Expert Guidance to Evaluate Telehealth Vendors and Select the Best Option
How major medical providers are choosing the right telehealth vendors for high-quality patient care
Major healthcare organizations have hundreds of options when it comes to selecting a telehealth vendor. Healthcare executives receive a daily barrage of emails, phone calls, and requests from vendors for appointments and demos.
That’s because telehealth has taken an enormous step forward. Providing effective and efficient telehealth has become more important than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today’s patients don’t just hope their doctors offer telehealth. They have come to expect superior telemedical services from their care team.
Are all healthcare organizations meeting this challenge? No. Are all telehealth vendors capable of meeting the challenge? Also no. Here’s how to sort the best vendors from the rest.
Start by Assessing Telehealth Vendors’ Business Backgrounds
When assessing telehealth providers to see if they’re suitable, start by looking at each company’s basic profile. How big is the telehealth company? Who runs it? How long has it been around?
It’s important to establish whether the telemedicine companies you are considering will be able to fulfill the demands of a major healthcare enterprise.
Points to consider when evaluating telehealth providers:
- Number of years in business
- Professional affiliations
- Notable customers
- Scalability/capacity to handle a major healthcare provider client
- Reputation in the industry
- Proof of positive patient outcomes
- A track record of successful implementations
It’s also valuable to know how the company has handled the huge surge in telehealth usage during the COVID-19 pandemic and whether they became overwhelmed or handled it smoothly. Did clients experience downtime? Were there gaps or lags in customer service?
Although COVID-19 is considered an extraordinary situation, it’s also a means to gauge how a vendor performs under stress. If a telehealth provider has already proven that they can’t handle a period of medical crisis, that’s a factor you’ll want to consider as part of the overall evaluation.
Calculating the Total Implementation Costs
Start with a draft budget that outlines the various costs required to implement and maintain the organization’s potential telehealth services. Include not only the initial set-up costs and ongoing subscription fees but also employee training and any costs associated with acquiring new devices or equipment.
When making the total cost calculation, healthcare organizations sometimes forget to consider add-on fees some telehealth providers charge for certain services. For example, does the telehealth provider charge extra fees for after-hours service calls?
Also, ask whether the telehealth portal can be optimized for a specific healthcare organization and branded with the proper logo, colors, and so forth. Will there be an upcharge for this type of customization? Knowing these costs upfront will assist you in selecting a vendor that best meets your organization’s needs.
Usability, Security, and Privacy Concerns
In the healthcare industry, security and privacy are always of the utmost importance. Ensure the telehealth vendor can guarantee HIPAA compliance and that there is a liability structure in place to manage potential data breaches.
With the help of your healthcare organization’s top IT professionals, examine the technology, software, and service closely for any tech-related concerns.
- Does it fit a major healthcare provider’s needs?
- Does it use healthcare tech best practices including HIPAA compliance?
- What are the vendor/software/service vulnerabilities from a technological point of view?
- How is the user experience?
- How will tech-related issues be addressed and resolved?
- What will be handled in-house and what will be the vendor’s responsibility?
- Does the vendor offer robust customer support around the clock?
The right telehealth provider can easily answer questions like these. But if a vendor balks at things like 24/7 tech support and guaranteed HIPAA compliance, be wary.
Helpful Tools for Telehealth Vendor Selection
During this process, it’s a good idea to review the telehealth best practices laid out by the American Medical Association (AMA) in its Telehealth Initiative. This program offers free resources including vendor options, legal guidance, and medical expertise for healthcare organizations implementing telehealth.
Other excellent resources include the AMA Remote Patient Monitoring Playbook and AMA Telemedicine Quick Guide. These guides provide step-by-step plans and top priorities for implementing remote telemonitoring, plus real-world examples of other healthcare organizations’ challenges and successes with new telehealth programs.
When narrowing the focus to a final few vendors, the Texas Medical Association’s Telemedicine Vendor Evaluation Tool is very helpful. It provides a detailed list of questions that should come before any healthcare organization finally signs on the dotted line.
From security and privacy to implementation and customer support, the telehealth provider selection process entails a deep dive into each vendor's capabilities. During the evaluation process, you’ll not only want to consider the top telemedicine companies in the industry but also review each provider’s mission and values. Do they align with your own? What is their philosophy on virtual care? How will the provider enable your organization’s success?
The Next Step: Work With Telehealth Experts
Since 2002, AMC Health has been a leader in telehealth innovation for patients and some of the world’s biggest and best healthcare providers, including proudly serving the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). We offer a full suite of virtual care telehealth services including the AMCareatHome App, which delivers a superior patient experience. For more information about our telehealth solutions, please reach out to us and schedule a demo.