Big Opportunities (and 5 Pitfalls) of Selling Telehealth Technologies

Telehealth is in the midst of a significant growth phase, but you'll need to avoid these five pitfalls to capitalize on this multibillion-dollar opportunity.

Telehealth and videoconferencing (VC) technologies have been around more than 40 years, but advances in Internet bandwidth and infrastructure combined with lower technology costs have led to an explosion in adoption over the past seven years. Previously, corporate VC users and telehealth users rarely crossed paths, and their systems weren’t integrated. However, in today’s collaborative work environment, these technologies offer several benefits to users and patients.

Research from MarketsandMarkets estimates that the global telehealth market will reach $9.35 billion by 2021 from $2.78 billion in 2016, which translates to a CAGR of 27.5%. Despite showing significant promise for alleviating many of the challenges that healthcare providers face every day, deploying telehealth solutions can introduce its own set of challenges. To mitigate these challenges, developing a comprehensive telehealth strategy is a must. To optimize your success — and recurring revenue streams — selling telehealth solutions and services, avoid the following five pitfalls.

Pitfall #1: Not Considering all Major Workflows

Workflows drive healthcare. One of the biggest missteps with implementing telehealth solutions is failing to understand how different departments within a healthcare organization use VC. For instance, the way an ICU uses technology and interacts with patients is much different than the workflow for a caregiver in pediatrics or behavioral health. If you don’t consider workflows and workers are expected to conform to the technology rather than vice versa, systems become more complex to operate, productivity declines, and the systems become underutilized or abandoned.

Pitfall #2: Overlooking Disparate Technologies between Corporate and Clinical Users

In addition to the workflow differences within various clinical groups, there’s an even more significant divide in the way corporate and clinical workers use video communications technology. Evaluating these groups often reveals different disparate technologies, too. For instance, corporate may use Skype for Business for VC while the clinical side of the business may use a variety of solutions from Cisco, Microsoft, and Polycom. If an organization has been through a merger or acquisition, the number of technology vendors will likely be even higher. In these environments, it’s nearly impossible for human resources or payroll managers to set up a video session with a clinician or share a computer screen to perform a simple collaboration exercise.

In some cases, MSPs can overcome these challenges using APIs (application program interfaces) or integration services (e.g., Zapier). In other instances, it may be necessary for the customer to standardize on fewer vendors. The critical thing to keep in mind here is to discover the pitfall and bring it to the customer’s attention before the customer finds it and brings it to yours.

Pitfall #3: Neglecting the User Experience

Another common problem that results when a company doesn’t adequately plan an implementation, or it “inherits” technology following an M&A is that users don’t know how to use the technology. In some instances, employee training is a quick resolution. At other times, however, the video conferencing or telehealth system configuration may also need to be updated. For instance, if a user is required to dial a number and use a keyboard and mousepad to enter a PIN or type in an IP address, it’s easy to forget a step along the way. This leads to frustration and an aversion to using the system in the future. Keeping the user experience top of mind throughout an evaluation or implementation — and reducing the number of steps and clicks to make things work — is a must.

Pitfall #4: Not Providing Remote System Management

Like any computer or server, videoconferencing and telehealth systems require ongoing security patches, firmware updates, and maintenance to function correctly. Additionally, when a user experiences a technical problem requiring assistance, there’s often a short window to resolve the issue before the session is abandoned and “Plan B” is implemented. If the responsibility for servicing and maintaining the solution is put on the customer’s IT staff, it can lead to several problems ranging from software not being updated on time to user frustration and long periods of downtime—not to mention a lost revenue opportunity for the MSP.

Pitfall #5: Failing to Treat VC Sessions like other PHI (Protected Health Information)

While the most basic form of telemedicine is merely a videoconferencing system, the fact that it’s a healthcare application adds complexity, especially when you take into consideration HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements.

HIPAA exists to protect patient information and privacy. Any videoconferencing solution will require end-to-end encryption and adherence to security standards to comply with HIPAA regulations. Some videoconferencing solutions will already claim to meet HIPAA standards, and some will also provide a Business Associate Agreement required for HIPAA. In short, make sure whatever you put together addresses security and privacy.

Final Thoughts

Today’s patients are hyperconnected mobile users who expect experiences like remote consultations, in-room services, and location-aware mobile services. Likewise, your healthcare customers want a secure digital environment that empowers them to be more efficient and provide better patient service, with access to the systems they need from any location at any time. Your company can play a crucial role in meeting customers’ and patients’ needs and building recurring revenue streams for your MSP business at the same time — if you avoid the pitfalls mentioned above.