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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare organizations have dramatically accelerated their use of telemedicine in the provision of patient care.

Based upon the positive results of these initial telemedicine efforts and the overwhelmingly positive response from patients, it is clear that telemedicine will continue to be an integral part of the healthcare delivery system.

With this recognition, healthcare leaders are now challenged with determining if their initial technology investments to enable telemedicine are appropriate to support future endeavors. Depending upon the organization, the daily number of telemedicine visits can range from hundreds per day to several thousand per day.

These virtual patient engagement encounters have become a critical factor in the manner in which a patient will view the competency of their clinician and their overall confidence with the health system that the clinician represents.

Telemedicine has added factors in care delivery

Unlike an in-person physician visit, there are multiple factors that can impact the quality of the telemedicine visit that are outside the control of the provider. These factors include bandwidth to the patient’s location, camera capabilities, speaker controls and others.

More than ever, the system selected to provide telemedicine services must provide added controls to overcome these factors that are outside the control of the provider.

Collaboration is key in vendor selection

Several key drivers associated with the long term enablement of telemedicine include functionality, reliability, ease of use, associated electronic health record, cost, and of course, the support available to assist either the patient or clinician with the use of the functionality.

With a multitude of vendors jockeying to gain a strong foothold in this tech-space and partnerships and alliances taking place in rapid fashion, healthcare leaders must also move swiftly in order to capitalize on this opportunity.

As a result, an effective team collaboration to make this decision on outfitting the service with the right technology will be required. Such collaboration will need input from physicians and members of the clinical community, as well as information services and patients.

Times of challenge bring change

Multiple industries have previously migrated to a more digital experience for their customers. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to be the ignition spark for the healthcare industry to significantly advance its digital experience and overcome the adoption barriers that previously existed.

With desperation being the mother of innovation, barriers such as physician resistance, insurance carrier reimbursement and government regulation have been rapidly overcome. Now that telemedicine has established itself as a core component of the healthcare delivery system, it’s prudent for healthcare leaders to review their telemedicine strategy and technology to enable these services.

Digitizing care delivery will enhance the patient experience

This is a time of transition for the healthcare industry. As exemplified by other industries, the winners and losers within their industry are significantly driven by the digitization of the delivery of their services and enhancing their customer experience.

Telemedicine will be a driving force, directing where your organization will be positioned in the upcoming years.

Mike Restuccia is chief information officer of Penn Medicine.

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