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Diagnosing telehealth: How organizations can optimize the care option that’s here to stay

Are you providing a quality telehealth experience? Experts weigh in on optimizing care delivery that’s here to stay.

Feb. 8, 2021 | By: TEKsystems

woman at laptop speaking with a man via conference call on a desktop computer

As virtual experiences become more common than traditional in-person interactions, the healthcare industry is not immune. The demand for telehealth is increasing along with patient expectations. Telehealth has become a component of care delivery, likely becoming a permanent care model within health systems. Organizations need to keep pace. But how?

We talked with our experts Ben Flock, chief healthcare strategist at TEKsystems, and Joe Brennan, telehealth consultant at Moonshot Health Consulting, to get their diagnosis of telehealth, which should be designed around the patient, standardized to easily scale and supported by training to ensure adoption.

Q: In 2020, many organizations implemented telehealth as COVID-19 prompted the removal of long-standing barriers to the virtual care method. But not all organizations were ready. Why do organizations struggle with telehealth?

A: Most organizations lack the operational support to make the experience successful. Existing telehealth solutions are clunky, lacking a simple, intuitive user experience—from both the patient and provider perspectives.

Patients want to connect with their healthcare providers from the safety and comfort of their own homes. As avid consumers in a digital world, patients expect a telehealth option from their providers and, more importantly, want an exceptional experience. Provider buy-in is already an existing obstacle as healthcare professionals have limited time and resources. Burnout is real. Plus, leadership needs to be fully behind the efforts.

Currently, we’re working with a healthcare organization in Philadelphia that launched their telehealth in March 2020 but reached out to us in June 2020 to help improve their telehealth experiences. Virtual health is not like treating patients face to face—it requires not only a customized technical approach but also an intentional strategy to training and execution.

For example, through our client’s existing system, patients could have video visits one of six ways. Plus, they had multiple inconsistent telehealth training documents. We spent time with their team to walk through the patient journey—from the digital front door to seeing the provider on screen. We provided different scenarios and best practices on how to deliver care in front of a webcam. We determined ways to enhance the patient experience—from details like wearing your lab coat and badge to educating patients before their visit about what they can expect.

Q: Telehealth isn’t new—many organizations have the capability. Are there any examples of organizations that got ahead of telehealth before the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: When COVID-19 hit, many organizations didn’t have a choice but to consider telehealth to care for their patients and to maintain business continuity. So, COVID-19 accelerated telehealth. It became a necessity overnight.

But another one of our customers, a large healthcare system in Connecticut, was an early adopter who wanted to create a patient-centric solution that would expand their ability to provide quality patient care—no matter where a patient is located.

But while they had the vision prior to the pandemic, they didn’t have their direct-to-consumer option operationalized. It had 27 arduous steps, including three separate sections for patients to input their allergies and current medications. A new patient could spend 10 minutes simply inputting information.

We worked with them to streamline the patient experience, cutting out steps to make it as easy as possible to use. We incorporated a medical assistant to complete virtual rooming before the provider saw the patient. Once we enhanced the patient experience, we standardized the process and implemented training for both the providers and the patients.

Even though adoption may have been forced due to COVID-19, our clients’ teams readily bought in and patient satisfaction increased. Before COVID-19, three providers saw about 50 patients per week with their existing solution. When ambulatory centers were forced to close, they conducted training and went from 10 visits a day to 5,000 visits a day in just three weeks. We helped them build a foundation that could be scaled.

Q: There are many factors when evaluating your telehealth solution. What should organizations be considering?

A: First, this isn’t a short-term fix—telehealth is here to stay. Recognizing how telehealth can play an integral role in a patient’s care and an organization’s growth is paramount as you evaluate your telehealth solution. An optimized approach can help retain new patients and attract new ones as access to care expands beyond a patient’s physical location.

We ask organizations:

  • Who is the team responsible for telehealth? What are the competencies those team members need to have? Where does telehealth reside within the organization?
  • What are you measuring? Are you just focused on recounts that are getting reimbursed? Are you focusing on the technical success or failure of what the encounter is? Are there any quality measurements that you’re examining?
  • How are you training? What’s the approach? Do you have individualized training for providers and for patients?
  • What are your current workflows? How can we create a standard that you can replicate?
  • What type of marketing promotes your telehealth offering? How are you marketing digitally through paid search and social?

We partner with customers to tailor solutions based on their needs and telehealth maturity—from training and performance testing to infrastructure, network and data analytics. We examine the entire patient journey. Our solutions not only help elevate the patient and provider experience, but they also can scale and be replicated across an organization.

And we don’t skip the fundamentals. We can help you harness the power of data, dashboards and more, but you need a foundation first and foremost. We consider the basics of building the team, implementing training, standardizing the workflow, measuring progress and advising how to optimize telehealth through digital patient engagement.

TEKsystems and Moonshot Health Consulting partner to help create and develop valuable telehealth programs for organizations. As telehealth demand rises, organizations can ensure the safety, efficacy and quality of care while delivering value to both patients and providers. Organizations can keep pace—and exceed expectations.

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