'Sleeping giant' of telehealth awoke in 2020, and here's who rose to the challenge
It's no secret, at this point, that telehealth rates exploded in response to the COVID-19 crisis. But a KLAS report published this week found that, while some telehealth technology vendors rose to the occasion, others have struggled to deliver.
"No one could have predicted COVID-19, so it is no surprise that all vendors initially struggled to manage the rapid increase in telehealth adoption," said KLAS researchers.
"Most vendors were able to eventually right the ship, and while the situation was unique, vendors’ responses provide insight into their ability to react to factors outside of their control and continue to help customers be successful moving forward," they added.
WHY IT MATTERS
The KLAS report was organized into three main facets of the telehealth tech landscape: virtual care platforms, video conferencing platforms and electronic health record-centric virtual care platforms.
Of the virtual care platforms, KLAS found that customer satisfaction with Amwell has steadily declined since 2018. However, the report also notes that Amwell Now, released in response to COVID-19, has received positive early feedback.
Meanwhile, Teladoc Health's InTouch Health solution has recovered from the strained support and out-of-stock hardware that hampered early COVID-19 response. But the separate Teladoc Health Licensed Platform, which is separate from its acquired InTouch solution, has "struggled to scale" to the significantly increased patient volumes.
"Some Teladoc customers want a more integrated experience and question Teladoc’s ability to deliver through multiple acquisitions and mergers," said researchers.
Most of the focused solutions, such as Caregility, Mend, VSee, swyMed and Zipnosis, have high reported customer satisfaction. MDLive, however, faced long wait times and a lack of integration for both provider and payer organizations.
As far as video conferencing platforms went, customers reported that Doxy.me's low cost was appealing, but that its onboarding, guidance, support and executive involvement "fall short of their expectations." Zoom customers praised the tool's stability and scalability, but said patient experience can be frustrating and see the platform as "transactional."
"Almost 30% of Zoom’s and Doxy.me’s healthcare customers say the solutions will not be kept long term. Hoping for better integration and a simplified clinician experience, many plan to switch to their EMR vendor’s offering once it is sufficiently mature," wrote report authors.
Microsoft Teams has scaled well, say customers, although the patient experience lags behind other solutions. And as for Vidyo, the reports aren't spectacular: Clients are "the most frustrated in this report."
"Clients view the licensing structure as expensive and feel healthcare is an afterthought," according to the report.
With regard to EHR-centric platforms, KLAS reports that overall satisfaction with the telehealth solutions from Epic and NextGen is high, although patients had mixed feedback about Epic because of the multiple applications involved.
"The initial feedback from a few organizations that have deployed Epic’s embedded solution suggests a slightly more positive patient experience," said researchers.
NextGen customers, by contrast, report "consistently positive patient experiences," in part because of the ease of use in launching a visit.
THE LARGER TREND
But that hasn't stopped rumors from flying about continued expansions into the space – namely by Amazon, who was reported to be potentially expanding its app-based care to workers at other companies.
Amazon has declined to comment on the speculations, but share prices for Teladoc dropped following the reports.
ON THE RECORD
"COVID-19 revealed telehealth to be a sleeping giant. Prior to COVID, the majority of interviewed organizations had telehealth visit volumes of less than 1%, but not surprisingly, those rates increased exponentially in the days and weeks immediately following the outbreak," said KLAS researchers.
"In a matter of days, organizations had implemented telehealth solutions and at their peak were delivering well over half – and often all – of their visits virtually," they said. "As organizations look to the future, the majority estimate that virtual visit volumes will level off to anywhere from one-tenth to one-third of total visits (as long as current reimbursement models remain intact)."
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.