Crawl, walk, run- a common sense approach to telehealth
COVID-19: The hurried rush towards telehealth
When the pandemic first took hold in March and April of 2020, you didn’t have alternative telemedicine consumption options. You had to jump in with both feet. Many healthcare organizations that we have spoken to ended up being pressured by telehealth companies to sign up for more than they thought they needed. In the recent past, we have seen exorbitant up front costs to get in the game with bloated companies pushing bloated telemedicine software plans despite the fact that providers weren’t sure how often they would use them particularly after the pandemic. There is no reason to have to pay for that bloat. Conversely, you also don’t want to quickly outgrow your telemedicine platform, so there has to be a consumption model that straightens the curves and flattens the hills. Since we have more usage data than ever before, we can take a measured approach that gives us the best of both worlds.
The Best Telehealth Platforms pushed to the brink of collapse
As many HIPAA compliant telehealth platforms (including some of the biggest names in the industry) had performance issues during the COVID-19 rush to “get some telemedicine now”, new telehealth platforms have to be built to scale up and down. Some of these telemedicine platform performance issues in Spring of 2020 were so bad that they were forced to turn new customers away at best and at worst failed to make patient telehealth encounters happen at all. You certainly want to feel comfortable that your provider is able to scale up to meet your needs but you also want them to scale down as needed. The ability to adjust up or down to account for seasonality (flu season, other local outbreaks, etc) is going to afford you the luxury of making sure that you’re using only what you need with the assurance that the telehealth platform you choose can offer burstability. There is no need to get caught off guard again like the majority of people did in 2020 and certainly no reason to pay for something you’re not using.
There may be another COVID-type public health emergency right around the corner and there may not be. There will, however, be another flu season and another epidemic or pandemic eventually. It is a matter of when and not if. There also will be patients who will prefer telemedicine video visits when applicable just as there will be patients who feel more comfortable with a face to face encounters even when not needed. Having a plan for seamlessly transitioning more patient encounters and visits over a telehealth platform is a good strategy. Being able to do it at a moment’s notice offers you the flexibility to take the bumps in the road a little more smoothly.
2021 Telehealth Planning: You make the rules
Providers are now making their 2021 telehealth plans, post-COVID. The rush that the public health emergency presented us is over and people are taking a step back and identifying how they are going to utilize telemedicine to complement their existing business. They had no choice in 2020. They had to use what they could get their hands on and they had to do it quickly. With some providers having scaling issues, healthcare providers couldn’t even find a telemedicine solution to sign up for so they had to take what they could get. Now, they can choose carefully and make measured decisions based on what is right for their business.
It used to be that when a patient had to cancel at the last minute, that was a lost opportunity for the patient and lost revenue for the provider. Now, if a patient has to cancel an in-person visit, you can quickly pivot and change it to an online visit and still monetize the encounter. You don’t have to bet on how many telehealth customers you are going to see. As the demand goes up and down, you can build your telehealth strategy brick by brick and make money every time you use it.
The vast majority of those who signed up for a service last year used whatever they could get their hands on or purposefully used a communication platform that wasn’t secure as a result of relaxed HIPAA rules. It was a stop gap measure. It wasn’t a long-term strategic decision. Now that most of the dust has settled and we’re almost into year two of the pandemic, customers are now defining their post-COVID telehealth strategies. Normal HIPAA rules regarding data and call security will come back into play once the public health emergency is officially over and we will go back to tried and true methods of communicating over a telehealth platform that protects patient data and privacy, except now you will have flexibility and choice in how you consume it.