Before COVID-19 was thrust upon the world, some medical providers were in the trenches exploring how to effectively use modern technology to provide telehealth benefits. Though most were barely entertaining the idea, today we’re seeing the effects of rapid digital transformation in healthcare. Some successfully implemented such solutions before the pandemic, but adoption was relatively sparse until the virus made its way around the globe and put a stop to everything in person. Technology rushed to the rescue and best of all, it’s taught us some valuable lessons.
Many times, it’s insightful to take a look at industries outside your own to understand how they solve problems that parallel your own. Even though it might not feel like it, the age of the coronavirus will eventually come to an end and we’ll go back to openly breathing on each other in public but many of the changes that it’s brought about will be here to stay. Let’s take a look at how the healthcare industry managed the crisis and look at the benefits it’s received then discuss how these lessons can be applied in other businesses.
Crisis in a crisis: identifying telehealth solutions for healthcare
The world over, video chat solutions became more widely adopted for everything from connecting with friends to conducting business. Because of HIPAA statutes, healthcare couldn’t blindly pick any solution off a shelf so decision-makers had to scramble to figure out functional, cost-effective ways to continue to offer services. In other cases, some ignored potential consequences and used whatever means necessary to connect with their patients.
Healthcare is subject to this additional layer of problems that most other industries don’t experience. The majority of popular video chat applications currently available for personal or business use aren’t entirely HIPAA compliant – even with good security measures in place, there are some risks of exposing protected information, namely because there isn’t a formal way to properly authenticate a user on the other end of video chat. Fortunately, the US Department of Health and Human Services recognized that “commonly used apps – including FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype” were the most accessible option for most providers and their patients so they relaxed the rules in July of 2020. This also stirred a small movement among some communications providers to enter business-associated agreements (BAAs) to become officially HIPAA compliant and deliver formal telehealth benefits.
Out of necessity, this jump-started a much-needed trend in the medical community to safely expand into the virtual world. It also yields much broader implications as it will serve to disrupt the telecommunications industry – now that telehealth is on the radar of every company that offers a video chat solution, this will mean more choices and competitive pricing among other changes.
How telehealth benefits the healthcare industry
Regarding video chat, the healthcare benefits are relatively straightforward. Primary care providers can discuss medical issues as well as assess visible issues like injuries, skin conditions, and so on – in conjunction with devices and apps that provide patient-generated health data (PGHD) like the product we developed, Sugarmate, providers can deliver services on par with in-person office visits. Medical health professionals like therapists and psychiatrists can connect on a deeper level as well as observe cues like body language to provide more empathetic care.
Of course, there’s much more to telehealth than just video chat as related solutions like good healthcare booking apps help improve scheduling, access to medical records, and more. Such digital solutions speed up processes plus, they give patients greater control for an overall better experience.
Despite all the trials and tribulations that the pandemic has caused, it forced changes for the better across the healthcare spectrum. The last industry-wide push for digitization in US healthcare was the HITECH Act from 2009 that mandated several changes, namely a push for all medical disciplines to adopt EMR/EHR systems for record retention. While some providers leveraged the momentum from this act to continue their investment in digital transformation, others waned after doing the bare minimum to meet compliance. This is evident by recent statistics that show how few medical professionals took advantage of technology to offer virtual services.
Outside of human healthcare, new telehealth benefits are being adapted for virtual pet care. While it’s not yet possible to completely replace the physical contact that many vets use to feel for abnormalities during physical checkups, systems like AirVet act as “teletriaging” services that pet owners can use to connect with professionals when concerns arise at any time of the day. Also, systems like TeleVet act as a digital booking service for in-network vets where users can schedule times as well as upload essential files like images or videos of their pets for assessment before a scheduled visit. Moving forward, veterinary practices might want to consider developing their own solutions to offer virtual services or booking. Plus, with the advent of new telehealth platforms for pet care, there’s still untapped potential for entrepreneurs to come up with unique solutions for the market.
