How the VA is proving the power of telehealth

Access to healthcare is a challenge consumers battle everyday.

Imagine living in a rural community, as roughly 20 percent of America’s population do today, and needing to travel for hours just for a routine checkup. Why? Only 10 percent of the physician population service these remote areas. Now, imagine transportation issues, weather challenges, needing to see a specialist, those who are elderly or physically challenged, and those that are seriously ill. Needless to say, many simply do not make the trip and therefore do not receive any care, let alone proper care.

Enter telehealth. Now imagine a world where patients would be able to receive healthcare anytime, anywhere and regardless of the technology their using. Apart from solving for barriers to physical access to healthcare, telehealth addresses growing challenges in the industry associated with rising costs and evolving consumer demands. Telehealth, driven by recent technological advancements and solutions, has the potential to completely transform the healthcare industry as we know it.

The Rise of Telehealth
The telehealth market is poised for growth with $431M in venture capital investment being poured into startups in the space this year. Telehealth, or telemedicine, enables physicians to deliver care services to patients from a distance via communications tools such as videoconferencing, remote monitoring, and information-sharing platforms. As a result, caregivers are able to diagnose, treat, consult and more effectively manage chronic disease while reducing travel by helping clients manage their care within the safety of their own homes. Telehealth also promotes better collaboration with clinic-based specialists and improves patient relationships and overall satisfaction.

The rise of telehealth has certainly started to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and their patients, but general adoption remains slow. Recent research shows that just over 50% of healthcare execs say that they have adopted some form of telemedicine but budgets allocated to support such campaigns are still modest. Why?

According to a recent report, concerns around reliability and accuracy, access and security are the top factors that are impeding adoption. Of course, there is also reluctance from the lack of reimbursement, complex licensing requirements, and the high cost of the technologies. So what can be done to increase adoption? The top solution provided by physicians (67 percent) to encourage adoption is providing virtual care technologies that are more interoperable.

Simplicity is Critical to Telehealth
While the use of video in the business and professional environment is not new, there remains a fundamental issue with the technology: it’s still too complicated to use. Many solutions in the market are still requiring users to download, install, and use their app before they can join the meeting. This isn’t solving the real problem as it increases work and complexity on the user, forcing them to think about what technology to use for what meeting.

This inhibits confidence as users always have to stop and think: “What solution do I need to use? Where is this meeting hosted? Why is this so technical?” Now, combine this stress with that of a patient in need of consultation. The last thing patients and caregivers need to worry about is technology getting in the way of a diagnosis, care, and comfort. Thus, if these challenges cannot be solved in a simple way, neither patients nor doctors will use the technology or benefit from it.

As the entire industry has seen a shift to patient-centric care, it’s vital for virtual care solutions to make the user its number one priority: reduce friction and minimize the visibility of technology. Users can now focus on the encounter to receive the patient care that they deserve.

A Proof of Concept: The US Departments of Veteran Affairs
Despite the challenges pitted against adoption, organizations are beginning to catch on. For example, the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) rolled out a new telehealth service that easily connects US veterans with VA health care facilities through secure and private video sessions.

In a White House announcement from last year, President Donald J. Trump, together with Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, introduced the department's new Teleheath Service for its US veteran’s client base of approximately twenty million veterans, five million of which reside in rural areas. The service was said to significantly expand access to care, especially to those who need help in mental health and in suicide prevention, which is a top priority for the organization.

Through their efforts, the VA has established a quickly growing solution that enables more care, better care and satisfaction among both patients and care givers. The VA Video Connect solution is now on boarding approximately 20,000 new patients and are hosting over 6,000 virtual visits each week. The VA’s telehealth solution, specifically, focuses on streamlining and simplifying patient access. Patients join in from their personal computers, mobile phones, or tablets automatically by simply clicking a link sent to them before the encounter is supposed to start.

Connectivity is that simple: the veteran need not install an app, change their behavior, worry about passwords or administrative rights. They just connect. Simply. Easily. Moving forward, these efforts will be extended even further. Imagine a veteran that is hard of hearing joining a video encounter and getting the settings on their hearing aid device tweaked on the fly.

When it comes to telehealth, it’s critical for physicians and patients to be able to connect effortlessly. The power of interoperable video is obvious through the convenience, cost savings and the reduced travel time for veterans and patients everywhere. Telehealth certainly has the potential to transform the industry and bring healthcare access to the wider population, but simplicity is key to succeed.

About Jordan:
Jordan Owens is the VP of Architecture for Pexip. He joined Pexip in November 2012 from TANDBERG and Cisco where he lead the Americas Technical Support organization, the Americas Product Engineering team, and a Pre-Sales Engineering organization for the previous 10+ years of his career. In Pexip, Jordan is responsible for leading the Americas Pre-Sales Engineering team, the global support initiative, and serving as an extension of the R&D organization into the Americas Sales Theater.

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