are very relevant to a proper diagnosis and treatment, most notably in terms of any potential respiratory disorders such as those produced by the Coronavirus family.
Any time when someone who is not a professional or certified medical interpreter is used, there is an increased risk that the precise medical meaning of the term may not be fully understood in either language, and the incorrect translation will result in a misdiagnosis.
The healthcare sector is the backbone of any economy, without which no nation can survive. For a prosperous country, it is essential to have a more robust health care sector. Hence, more healthy and fit the workforce is, the better the country will run.
However, if you ask your elders about the hospitals and the availability of healthcare facilities in their times, they will say it was not as advanced as today. There used to be fewer healthcare units and limited doctors available for patient treatments. With the evolution of technology, the health care system got better.
Around five decades back, some hospitals with excellent resources and facilities tried to experiment with providing remote care to patients. Fewer hospitals were trying to reach patients in remote areas to offer them healthcare over the telephone.
Thanks to technological advancements, telemedicine has brought a lot of positive changes in health care services. Diseases can attack us anywhere at any time. Some are mild and get a quick fix of treatment, while many are lethal and need a well-thought treatment plan. The world has seen many plagues and pandemic, but the modern epidemic of COVID-19 is new to the whole world. With the outbreak of this pandemic, ill or healthy, everyone has to stay home and avoid going out. Those having on-going treatments for their follow-ups and other medical examinations were a bit worried.
Fortunately, we live in a digitalized era where telemedicine has provided a solution to all those who were concerned about the doctor’s follow-up or medicine prescriptions. Telehealth has made healthcare services easy for people and practitioners; it brings a little bit of ease in their schedules. It has helped many people who were living in remote areas to get better without traveling.
With new technologies and techniques, health care is continuously evolving. With the pandemic affecting millions of lives and lockdown administered throughout the country, doctors and general practitioners prefer to learn about public health management through online mph degree programs. A degree in public health equips you with skills that can help you develop better solutions for the healthcare system.
The following are the seven ways how telemedicine is revolutionizing the healthcare industry:
Innovaccer is a healthcare technology company pioneering the Data Activation Platform that’s helping the industry realize the promise of value-based care.
Innovaccer’s integration & analysis engine activates healthcare data, cleaning, aggregating and delivering insights at the moment of care. This revolutionary technology streams analytics with custom insights and dashboards, automates workflows, provides real-time decisions for care teams, and point-of-care alerts—actionable intelligence without leaving the EHR experience.
Innovaccer is based in San Francisco with offices across the United States and Asia.
What is the single-most innovative technology you are currently delivering to health systems or medical groups?
Innovaccer is a leading healthcare technology company that deploys its FHIR-enabled Data Activation Platform to help the healthcare industry realize the promise of value-based care. The name “Innovaccer,” is, in fact, a play on the words “innovation” and accelerator.”
Innovaccer leverages AI and predictive analytics to generate insights that help healthcare organizations achieve better clinical outcomes. The FHIR-enabled Data Activation Platform is built on a Hadoop-based Big Data repository with a scalable architecture that allows the integration of disparate sources of data without having to write code. Its agile and modular structure can ingest structured, semi-structured, unstructured data, pool it as a single source of truth, and work on a central HL7 FHIR-based data schema.
How is your product or service innovating the work being done in the organization to provide care or make systems run smoother?
Innovaccer’s smart FHIR-enabled Data Activation Platform has intelligent workflows powered by unified patient records, advanced analytics and true interoperability, enabling collaborative healthcare. Innovaccer brings the data and all healthcare stakeholders together and empowers them with complete patient information to help them care as one.
Today, Innovaccer’s COVID-19 Management System uses AI to optimize the provider response to the disease, allowing medical facilities to reduce assessment time and prioritize patients with a high-risk profile for the next steps of care.
Once COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic and states across the country began issuing shelter in place orders, one thing became very clear: there was a crucial need for healthcare providers to adopt innovative solutions to continue caring for patients.
Practices needed a way to see their patients outside the office — and they needed it fast. As a result, telehealth quickly changed from a ‘plus’ or ‘nice to have’ to a requirement to stay in business.
