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Challenges Facing the Telehealth Industry

Phones and laptops are now essential medical technology, as doctors’ visits have transitioned from medical offices to patients’ homes. What does it mean to IT?

Cloud communication provider Vonage marks that the former sleepy telehealth industry has jumped more than 2000% in the last month. Their customer, Doxy.me says that 139,000 new health care providers have joined their platform in just one week. They served 1,35 million patients in that week, averaging 170,000 calls each day. Another customer, Doctolib, is doing 100,000 video consultations every single day. Telehealth has suddenly evolved from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” for major health systems.

The reasons for this amazing spike are:

  • Ready-made solution 
  • Advance technologies ubiquity
  • Social distancing
  • Expanded Medicare coverage of telehealth services 
  • Relaxing of HIPAA guidelines 
  • Long term investment 

The meaning of telemedicine is broad. It’s anything from taking care of a patient’s needs through the telephone to actually having patient-doctor video interactions assisted with devices. Telehealth services can deal with a broad scope of problems, including skin concerns, minor infectious diseases, psychiatry, and minor orthopedic problems like sprains. So whether it’s loading information from your smartwatch, using blood pressure cuffs, or a remote stethoscope like Eko Health has built – telemedicine embraces it all.

According to Vidyo survey, healthcare providers identified telehealth as their top IT priority. Next comes the strengthening of data security and implementing EHRs and patient portals. Two-thirds of respondents said they expect their telehealth budget to grow over the next three years.

Notoriously resistant to reform healthcare system provokes a bunch of challenges which we split by reasons:

Legal:

  • Strong compliance. Meeting government standards for clinical data sharing is a tricky matter. Patients worry that their medical data may be hacked or sold. One mistake can lead a hospital, health system, or practice into non-compliance, which can include substantial fines.
  • Multi-state licensure. For all this progress, 21 states still do not allow to practice medicine across state borders presumingly for protecting their local licensees. Thus a provider who is licensed in California can’t provide services in Idaho. However, we can notice some legislative activity from time to time aimed to allow cross-state telehealth.
  • Parity payments. Parity within the telemedicine context means that if you’re seen via Zoom or in-clinic, insurance companies should pay roughly the same amount. Now many doctors ask the patient to come into the office because they won’t get paid otherwise. Though many providers are slowly adding selected telehealth services to their reimbursement rates, the industry reluctance prevents patients from this novel.
  • Slow adoption. In most countries, hospitals have been slow in adopting telemedicine technologies thanks to low IT budgets, legacy systems, and a lack of workforce. However, today’s telemedicine is increasingly run by startups – such as MDLIVE in the U.S., Babylon Health in the UK, and Doktor24 in Sweden – which have until now faced significant challenges in overcoming resistance from established healthcare systems.

IT:

  • Legacy systems. Legacy objections regarding security, interoperability, and infrastructure should and could be addressed with today’s technology. With moving to cloud-based environments, health systems can worry less about maintaining a secure, extensible infrastructure and instead focus more on improving both patient and financial outcomes. Larger health systems now aim to further strategic imperatives such as improving quality, reach, and patient outcomes while containing costs. Telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions help enable these results.
  • The urgency of development. The virtual hospitals and self-diagnostic gadgets are part of a wider suite of innovations developed at breakneck speed during the pandemic response. Few aspects of the healthcare industry have left untouched in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic seized the globe. We recommend that organizations look for an open architecture for flexibility and customization, existing integrations into EHR and clinical tools, and a platform with a vast ecosystem of third-party partners. Here you can learn more about Implementing an EHR System to Support Clinical Research that we’ve done for french Pharmaceutical Company.
  • HQ video solutions. Here are the main requirements for telemedicine video providers:
    • The solution must enable HIPAA compliance through 256-bit AES encryption for data in transit and at rest.
    • Seamless integration with EHR and EMR systems. This allows to launch a video visit directly from thу doctor’s workflow and update charts and records in real-time.
    • Ability to work in low-bandwidth environments to bring services to patients in rural.
  • Extra devices. A decade ago, fitness-trackers merely counted steps. Today they measure heart rates, and the latest Apple Watch can create an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram. Remote devices for telehealth see a surge in demand. On the horizon are devices and apps for home blood testing or biomarker signals capture later sent to physicians for evaluation.

