Telehealth Protocols to Create Competitive Advantage
The time and technology are right for telehealth to grow beyond the
niche application is has been for years. In this presentation we
explore the business protocols that will or may define the
capabilities of a telehealth app on a mobile device. The goal is to
create an app and a service which is so well designed that customers
(insurance and employers) and patients find it too attractive to
Telehealth offers a number of improvements on the traditional
model for delivering care to patients. Like all new technologies,
these begin as modest improvements and grow to be more
powerful than the old methods.
When we use the word “protocol” a clinical provider will
immediately think of the prescribed steps for interacting with a
patent to understand their situation and prescribe action. The same
word to the IT team will cause them to think about secure data
delivery, storage, networks, and HIPAA issues. In this talk we are
more interested in the business protocols which define the value
added services offered to a patient. What will make a telehealth app
undeniably valuable to them? What will create a competitive
advantage for one app over another?
One example of a nice initial offering of a telehealth app is the eCare
app offered by my own employer and insurance provider. This allows
a patient to create a secure profile which contains their personal,
insurance, health, pharmacy, and payment information. This is
enough to establish payment rates, identify providers, and send
prescriptions to a convenient pharmacy. It is a good start.
You can launch an app with the most basic capabilities shown here. This
allows for billing, clinical services, and prescriptions. These are fine, but
these capabilities will be duplicated in every telehealth app on the
market. There is no competitive advantage here.
Another important point is that engagement with this app is a rare event
which concludes in a few minutes. The relationship with the patient ends
and another may not be initiated for months. That is like a store which
expects to see a customer only once or twice a year. That works for an
auto dealer, but not for groceries and consumer products.
Today the competitive advantage for a telehealth app is created by
the employers and insurance companies. They choose the app that
will be offered to their members. Typical patients do not go looking
for an app to use. Most are not even aware that this kind of service
is already available. Patients do not choose the app they want based
on features. The insurance company and employer create a fortress
around the patient with one preferred app on the inside of the fort
and all of the others on the outside, walled off from
Some services to differentiate telehealth apps are:
• If a patients does not have insurance, that is an opportunity to sell insurance.
• Patient data should be processed so that it is understandable by computers,
processed by cloud AI, and part of a bigger picture of population health.
• Match to a provider right now, or schedule for later in the day or week.
• Connect multiple providers if necessary, and if covered by insurance.
• Provide electronic referrals, make an appointment through electronic access to a
provider’s schedule, not a manual phone call.
• Survey patient satisfaction.
• Remain connected to patient and track their compliance with instructions.
• Tie telehealth into other healthy living apps like FitBits, RunTrackers,
• Become part of the patients daily or weekly healthy living habit. Never “End”
• Goal: Telehealth app consulted every week or every day. Become as essential to
patients/customers as Facebook.
Eventually someone will become the Amazon, Google, or Facebook
of telehealth. It is too soon to know who it will be. But someone
else will become the Pets.com and MySpace of telehealth. It just
depends of who meets the patient’s needs the best.
Today, individual patients and many employers are not shopping for
a telehealth app. But eventually everyone will have a telehealth app
on their phone. Now is the time to be creating a competitive
advantage in the services offered to patients, employers, and