At a time when many patients were quarantined and canceling appointments, practices were losing a significant amount of revenue. Telehealth provided a way for physicians to continue seeing their patients and keep their offices running.
Now that patients have become accustomed to the telehealth experience with their trusted physician, which is being provided by independent practices and large health systems alike, virtual care is on track to becoming fully integrated into our healthcare system. As we look ahead, healthcare providers will need to start balancing virtual and in-office appointments – and as they do, they will continue to adopt innovative new virtual care solutions that meet changing consumer expectations. Here is a look at what’s in store.
Meeting Patient Demands
According to the survey by Updox, around half of Americans say that if they were to use telehealth services post COVID-19, convenience (51%) would be among the most important factors to them. Drilling down deeper, of patients who like using telehealth services, 65% say it’s because telehealth visits are more convenient than in-office appointments. Additionally, Americans who like using telehealth like it because it’s easier to schedule an appointment via telehealth than an in-office appointment (44%), and because follow-ups/communications post-appointment are more streamlined (38%).
In the traditional healthcare environment, patients would often have to block out hours for a doctor’s appointment. But with telehealth, a visit can take as little as 15 minutes. This is not only more convenient for patients, but it also enables physicians to “see” more patients during the day. By using virtual care solutions, physicians can reach their patients at the touch of a button.
They can collect information ahead of the visit and send follow-ups out via text and even alert their whole patient base to important updates by broadcast messages. They can safely and effectively care for patients while helping reduce exposure to staff. Additionally, by leveraging video chat vs. a phone call, they can garner a stronger, more personal connection with patients, ultimately increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.
By Joe Benardello, co-founder, chief strategy and marketing officer, IKS Health.
Ambulatory care organizations throughout the United States are facing a new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Practice managers must face declining visit volumes, up to 70 percent in many instances, while simultaneously predicting and planning for pent up demand.
More than half of primary care organizations have had to furlough a substantial percentage of their staff and are posing the question of whether or not those employees will be willing or able to return if and when there is a need. With more questions than answers, how do practice managers make strategic decisions for the immediate and long-term health and stability of their organizations? Here are four considerations for leaders in this position.
Identify Where Work Must Happen and Contract for Variable Cost Support
By asking ourselves, what is that work that only doctors can do, ask the same of nurses, and ask the same of front office teams, we can streamline our organizational efficiencies. By job function, identifying which critical tasks each role must complete then enables us to look at where these jobs best sit by both job title and location.
From there, when work is not tied to a specific space, how do you keep the cost as low as possible and make that cost variable while ensuring business continuity and increased performance. Now that organizations have had to embrace a wider work from home policy, can you reduce hard costs like rent and utilities in administrative offices by retaining a remote team or vendor partner.
This can also enable you to variablize your overhead as you can more quickly scale up and down in response to the predicted waves or economic contractions that may occur in the months ahead. For organizations that have already downsized, finding a partner might allow you to reduce cost without bringing staff back on. This allows you to ensure the same standard of care while finding other avenues you can potentially reduce costs in the immediate crisis and permanently as visit volumes resume.
With our current restrictive measures in place to address the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the immunocompromised and those with chronic conditions are confronting pandemic-exclusive challenges in requesting and receiving medical care services, as Instacares are flooded by potential COVID-19 patients and wait times skyrocket.
Thankfully, the medical arenas of telemedicine and addiction treatment are merging in response to quarantine procedures and CDC guidelines that have redefined a new normal. With recommendations of six feet of distance and religious mask wear, telemedicine has been there to step in and fill the gaps by providing ongoing communication, support, and advice for all sorts of mental and physical health needs.
Telemedicine works to improve patient/caregiver communication, reduce the need for travel, overcome geographic barriers, and provide ongoing assistance and support in achieving optimal health and wellness.
With buzzing news reports and political polarization, staying updated on the latest-and-greatest in telemedicine can be difficult among the noise of CDC guidelines, forming legislation, proposed stimulus packages, etc. What other innovations in telemedicine are on the agenda? How can telemedicine affect your ability to receive quality healthcare from the comfort and safety of your own home?
