The First Telehealth Awareness Week Recap
Last week was the first telehealth awareness week hosted by the American TeleMedicine Association. They invited leadership from leading startups in the telehealth category to explain what they’ve been doing.
As a founder in the same category, I, of course, am curious about how others are interpreting the healthcare problem, devising new solutions and wishing to share these insights. The most amazing thing perhaps is that even though startups might all agree on the same problems — they all have different approaches to the solution.
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The surprising or unsurprising things that we’ve observed from telehealth adoption
- Is this an ethical issue? Why do we care? Does this product achieve the result we want, which ultimately is the delivery of the equity of care. The contention point is that poorer people ultimately lack broadband access and are effectively shut off from using telehealth services that rely on internet access. In Canada, there are 4.9M living under poverty line, and in America, there are 11.9M children and a total of 34M living under the poverty line.
- Telehealth adoption rates refute that there are generational factors that drive adoption. Doctors have different preferences in terms of technology adaptations, these preferences may or may not coincide with their demographic and instead be driven by other much more prevalent variables — are they getting paid? Is it easy for them to get paid quickly? It’s about being able to identify within a sea of confounding variables which variables will drive the largest behavioral change in your target user (or customer).
- Patient intake redesign involves a conversational user interface that is not driven by a bot. It is designed by decision logic and includes self-checking abilities such as prescribed medication dosages from previous patient visits. The decision logic helps the physician collect the most accurate patient data and help the doctor avoid decision fatigue.
- Instead of incorporating unique short forms of note taking per each individual doctor, these startups opt for standardizing SOAP form note taking. Part of the difficulty is teaching the technology to learn the short form mannerisms of the doctor when dictating notes. If my understanding is correct, startups that do not work with payors have no need to integrate into any existing EHR (Electronic Health Records).
- The doctor still retains final responsibility to decide whether the person needs in-person examination or urgent care and would redirect the person according to his best judgment. The panelist specified that these telehealth products are only a mode (or a conduit) to help doctors deliver care better.
- The use of interpretive interviews is part of the patient journey in telehealth. The point is to build in the design where routine questions don’t get missed and comprehensive care is being delivered to patients. Comprehensive care here means that questions would be asked about the patient’s lifestyle such as sleep and nutrition intake, key variables that affect the ongoing health of the patient.
- There are startups that cut out the payer entirely and work directly with the patient, and others that work with payers (insurance companies) directly to improve patient engagement. These are usually in the interest of insurance companies to lower the expected costs (claims) of specific treatments. For example, the startup would create a workflow post-surgery to ensure patient adherence to medication and lifestyle requirements (adequate intake of water). We can conclude that any type of automated patient post-operative experience that reduces chances of re-admission would be highly valued.
- A statistic provided by a telehealth provider indicates that 60% of their patients book after hours appointments. There is an entire focus on acute care that caters to the patient’s work schedule.
From a consultant’s perspective, all this doesn’t mean anything if there are no implications on future revenue and costs. With my MBA consulting-oriented courses ingrained into my brain, the question I ask is: for a product to have existential value, is there a business case at stake? Are there cost savings from lowered mortality? Perhaps telehealth unicorn use cases are not exactly the right examples to show an immediate ROI because they’re still finding viable business models.
This is about enabling doctors to making better clinical decisions
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning the presumption that these telehealth products specifically cater to the younger generation or people with minor ailments that can be treated easily with access to a primary care physician. It offers patients even those with minor ailments a track record of their appointments and medications. The baseline insight here is, who likes going to see the doctor? We want the magic to happen behind the scenes, cutting the wait times at urgent or walk-in clinics — and the magic for the doctors? Being a part of streamlined patient intake process that the doctor sees only the relevant patient information so they can make the right decisions, order the right blood tests.