The infrastructure and technology for adequately providing virtual services have been in existence for some time so the silver-lining to the coronavirus is that providers are now using modern communication solutions and other technology to streamline operations while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Ideally, healthcare as a whole will continue to keep up-to-date on technology trends beyond just advances in biomedical tech.
How telehealth benefits will impact other areas of business
By quickly and effectively confronting virus-related obstacles in healthcare, other industries have an opportunity to learn valuable lessons and in some cases, reap passive benefits. Let’s quickly take a look at a few takeaways from this recent “technological renaissance” in healthcare and how it could impact other areas of business.
Major players in telecommunications will need to adapt to remain competitive. For years, major VoIP providers like 8×8, Mitel, Cisco, and others were the go-to companies for sophisticated communication services like fancy video conferencing solutions that only worked with a handful of supported devices which also happened to be quite pricey. Lo and behold, healthcare’s successful, interim adoption of free and inexpensive services shows us that high-dollar video conferencing services aren’t entirely necessary. Major providers will either need to bring more value and innovation to their services or lower prices.
More technology throughout the legal system would provide several benefits. The legal system in the US is incredibly inefficient – ignoring politics that stifle the system, courts have been slow to adopt technology that will substantially alleviate the burden of being so overwhelmed with cases. While many courts are already using video conferencing solutions to hold hearings with those already behind bars, recent telehealth benefits from this technology show us that virtual courtrooms are entirely feasible so long as systems are in place to digitally share evidence in real-time. And when things go awry while newcomers acclimate to technology, at least we can get a laugh out of it.
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Because the law is notorious for using complex language, AI-based systems that parse text and visual data would prove highly useful for interpreting case information for either criminal and civil matters. Much like how great booking apps bring value to healthcare, secure platforms for filing cases and corresponding with courts would be a vast improvement over physical mail that many districts still rely upon.
Virtual services in construction and other skilled labor would lead to greater efficiency. Foremen on large construction sites typically spend a lot of time moving between several points to ensure a project is going to plan. By using video chat technology to connect with workers distributed around a site or at different locations, many tasks could be completed much more efficiently. Troubleshooting and documenting issues would go much faster with video solutions in place as workers would spend less time waiting for management to physically assess a situation. Integrating such feeds into construction software that tethers with design software used by engineers or architects would further help resolve impasses resulting from design issues much faster than using crude, hand-drawn diagrams or static images.
Business in any vertical no longer requires face-to-face meetings. For the better part of human existence, a firm handshake was a core component of a business deal but this has gone to the wayside with video meetings. It’s no longer necessary to “feel out” someone during an in-person meeting as real-time, high-resolution video chats prove to be just as effective. Moreover, other business models that required two individuals to be in the same room, such as tutoring, sports lessons, and so on, no longer need to transpire in the physical world. By shifting to virtual models, time and expenses from traveling allow people to save precious minutes and money. Virtual meetings also becoming a necessity for personal affairs with video chat dates replacing in-person meetups, a trend that may well stick around into the future, just like telehealth benefits in healthcare.
Communication can be easily integrated into any platform. Most apps used for business will observe benefits with embedded communication features. By using third-party plugins like those from Twilio, businesses can integrate text messaging, voice or video chats directly into their application to connect users. This prevents the need for users to turn to other platforms to collaborate or share personal contact information. Further applying NLP solutions like speech-to-text (STT) for voice or video communications can help document conversations between individuals such as when working through technical issues or in customer service scenarios which makes the review process much faster.
We can adapt lessons learned from healthcare to benefit business any industry
At Blue Label Labs, we believe in using the most sophisticated tools on the market to leverage our successes and deliver the best product possible. Though healthcare is arguably the most regulated field when it comes to communication, the industry pivoted quickly to adopt virtual solutions that kept patient care front and center. Other industries need to take note of how tools like video chat apps and other modern tech proved to be invaluable for medical services. By getting in touch with us, we can help you build solutions that usher in a new era of productivity.
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