4 Hard Questions Healthcare Providers Should Ask Technologists

Tough questions are good — and healthcare providers and technology decision makers should ask more of them.

That’s particularly urgent right now since healthcare providers are relying on technology more than ever. 

The next few weeks and months are going to be a gold rush for companies who see telehealth rising — out of both necessity and genuine patient preference — as the pandemic winds its way to a projected fourth-quarter end in 2021. But the specter of unwieldy, unintuitive technology such as EHRs looms large in the clinical community. Asking the right questions represents the first line of defense in ensuring organizations adopt technology that positively impacts care teams and the patients who rely on them.

While we’re still learning about Covid and its effects, one thing we do know is that it leaves a lasting mark on many (aka, the “long-haulers”), resulting in a continuum of care required to treat resulting chronic conditions. An accessible care delivery model that encompasses a team-based approach to manage comorbidities should become the norm, not the exception.

These are four questions healthcare providers should ask technologists as they consider new solutions to support better patient care.

How will this solution help our clinicians who are struggling to design and change care plans?

This might be the most important question you can ask — and the answer you receive is the whole ballgame. A vendor should be able to provide specific details that demonstrate their knowledge of what clinicians face — and a specific solution to the reservations these providers may have. 

For example, do they clearly understand the influence of the pandemic on telehealth — and the impact it’s having in terms of rapid adoption and ramp-up for doctors and care teams? Do they understand that many clinicians feel burned by the reality of EHRs — after being lured by their initial promise? Even better: how involved were clinicians in the creation of the solution?

But the best answer would hinge on the solution’s flexibility. As a healthcare organization, it’s imperative you’re not dependent on your solution provider to build and adapt care plans for you as things change. If an intake workflow needs to change, for instance, you shouldn’t have to wait on a vendor to get that done. It should be simple to make same-day updates and push them out.

Will you help me meet patients where they are?

You know where your patients are technology-wise, and where they need to go. Most have been conditioned to prioritize in-person visits but telehealth services — delivered via video or over phone, with text, apps and email to support ongoing questions or brief check-ins — are increasingly becoming the norm, accelerated by the pandemic. 

As patients become more used to communication across various channels, they may in fact begin to prefer these options, especially since they’re more effective and saves them time.  And as care providers increasingly move toward a wellness-focused model, which needs multiple channels to maximize efficacy, it’s important to have these options available even if they’re not going to be used immediately. The right technological solution will natively enable these communication channels for use at the clinician’s (or the patient’s) discretion.

Is your solution compliant with healthcare security standards?

In the initial days of the pandemic, Health and Human Services relaxed the requirements for how providers communicate with patients, giving covered health care providers permission to “use popular applications that allow for video chats, Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, Zoom, or Skype.” 

That was the right call; it enabled providers to move swiftly to help patients get the care they needed at a time of particularly heightened concern and fear. Over time, however, HHS will almost certainly roll this back. That means leveraging technology that’s (at the very least) HIPAA-compliant now is the smart move. Everyone will get there eventually; the care teams that embrace this now will just earn some “first mover” cred as they get there much sooner than most.

How will this help my care delivery team adjust to patient need?

Telehealth demand has skyrocketed: claims have surged 4,000 percent over last year, usage has gone from 13K visits a week to 1.7M, the list goes on. It’s important to thoroughly vet any solution to see how extensible and expandable it is. Will it have relevance in a post-pandemic era if and when the balance between in-person and telehealth normalizes? Beyond patient demand, can it adjust and incorporate future technologies and systems?

Look for flexibility; the technologist should be able to show how the solution can adapt to the clinical need. However, retain a healthy dose of skepticism; claims that a solution can be all things in all situations should be a red flag. It’s far better to have a solution that does a select number of the right things exceptionally well.

Ultimately, technology can be a powerful partner to clinical care teams — or another obstacle, complexity or burdensome to-do in a physician’s long day. Though solutions solve different problems, they often share key characteristics: 

  • Built for healthcare from the ground up, versus an established solution with bolted-on capability that feels like an afterthought 
  • Configurable by internal teams, not held hostage by vendor dependency
  • Extensible through third-party APIs as needed
  • Supports the whole care team, not just the clinician
  • Created by — or with the deep input of — clinicians 

It’s essential to ask the right questions to ensure the technologist has taken a thoughtful approach to solving real problems for care providers. With the right innovation in place, care providers can accelerate the delivery of quality, comprehensive, wellness-focused care.

And given all that’s going on in the world, there is no better time to make that a priority.

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