These days, flexibility and the ability to connect virtually are key factors to any business’s survival. Tim Costantino, VP and Head of Product at AdvancedMD, embraced these values even before the COVID-19 crisis and they are now serving him and the company well. We sat down with Costantino to discuss what hasn’t changed, what has changed and what will change for AdvancedMD (and healthcare in general) due to COVID-19.
What Hasn’t Changed
Even though the world is in a strange state right now, Costantino believes that it is more important than ever to hang onto timeless core values. “Regardless of COVID-19, there are some fundamental truths,” said Costantino. “Empathy is something that will get you through this tough time. Empathy is what has remained constant. We needed it before the pandemic, we certainly need it during this pandemic, and we’ll need it long after the pandemic is over. AdvancedMD has always had empathy for its customers, partners, and the patients they serve. We continue to work hard to meet them where they are.”
Costantino also believes that the need to listen to customers has not changed during this pandemic. Sure, they may be busier now than ever before, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your help. You just have to be persistent, patient and show empathy for their situation (there’s that word again). When you do connect, you may get a treasure trove of information that can help you be a better technology partner.
“We’re doing a lot of virtual meetings with customer right now,” continued Costantino. “We are doing a lot of surveys and we are doing a lot of direct outreach. We’re just honestly asking our customers ‘What do you need right now’. What they need two months from now is different than what they thought they needed two months ago. By understanding what’s changed, we can better prepare to help them going forward.”
What Has Changed
By listening to feedback from their customers, the team at AdvancedMD realized that they needed to change their approach to product development. They:
- Added more resources to their product management team for their patient-focused product line which helps practices interact more effectively with patients (a product-line they were going to feature in their HIMSS20 booth);
- More than doubled the size of their engineering team; and
- Hold daily cross-departmental meetings to review what can be done better to help customers with communication, education, training, and product perspective
“When we added the additional people, we aligned them by telling everyone to forget all the normal expectations they had in terms of releasing software,” explained Costantino. “We’re going to release as soon as we’re comfortable that testing has passed and that we have high quality. We’re not going to wait for anything else. We’ve been doing product releases almost weekly for a while now.”
Why so frequently? Because the situation at their customers is changing just as rapidly. Their customers need the updates and enhancements in order to take better care of patients.
There is little doubt that telehealth has emerged as the must-have technology for healthcare providers during this pandemic. This is a significant change from the pre-COVID belief that telehealth was a nice-to-have. Almost overnight, it became “critical for the survival of the practices and to take care of patients.” according to Costantino. As evidence, he pointed to the 2,000% increase in the number of app downloads of their telemedicine product in just the last month.
What Will Change
As for the future, Costantino sees machine learning and AI playing a bigger role in improving the lives of patients and reducing the burden on physician practices. As those technologies become more prevalent, healthcare operations will have to adapt in order to fully leverage the power of these systems. But first, we will have to learn to trust AI-powered applications and for that, we need to do a better job at building applications that are truly helpful.
One area where AI is having an impact is patient scheduling. There are already many chatbots that help patients find a specialist or book an appointment. Down the road, Costantino hopes to see a more complete end-to-end AI-powered solution. Imagine an AI that was smart enough to help a patient: find the right specialist, who accepts their insurance, that offers financing options that match the patient’s situation, is located in a convenient spot and has the best time available. That would be an ideal experience for the patient AND the provider.
Costantino also sees at-home care becoming more important in the years ahead. The current pandemic has opened the eyes of many people about the benefits of being able to care for themselves and loved ones in their home. He is expecting many new enabling technologies to allow people to stay at home and avoid going to ERs and physician offices.
An Axiom and a Mantra
During our conversation, Costantino shared two nuggets with me that deserve to be highlighted. One was an axiom that guides his product-thinking at AdvancedMD: People don’t like pain. Friction causes pain. Friction is everywhere. Therefore, if you remove friction, you remove pain.
The other was his personal mantra: Make it easy. Make it flexible. Make it fast. And connect on the patients’/users’ terms.
I thought both of these were brilliant and nicely summed up the approach that he and the rest of the team at AdvancedMD are taking to help their customers not just during this pandemic, but beyond it as well.
Watch my full interview with Costantino to learn:
- How much providers and patients have “figured out” telehealth and how far we still have to go
- Empathy and its place throughout healthcare – not just between patients and providers
- How empathy for customers can lead to new ways of collaborating
- Why taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others
This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100
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