First, let’s hear a story.
Not so long ago, there was a hospital system grappling with the new reality of Covid-19. With quarantine units swelling, PPE running scarce, staff burnout on the rise and family members desperate to see their loved ones, leadership found themselves in a scramble to find a virtual care solution they could deploy quickly and affordably.
Like many healthcare organizations across the country faced with this dilemma in the early days of the pandemic, the system decided that Zoom, the video conferencing platform of choice championed by educational organizations and businesses might just be the answer. The pricing looked attractive, it seemed relatively easy to use and the hardware requirements were fairly straightforward.
And yet despite the promise of what seemed to be a great solution, several months later almost no one in the organization was using it. Hundreds of newly purchased iPads were put out to pasture, relegated to hospital equipment closets, or running Netflix in patient rooms.
So, what went wrong?
At its most basic level, Zoom—although popular for years across several industries—simply wasn’t designed for healthcare. And while that may not seem like that big of a deal, as they say, the devil is in the details. In the healthcare setting, there are three core requirements that allow telemedicine to be truly scalable and easy-to-adopt. And Zoom misses the mark in several ways.
Telemedicine MUST be touchless.
To start with, telemedicine needs to be touchless, something Zoom was not designed to be. In order to initiate a visit, whether from a physician or a family member, someone needs to answer the call in the room. Nine of out ten times, that person is the nurse. So now, one of the most stretched resources in any hospital is managing both the telemedicine meeting and the iPad. Even with Zoom’s autoanswer functionality—a feature that allows a physician to start a meeting automatically without someone on the other end—patients are afforded zero privacy or control over a visit. (Contrast this with Vitalchat’s Touchless functionality LINK: https://vitalchat.com/blog/
Telemedicine must be flexible.
Secondly, telemedicine must be flexible. This is where Zoom’s UX just doesn’t cut it for healthcare. From the lack of sophisticated PTZ camera and other system controls, clumsy process for adding and supporting peripherals, limited APIs that don’t allow for things like EMR integration (a key component for ongoing adoption), and an intrusive interface that takes over your whole screen. Additionally, Zoom requires users to download an app for use—and for many family members as well as physicians, this is often a non-starter. Physicians, in particular, are notorious for resisting clunky technology outside of their workflows. And, that high standard for simplicity and convenience isn’t a bad thing.
Telemedicine must be affordable.
Lastly, telemedicine must be affordable. The irony is that this is the area that generally looks quite attractive to systems when they are considering Zoom. It is considered the most inexpensive solution across the board.
Dig a little deeper and when you begin to try to scale across a large organization and user groups, the Zoom licensing model can get bulky and expensive.
While Zoom may seem cheaper initially, the long term embedded/hidden costs quickly make it one of the pricier options on the market with the smallest feature set.
The bottom line….
Zoom may get you started, but it simply won’t get a healthcare organization to the finish line for a long term, meaningful telemedicine program that drives quality and satisfaction for patients and providers. And as we come out of the chaos of Covid-19 and begin to thoughtfully rethink what telemedicine can (and should) be, hospitals will need to better assess their long-term strategies for virtual care.