Here are some cutting-edge ways that telemedicine is supporting worldwide health, one interaction at a time:
It lengthens and strengthens treatment protocols
One of the areas most significantly impacted by these recent changes is that of. Pre-pandemic, a patient would have to attend 30-, 60- or 90-day inpatient treatment programs to receive care. However, in the wake of telemedicine, the possibility of receiving ongoing support and care in the comfort of your own home has opened up.
With the aid of telemedicine, patients are able to connect with caregivers for longer periods of time. As a result of this additional support, the probability of recovery and ongoing success with sobriety surges.
According to a recent IBM Institute for Business Value survey of more than 5,000 U.S. adults, just over 36% of respondents have already taken advantage of telemedicine services to seek remote care for less urgent health issues since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of those surveyed, 59% plan to keep using these services into the future, despite the fact that only one-fifth of those surveyed sought virtual care before.
As patients and their providers increasingly recognize the value of engaging virtually, and as we transition into our ‘new normal’, healthcare organizations will need to expand their virtual capabilities to keep up with increased demand for telemedicine while ensuring personalized, seamless delivery of high-quality care. But how?
Increased adoption fuels greater acceleration
Virtual health services and capabilities have been available for quite some time. But in light of a strained and reconfigured healthcare system due to COVID-19 – and with many patients self-isolating – the rate of adoption and use has increased. In years to come, this adoption is likely to gain momentum as demand continues to grow.
Routine face-to-face medical care is now limited for most Americans due to the pandemic, prompting many to take advantage of remote services to access the care they need. And as many parts of the country plan ahead for a world with less in-person interaction, more consumers may choose to forego the process of scheduling an in-person appointment with their provider if they know that it’s possible to receive the same high-quality care through virtual visits.
More than half of those surveyed in IBM’s latest poll indicate they have had a positive experience using telehealthcare services, such as telemedicine, telenursing and telepharmacy, either before or during the current crisis – and that positive experience must be upheld.
To maintain and build on the increased traction of virtual care, providers need to work to ensure that these platforms and services are easy to use for those who are not technologically savvy. It is also critical that they support these services with robust and secure infrastructure so their digital offerings are available and reliable at all times – to the benefit of both patients and doctors.
By Devin Partida, technology writer and the Editor-in-Chief of the digital magazine, ReHack.com
The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive changes around the world. As people adjust to the new normal, they may notice some differences associated with COVID-19 and telehealth. Here’s an in-depth look at those changes.
Telehealth adoption rising
United States government officials announced changes in mid-March that dramatically increased access to telehealth in the nation. The changes included allowing providers to use everyday technologies to connect with patients, offering more telehealth treatment coverage to Medicare beneficiaries and making such options available at lower costs than traditional appointments.
The increased access and provider flexibility are temporary, intended to remain only for the duration of the country’s health emergency. However, some people believe the changes could bode well for telehealth in general, such as by giving adoption of the technology a sustained boost.
Analysts at Frost & Sullivan predict a 64.3% year-over-year growth increase for the telehealth sector this year. The researchers mentioned the need for social distancing as a central factor influencing the surge. However, they cautioned that the telemedicine industry contains an ecosystem where numerous parties affect adoption rates and healthcare compliance standards.
Medical practices can increase income through telehealth visits
Many people avoid face-to-face treatments now due to the risk of virus transmission. However, even before COVID-19 became a threat, people faced other obstacles that made in-person care more complicated, such as a lack of transportation or mental health struggles that made them nervous in public.
Jason Popp, a partner at Alston and Bird’s healthcare litigation group, pointed out how making telehealth more accessible introduces more revenue streams for medical facilities: “When the pandemic started, physicians in practices were seeing big changes because they couldn’t see patients anymore.”
Popp continued, “Now they’re quickly adapting to the change. Otherwise, they’ve got limited revenue because patients aren’t coming to clinics or certain facilities. It’s been a bit of a wake-up call to practitioners who were previously kind of opposed to telehealth. Now they’re seeing there are immense benefits. After the pandemic, many will continue to provide telehealth.”
A temporary telehealth waiver connected to the coronavirus pandemic expands access to people beyond rural areas. Popp viewed that regulatory change as the most significant and hopes Congress will eventually make it permanent. Other parties familiar with telehealth say the sector is scaling up so rapidly that reverting to pre-COVID-19 healthcare compliance standards would prove difficult.