Social:

  • Awareness and adoption – A year ago, patients would rather wait till the next day to see their primary care doctors; these days, they’d chat with a physician. This pandemic has really pushed a lot of us to try telemedicine for the first time. In their 2019 Telehealth Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power reports that customer satisfaction with telehealth services is high: 851 on a 1,000-point scale. 65% of consumers are more likely to use telehealth if the cost is less than a doctor’s office visit.
  • Low-income population. Broadband access, smartphones, and the digital kit that connects to them remain expensive, which means telemedicine may not be viable for the poor or less tech-sophisticated seniors, who need these sorts of novel healthcare solutions the most.
  • Lack of skills. Doctors and patients both need some education. The relevance of digital skills in the COVID-19 is necessary work that must be done.

Conclusion: Telehealth has helped expand access to care when the pandemic has severely restricted patients’ ability to see their doctors. It is not a solution to the current crisis, but it will be one of its lasting consequences. Today, actions taken by healthcare and IT leaders will determine if the full potential of telehealth is realized after the crisis has passed.

Are You Ready to Migrate?

This Cloud Migration Guide is our latest contribution to Erbis business educational strategy. This study is made for all those who run online business and concern about cost-effectiveness, scalability, high performance, security, and remote access.

6 minutes read

Get the most out of our expertise.

You will learn:

  • 4 occasions for migration
  • 8 ways to save funds 
  • 5 types of migration strategy
  • 4 rules for finding a partner
  • AWS, Azure, or Google – what to choose?

Our Migration Guide will help you to make an important decision in your business strategy – to migrate or not to migrate.

We’ve combined best practices with our experience and came up with an organized and logical structure. This paper will conduct you through the complex migration process highlighting the principal migration stages and warning possible bottlenecks. The most practical thing it provides is the answer – to migrate or not to migrate?

In the next 6 minutes, you’ll know more about reasons to migrate and the competitive advantages of cloud adoption. We analyze the most appropriate time for your big move and provide you with a clear action plan. 

Get some tips on how to rethink your IT infrastructure and select a reliable partner among many. Choosing the best migrating path can be a bone of contention, too. We’ve detailed and visualized 5 existing ways of migration, with their pros and cons. 

Not sure about the provider? Please take a look at our comparative table with the leading vendors featured. And last but not least, stumble upon possible bottlenecks now, rather than at the midway.

6 Phases of the Software Development Life Cycle

9 out of 10 startups fail because their solution has no market fit. This indicates that the software development analysis stage was skipped or conducted wrong. In such a case all further design, coding, and testing have little sense.

Seeing a big picture is vital when you begin developing software. So before you start crafting your product, take a look at the most common and secure software development life cycle to grasp the concept of how a complete process looks like.

1. Analysis

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Goal: To gather requirements and define the direction of the development process.

Mistakes made during the analysis phase are the most expensive to fix later. This is the only time to build a foundation for your future product:

  • Carry out user research;
  • Analyze the competitors;
  • Establish business goals;
  • Measure success;
  • Map the customer journey;
  • Plan the budget.

It’s important to take into account the team on the client’s side. Its in-depth knowledge about the product goals and requirements, level of industry knowledge, and readiness to collaborate will contribute to the overall strategy and will make the discovery stage more effective. It’s crucial to engage at least one person from the client’s side to get a better understanding of the scope and goals of your product. Such interaction will help to write a detailed Software Requirements Specification (SRS) and to eliminate risks such as understaffing, over budget, and lack of market demand.

Outcome: Setting requirements and writing SRS

2. Product Design

Software Development Life Cycle image 2

Goal: To convert requirements into detailed software architecture.

