As organizations consider launching a new online patient health service, executives often first look to EMRs as a platform to enable the desired services. However, it becomes clear that EMRs, with their limited patient portal functionality, are too restricted to enable an online business model that includes patient-driven digital workflow and data.
The ideal technology platform should provide a seamless, unbroken end-to-end online services experience for the patient from start to finish. In addition, it needs to provide a simple and efficient experience for both patients and providers.
An Online Business Model for Healthcare
An ideal online business model for healthcare can be defined in terms of:
- Digital Consumer Channels that provide patient access to the services
- Digital Consumer Services Platform that enables the services through software features and functions
- Online Care Network that delivers the services through the platform
Digital Consumer Channels
The platform should connect with any supported device that connects to the internet. The platform should also be clearly branded by the organization providing online care.
The best customer experience is achieved through native app and web experiences rather than only responsive web designs that “adapt” to smartphones. Native apps delivered through the Google and the Apple app stores offer a much better experience than responsive web solutions. They also allow full use of a smartphone’s many built-in devices and functions to offer enhanced functions than can’t be delivered through responsive web solutions.
The best digital platforms also consider consumers that do not have access to the internet or a smartphone or those who prefer not to use their own device. Health and wellness kiosks, with their ability to include medical devices (blood pressure cuff, blood glucose, thermometer, scale, etc.), can provide enhanced capabilities at pharmacies, schools, and employer locations. They can offer an easy way to acquire and serve a broader population. By extension, a simpler telehealth-only station can be installed in an office within a local health system to network-in scarce specialists from anywhere. Video stations can also be deployed more easily at a lower cost in many other settings, including hotels, resorts, community centers, and employers.
Online Consumer Services Platform
The best online consumer services platform provides a seamless, easy-to-use, end-to-end solution for patients and providers. Too many digital solutions today still require patients to fill in and sign manual paperwork, log into multiple portals and systems, pay their bills and services on a separate payment site, and manually call the office at various points along the process.
In order to enable a consumer online health service, the ideal technology platform will require components of the following key digital software functions to operate in a unified way:
A) Self-Intake and Registration. The platform provides different methods that make it easy for consumers to find the service they are looking for that work best for them, including: by symptoms, conditions, practice specialty, language spoken, provider sex, favorites, and previous providers. Consumers can complete consent, insurance validation, and profile information from anywhere and on their own time. These functions also enable health organizations to conduct patient acquisition and offer additional continuity of care services as a follow-up.
B) Self-Scheduling and Appointments. The platform allows consumers to request or schedule services 24/7, from anywhere. When consumers are scheduling an appointment, the platform manages provider availability allowing the patient to select a time that works best for them. Once scheduled, the platform will automatically generate any patient electronic pre-visit forms to be completed and manage digital reminders for both patient and provider. These functions enable organizations to manage provider coverage for a flexible workforce within an online care network.
C) Payments. The platform allows patients to make PCI compliant payments online seamlessly. This includes verifying patients’ insurance coverage, calculating copays, and posting payments and charging cards on file. The platform should also allow providers to take payments over the phone or in office and provide the dashboards to track patient payments across all payment channels.
D) Communicate. The platform provides multiple digital communication channels that are appropriate for the online service. Considerations should include both asynchronous and synchronous communication options. This includes digital voice, tele-video (telehealth), secure messaging/texting, patient communication, hosted consumer health and wellness communities, as well as, support for omnichannel communication. The platform should also support specific content driven communication including surveys, campaigns, notifications, alerts, and to-dos.
E) Patient Health and Wellness Record. The platform leverages continuity of patient information. Considerations should include the creation and updates of a patient health record (e.g. certified patient portal), wellness record, and patient generated data, including patient device data, if applicable. This typically means that the solution can take advantage of information acquisition from disparate data sources, including other providers, behavior health specialists, and community care managers. The platform should aggregate information for viewing by patients and providers.
F) Health and Wellness Plan. The platform supports the planned response to the consumer’s request for the specific online health services provided. This typically means that the solution is able to support providers on the platform with typical EMR functionality, including electronic forms, clinical notes, e-referrals, e-prescribing, orders for tests/labs/supplies, visits summaries, and associated care plans, all within a unified consumer experience. The platform provides the organization with the choice of using this functionality within the platform or seamlessly integrating with the organization’s existing enterprise EMR if appropriate.
G) Ongoing Health and Wellness Management. The platform supports the digital workflow required to deliver the online service selected by the consumer. The digital workflows guide consumers and providers through each step of the service. Depending on the type of online service, this could include next steps, to-dos, scheduled visits, notifications, alerts, customizable out-of-range indicators, and ongoing monitoring. Workflows will vary significantly by type of online service (e.g., RPM vs. Virtual Urgent Care) to provide the best possible consumer experience and efficiently leverage provider resources.
H) Advance Analytics and Reporting. The platform supports active patient status, active population status, and active care delivery status relevant to the online service. Smart dashboards allow users to quickly explore relevant information supporting the delivery of online services. Reporting allows management to understand the performance of the online service for continuous improvement as well as allows the support reimbursement and other enterprise reporting requirements.
There is significant demand for online health services in today’s marketplace. Launching these services will require new technology platforms. When looking for the best technology platform to support online services to consumers, consider a seamless end-to-end consumer experience as described in the Online Business Model for Healthcare above.