Of all the new healthcare technologies coming to market, TigerConnect’s TigerTouch solution may be one of the best-timed. When combined with the company’s other products, it offers a truly seamless communication experience. Patients and providers are able to move from a text conversation to a real-time video chat and back again without changing apps or losing continuity.
The team at TigerConnect had been developing a video and voice telehealth solution for quite some time. When COVID-19 swept across the globe, however, the company decided to accelerate their development. “We had been working on the solution prior to COVID-19, and the timing really ended up perfect,” explained Dr. William O’Connor, CMIO at TigerConnect in an interview with Healthcare IT Today. “We were scheduled to launch the solution this summer, but we pushed our development up so we could better help our customers during the pandemic.”
When TigerTouch launched, it combined two worlds: asynchronous text communications with real-time synchronous video chat. This capability is sorely lacking in many other stand-alone telehealth solutions. Why is this important? Not every patient needs a video consult with a physician. Sometimes a quick one or two sentence exchange can get patients the answers they need without the need to book an appointment (virtual or in-person).
Benefits of Texting in Healthcare
Texting has been a standard mode of communication in healthcare for years. It allows patients and providers to exchange information in a quick and convenient format. Phone calls, video consults and in-person appointments require both parties to be available at the same time – a difficult proposition in this busy world. Texting allows for each party to interact independently according to their own schedules.
Consider post-discharge follow-up. Often, providers just need to quickly check in with patients and make sure there are no issues. Rather than make patients take time off work, find childcare, and make their way back to the hospital or clinic for a visit (especially when they may be apprehensive about the potential spread of COVID-19), providers can check-in with patients quickly via text.
Because in-person follow-up visits are inconvenient, some patients may ignore small warning signs (such as signs of infection) simply because they don’t want the hassle of coming back to the hospital for a follow-up visit. With texting, patients can quickly snap and submit a picture and providers can quickly assess whether the patient needs to be seen. The appropriate level of care is delivered quickly and conveniently all because of this text interaction.
“Think about it,” Dr O’Connor said, “if a patient returns to the emergency department after a procedure, the hospital won’t be reimbursed for that visit anyways. So why not pro-actively use text messaging check-in with that patient before they need to come to the ED? And if they do need to come in, triage them better and direct them to a care setting that is more suited to their needs – which may not be the ED. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by communicating with that patient using texts.”
Texting + Telehealth
One of the exciting features of TigerTouch is the ability to switch between asynchronous (text) and synchronous (phone/video) modes of communication. Here’s an example:
- After a surgical procedure, Mr. Green is discharged
- On the way home, Mr. Green receives a text message with instructions on how to monitor and care for the surgical site
- Each morning Roy receives a simple 3-question “survey” from the hospital that asks how his recovery is progressing.
- On Day 3, Mr. Green wakes up to irritation around the incision. He makes note of it on his daily survey.
- Mr. Green’s “something isn’t right” survey response is sent to members of his care team who immediately reach out via text asking him to snap a photo of area of irritation
- Based on the photo, the team texts back to arrange a video call.
- Roy receives the request via text, clicks on the link provided and is immediately having a video call with his care team
It’s all seamless and convenient.
From Roy’s perspective, there is no special app he needed to download, no portal that he had to log into, no password to remember and no strange interface to learn. It’s just text messages and a link.
From the care team’s perspective, everything is handled in one place. All the text communications with Roy and the video call are handled from the same application. No need to switch from a texting system to a telehealth system and back again. It’s all together.
While it’s possible to have a bi-drectional interface between TigerTouch and a provider’s EHR, Dr. O’Connor does not recommend logging all the text messages into the patient’s record. Why? Because “most text messages between patients and providers are informal and just standard Q&A. Adding all of those to the medical record would just clutter it up.” Since the full record of the conversation is kept in TigerTouch, Dr. O’Connor suggests that adding a short note in the EHR that captures the nature of the conversation would be more effective.
According to Dr. O’Connor there is another side benefit to having texting capabilities alongside real-time video – a reduction in miscommunication. When you’re on the phone or video call, it is difficult for clinicians to know if their instructions are understood by their patient. Did their dog bark when they said twice-a-day not four-times-a-day? Did the video go blurry when they showed what the pill should look like? With a text message, however, everything is clear. Even better, patients can scroll back and reference the message to help them remember. That’s not something that can be done easily with a video call.
Full Rollout = Recipe for Success
Dr. O’Connor emphasized the importance of having a complete deployment in which all patient-facing staff – doctors, nurses, physical therapists, housekeeping, respiratory therapists – have access to the system and are trained on how to use it. “If the solution isn’t deployed to everyone, it causes issues and difficult workflows,” Dr. O’Connor stated. “There are too many gaps. If you think of it from an end user perspective, you can’t have it only working for some providers and not others. What would happen if two clinicians that were part of a patient’s care team didn’t have access, how would they join the conversation? There’s really not an easy way except to get them on the same system. It would be like iPhones only being able to call other iPhones and not Android phones. You need complete adoption and ability for the whole care team to communicate.”
Luckily, the early rollouts of TigerTouch seem to be going smoothly and the company expects to have a number of interesting case studies in the months ahead. It will be interesting to circle back to Dr. O’Connor and the TigerConnect team to see what lessons they have learned and what feedback their customers had.
This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100