Product design can be divided into three fundamental components:

  • Functionality;
  • Appearance;
  • Quality.

Functionality is the priority of an Architect. By narrowing the focus he helps business and technical teams work together on a product that targets both clients’ needs and business goals.

Appearance is a tangible input of UX designers that conduct user research followed by sketching (any kind of it), prototyping, and creating MVP.

Quality stands for meeting customer needs and expectations with a product.

All the above components should be sourced from the SRS document that is a reference point for everyone involved in the project. The vital thing here is a vast understanding of the context for the existence of the software under development. The more detailed the description of how the application needs to be created would be, the less additional input developers will require at the next coding stage.

Outcome: Software design description.

3. Software Development

Software Development Life Cycle image 3

Goal: Translate the design of the system into code.

This is a lengthy phase though less complicated than the previous two. Using the design description, programmers code the modules using the chosen programming language. The coding tasks are divided between the team members according to their skillset. Front-end developers create codes for displaying an application or product UI and the elements users need to interplay with the site. Their Back-end counterparts are in charge of the technical side of a product.

Establish conditions for organized and consistent coding:

  • Use proper guidelines;
  • Supervise every developer;
  • Automate deployment process;
  • Nourish the best programming practices.

Well-written code significantly reduces the number of test runs and maintenance-related problems at the next stages. At Erbis we use innovative design and development practices to drive our client’s growth.

Outcome: testable, functional software, and a Source Code Document.

4. Product Testing

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Goal: Code verification and bugs detection.

There is one step missing before mass-production testing. It consists of Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Control (QC), and Testing. While these are technically separate parts of the development process dependent on project size, stakeholders often group them as they have the same end goal: make a high-quality product.

Let’s figure out the difference:

  • Quality Assurance. This is a process-oriented activity aimed to ensure that the team manages and creates deliverables consistently. The role of QA is to identify the reason for the error and to re-engineer the system so that such defects won’t appear any further. Thus focusing efforts on improving QA processes is one of the best investments an organization can make.
    • Quality Control. This is a product-oriented performance related to intermediate and final results of development. Examples of QC include technical reviews, software testing, and code inspections.
      • Testing. The tester creates tests and observes the behavior of the particular program under certain conditions. He fills in the documentation and returns it to developers. The best way to ensure that tests are run regularly is to automate them.

Outcome: Software is completely free of bugs and compliant.

5. Deployment

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Goal: Software delivery to a target device.

Software deployment refers to the process of running a product on a server or device and can be summarized in three general phases: 

  • Preparation; 
  • Testing;
  • Deployment. 

A piece of software may be deployed several times during the software development lifecycle depending on its functioning and error check results. If it runs smoothly and the way it was intended, then consider your software ready to be launched for beta testing. The support team collects feedback from the first users, and if any bugs come up, the development team fixes them. After that, the final version is rolled out.

Outcome: Fully operational software in a live environment.

6 phases of the software development life cycle

6. Maintenance

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Goal: Ongoing security monitoring and update.

The process of software development is a never-ending cycle as the plan rarely turns out perfect when it meets reality. In most cases, product maintenance is the continuous phase intended to keep the software stable and up to date. If any new bugs and vulnerabilities appear, the maintenance team will mitigate them or flag them to be addressed in a future version of the software.

There are 2 types of maintenance:

  • Corrective. This means the fixation of defects that are rooted in production. They emerge because removing all the faults before delivery is extremely difficult.
  • Adaptive. It’s an addition of requirements you didn’t have in the original plan. Such modification takes shape due to environment or input data change.

Outcome: Utter user experience and productivity.

Conclusion

These steps are roughly the same from one software development life cycle model to another. They tend to occur in this order, though they can also be mixed into a rapidly-repeating cycle (like Agile) or break down into linear sequential phases (like Waterfall). No matter the method the desired result is a competitive and customer-oriented product.

Look at our latest case on re-architecting and maintaining a supply chain management system here.