Designing a better telehealth experience
POSTED : September 3, 2020
BY : James Kim

Demand for telehealth set to soar 65%. $250b to shift to telehealth after COVID-19. Telehealth forecasted to grow sevenfold by 2025. Telehealth claim lines increased 4,347% nationally.

These are just some of the headlines highlighting the dramatic change underway in healthcare. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered patient behaviors and expectations. What had previously been anemic adoption of contactless care has overnight accelerated demand beyond the capacity of the available tools and systems.

Many providers now find themselves behind the digital curve. They’re being forced to think about how to harness technology to provide better and more efficient care. They’re actively looking for ways to ensure patients manage their health through remote and digital tools. And they’re struggling with how to recreate in a virtual environment the connection forged in an in-person visit.

Telehealth’s potential

If you had a telehealth visit in the past couple months, it probably went something like this: you got an emailed link to a videoconference a few minutes prior to your scheduled appointment; then the appointment itself was likely similar to a standard video conference call; if a prescription, follow-up appointment or in-person exam were necessary, you likely had to make another call to coordinate those. Very little about the above experience could be described as frictionless, building trust or even rewarding adoption.

Despite telehealth’s shortcomings, the majority of patients still find it preferable to traveling to a provider and sitting in a waiting room to see a doctor. As COVID-19 accelerates adoption, the opportunity to enable new norms with the potential to last becomes paramount. Healthcare organizations will need to answer the question, “how can we better create confidence, comfort and empathy in a digital remote environment?”

Telehealth visioning

Telehealth has a long history in our collective imagination. From early visions of treating patients through radio and robotic arms, to tethering the first U.S. astronauts to ground control via biometric data, telehealth long resided on the margins of what’s possible. While video conferencing has brought telehealth to the masses, it still has a long way to go to universal adoption. We have a few cutting-edge ideas ourselves for how to make telehealth even more accessible.

Family wellness

Today’s families are busy and overscheduled leaving little time to make family wellness a priority. For most families going to the doctor usually means multiple trips as well as time taken away from work and other day-to-day necessities. In addition to struggling to find time, there’s added mental stress for many to manage/monitor their family’s health. Are my children up to date on vaccines? At what age should I get a mammogram? What if you could manage & schedule your family’s health into one app. Now imagine consolidating your family wellness visits into one day and receiving suggested testing or reminders based on your family’s personalized health needs.

The immediate benefits would be obvious. No-contact doctor’s visits prevent unnecessary exposure to sick patients, a high priority for immunocompromised. It also removes the unnecessary headache of having to travel and bundle everybody into a car or public transport and can eliminate anxiety over how to keep your family at maximum wellness.

Specialized care

Do I need a specialist? If so, how do I get referred to one?

Currently, most patients find themselves sitting in an exam room with a general practitioner and then paying for a doctor’s visit, or worse yet, the ER, only to leave frustrated with nothing more than a referral. What if you could use an app to determine whether a specialist was necessary? It could then connect you to all available providers with the experience specific to your symptoms, as well as allow you to conduct the initial visit using connected medical tools, saving you both time and money.

In the event you need to connect with a provider during off-hours, this would offer a much more effective platform for outreach than current general medical call centers. Today, it is very difficult to speak to a provider during off-hours. The current patient experience is to be routed to a general medical call center that intakes your info, and then the patient must wait for a call back to assess the issue. Instead, connect with a provider with a specialty in the area of diagnosis instantly.

telehealth mobile

Healthier lifestyles through family engagement

Managing a condition like diabetes requires education, resources and incentives, but the biggest impact can come from empowerment through family engagement. Changing one’s habits alone is difficult, but through improved telehealth tools you and your family can gain access to content that supports healthier lifestyles and increases your ability to change habits.

Family members receive reminders to take a family walk or bike ride. Stay motivated with incentives like earning badges in your virtual community or discounted entrance to a family fun run that includes a free t-shirt. What if patients and families could receive all that and more through a digital app of shared family health?

Empowering patients to contribute to the improvement of their health and well-being isn’t something that can be achieved in afew doctor’s office visits. Creating personalized and intuitive digital engagement tools, whether using medical wearables or in-phone apps, gives patients a better care plan than today. Imagine a care path that is supportive and inclusive to all family members and has the ability to share information with those around who can help support.

Digital care summaries

75% of all medical communications occur via fax. Because of a continued over-reliance on written documentation, the loss of medical records and mistakes due to illegible notes and prescriptions is a very real problem. Simply by providing patients with a digital record of their patient summaries, healthcare organizations can prevent unnecessary medical errors.

Providing patients with digital records of their patient summaries helps create a streamlined experience with all information in one place, improving patient outcomes. Prescriptions automatically refilled with reminders for patient pick up. Tracking where needed medical devices are in transit. Reviewing guidance from providers with supporting educational videos. Allowing patients to record questions and share key health stats between visits for continued care. Adding the ability to automate health guidance and notification of care, the experience for the patient has then become both gamified and sustained.

Peace of mind

Finding peace of mind as a parent or soon-to-be parent can be challenging. New parents are overwhelmed with opinions and misinformation stemming from web browsing. How can parents find trusted guidance that allows them peace of mind? How can we give parents more control with instant access to health concerns about their family? Envision an always-on, always available app that could allow parents to receive immediate support and the ability to chat live with a human doctor. Avoid the anxiety of waiting for a call back from a night nurse, who often provides basic guidance that leaves most parents uneasy. Parents now can have the ability to assess risk, reducing ER visits and readmissions, while being directed to the nearest health center based on needs. New parents would benefit immensely from more support and instruction on how to care for their children.

These examples of how telehealth can be so much more than a videoconference are intended to expand the imagination. With expectations for these types of services soaring, healthcare organizations ignore consumer demand at the risk of missing out on transformative technology. Not only does telehealth have the potential to create happier and healthier patients, but it also can serve as a vehicle to address a looming physician shortage. In this win-win scenario, telehealth looks more and more like it’s the future of healthcare.

Learn how patient trust is essential to driving the future of healthcare innovation.


About the authors

James KimJames is a Principal at PK and leads the Experience Design CoE. He brings more than two decades of experience helping brands understand and navigate the complexities of the digital and non-digital world to engage with users and achieve business success.  James has extensive experience leading user-centered experience design and digital strategy engagements across retail, automotive, technology, and education. His work includes award-winning and business-shifting experience design work for both B2C and B2B brands, including DSW, Nike, Macy’s, Calphalon, Seventh Generation, Subaru, Toyota, Jeep, Union Pacific, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Jack Links, TopGolf and Vans.

James KimSarah Dodge is an experience designer at PK, where she specializes in new product ideation, identifying new marketing opportunities, and UX/UI designs for websites and applications.

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