Patients are consumers who expect ease, convenience, and efficiency when accessing healthcare. Today, accessing healthcare services requires more technology than ever.   

With the introduction of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) came medical data mobility, unleashing data that could be shared, aggregated, and evaluated. The HITECH act funded the expansion of medical record technology in the USA, and since then, has created mountains of data that, when in the right hands at the right time, could save lives. But the promise of data mobility is stalling.  

Concerns about HIPAA compliance led to technology stagnation over the last decade, as administrators weighed the risk of potential fines and security breaches against gains in efficiency and convenience. State and federal rules on delivering care over video were complicated and contradictory, holding back investment in virtual care.  

Then, COVID-19 disrupted the technology tightrope that providers had been facing. Regulators temporarily suspended the guidelines that often slowed technology progress. Worldwide, consumers turned to video calls, and the adoption of telehealth exploded.  

Healthcare is now a technology-first experience. When we need to schedule an appointment or obtain care, patients call, click, or chat. Voice recognition technology is deployed in calls, patients check in with a click, and bots deliver helpful educational information. The timely contextual data exchange makes the experience work.   

The future of this healthcare technology revolution rests in IT’s hands as those teams now need to manage the applications, devices, data, and workflow while balancing a significantly higher cybersecurity risk.  

The future is a “healthcare anywhere” model, where data is simultaneously mobile, but controlled. An “app-less experience” will be essential for widespread telehealth adoption, and in the future, patients won’t be forced to download a new app or create a username and password just to meet with their doctor.  

Human behavior is predictable, and adoption of any new process works best when the experience is simple, fast, and clear. A no-download experience may even be more important across the globe, where countries are earlier in the telehealth adoption curve.  

Patients will be able to launch their video visit from a single click from any digital channel: a portal, email, text, calendar, and more. This will help providers meet their patients on their own terms, with flexible options on how they can connect and engage, regardless of their circumstance.  

While COVID-19 prompted governments worldwide to temporarily relax regulatory enforcement of telehealth application security requirements, it became clear that healthcare systems are siloed—not integrated, not scalable, and not secure. Healthcare system CIOs tell us one of their highest priorities is to establish an enterprise telehealth standard that is integrated into the current workflow and can scale securely.  

These four key elements are critical for telehealth to be sustainable post-pandemic:  

  • Integrated into existing workflows. Providers and clinicians want a process for patient care that is simple and trusted. 
  • Easy to connect. Almost every browser and smartphone today support an app-less experience via webRTC. Likewise for virtual care, patients are saying “no” to new apps and passwords.  
  • Security built-in. Security can’t be an afterthought when delivering telehealth at scale. Look for a solution that minimally meets ISO 27001, 27017, 27018 standards. 
  • Simple to support. Leverage technology that IT knows and your CISO supports.

COVID-19 accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare. Telehealth was the first domino to fall in the shift from physical to in-person patient visits. Given the mass adoption of this technology for delivering care, it has forced healthcare and technology providers to rethink the entire care journey.  

To deliver on the promise of a better experience for both patients and clinicians, technology must bring contextual intelligence, communication, and data to the proper point of care. We will see an expansion of new technologies that creates a digital front door experience, further mirroring the conversion of the physical to digital experiences. This will streamline and improve the efficiency of the patient care journey, while driving brand loyalty and patient satisfaction.