By Nicholas Chepesiuk, for Healthcare Business Today
July 21, 2021
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations were forced to leverage telemedicine as a short-term solution to ensure continuity of care for patients. As a result, patients have embraced telemedicine’s benefits, convenience, and flexibility. They no longer have to take time off work, pay for a babysitter, or wait an average of 10.5 weeks to see a healthcare provider. In fact, there has been a surge in demand for telemedicine, up 74 percent since 2020. Patients are now accustomed to new standards of healthcare delivery and expect to receive accessible care from their provider or specialist virtually.
The benefits of this expansion to telemedicine are clear, but it’s not foolproof. In March 2020, healthcare leaders were rightfully more concerned about patient care than they were about the long-term effects of employing a variety of platforms and systems on their organizations, patients, and providers. However, as organizations continue to use technology to revolutionize and enhance the way they provide care, changes must be made to connect and ensure the interoperability of their technology, patient data, and providers.
Healthcare executives from across North America have asked me what connected care looks like, and how they can create interoperability between their tech stack. A proven and effective way to liberate patient data and break down technology barriers in healthcare is by leveraging APIs. An API is an Application Programming Interface that enables different software applications to “talk to each other.” Simply put, an API connects software across an organization so data is shared between them. APIs help reduce operational inefficiencies especially as telemedicine operations become more complex with more platforms and systems available. With an open API, like the one we offer at OnCall Health, data seamlessly flows from system to system to reduce administrative redundancies, so providers can be proactive, focused, and improve continuity of care across their organizations.
A great example of connected care is Pyramid Healthcare Inc., an organization that leveraged OnCall in 2020 to develop a virtual healthcare division, Pyramid Online Counseling (Pyramid). Pyramid uses OnCall to manage their organization and power their telemedicine operations, and they use a separate EMR system to store patient information and data. The two systems were initially not connected, meaning that providers and administrative staff were duplicating work by having to manually add patient information to both systems, essentially using the “swivel-chair method.” By integrating OnCall’s API, Pyramid was able to eliminate the inefficiencies of this method by eliminating the manual work providers and administrators were doing before. They are now entering patient information, such as patient contact details, into one system and the API shares that same information with the other system. Not only has Pyramid expanded their brick and mortar operations to increase revenue with telemedicine, but they’ve optimized provider efficiency and saved costs with OnCall’s API. The result was 1,879 telemedicine appointments scheduled in just two months, with 998 percent quarterly growth in appointments scheduled overall. By reimagining healthcare delivery and choosing technology that connects and integrates easily, healthcare organizations and their providers can transform how they provide care with a connected system powering their operations.
With connected systems, providers have a better view of patients and their health at all times. This is essential for creating continuity of care, which I speak to healthcare executives about all the time. A provider who has access to a patient’s full health profile can use the data to optimize the patient’s care. This is why connecting healthcare technology is so important. If Pyramid’s systems were not integrated using OnCall’s API, patients would have to tell their healthcare story multiple times, providers wouldn’t have access to any historical health information, and the health of the patient might never improve over time. Pyramid has eliminated these issues by making patient information readily available for providers, so they can make the right decisions for patient care.
Launching a virtual care program is more than just digitizing an old delivery model. It means transforming healthcare into a collaborative, secure, and robust option for patients, providers, and business for the long-term. I encourage healthcare executives to challenge the purpose of their technology and look at ways they can make their organizations run more efficiently to serve patients better. Although virtual care was a growing trend prior to 2020, the tide has certainly shifted as we embrace a digital-first mentality in healthcare, our workplaces, and our lives. With connected telemedicine systems leading the way, better healthcare, and business, is possible.
Nicholas Chepesiuk is the founder and CEO of OnCall Health, a technology company that provides best-in-class software to healthcare organizations, startups and clinics to launch and grow their own telemedicine programs. Under his leadership, OnCall Health is growing rapidly and today hosts over 1 million telemedicine appointments annually through its telehealth solution.