Taking a trip to the doctor’s has been a frequent and common occurrence for nearly everyone. Eye exams, blood tests, and plenty of paperwork are staples of healthcare. But now, in-person appointments are moving online in favor of telehealth appointments, where patients can seek medical advice from the comfort of their homes.
“Telehealth numbers on our network, which had been almost non-existent [prior to COVID-19]… all of a sudden started to spike dramatically,” says Jessica Sweeney-Platt of athenahealth. “And so at one point, we were seeing something like 34 to 35 percent of total volumes of visits on our network being conducted virtually.”
Sweeney-Platt is the Vice President of Research and Editorial Strategy at athenahealth. In her role within the marketing team, Sweeney-Platt oversees the interactive telehealth dashboard and helps to collect and analyze consumer insights in order to improve their products, assist customers in the healthcare industry, and contribute to the betterment of healthcare as a whole.
How the Telehealth Dashboard was Created
athenahealth’s interactive telehealth dashboard consolidates consumer insights and data from telehealth research and treatment into one place, with the goal of improving and understanding the benefits of virtual care.
“It was really born out of that initial [stage of the pandemic] where we saw this extraordinary hockey stick moment in terms of the shifting of telehealth volume,” Sweeney-Platt says. “What could we learn from this emergence of virtual care in this extraordinary moment?”
Having access to a large base of consumer information and insights has helped athenahealth to improve telehealth offerings and understand levels of virtual engagement for different types of care.
“Before we do anything, obviously, we need to de-identify the data,” Sweeney-Platt says. “Next, we need to understand generally what we’re looking for, so that we [at athenahealth] know which fields to pull in and which tables we want to use. And then it becomes an iterative process – we have the data, we start to just do basic demographic cuts, to see if anything interesting arises.”
Important Insights From the Telehealth Dashboard
Since the interactive telehealth dashboard launched, Sweeney-Platt and her team have worked diligently to identify and share important insights, trends, and lessons learned from the dashboard. Sweeney-Platt says that the impact of virtual care on mental health and behavioral health services has been profound, and has potential moving forward.
“Anyone who follows healthcare knows [this] is a perennial pain point – access to behavioral health services,” Sweeney-Platt explains. “Problems with mental health have an absolute influence on physical health…so making behavioral health more accessible, seems to be a real, powerful, long-term benefit of greater accessibility and greater availability of virtual care.”
Additionally, Sweeney-Platt’s team studied the likelihood of permanent adoption of telehealth trends.
“What we saw over the course of those early months of the pandemic, is that if practices makes the decision to open up capacity virtually…their patients will use it,” Sweeney-Platt says. “There’s sort of a perception, for example, that older patients won’t use virtual care. What we saw is that if a practice had made the decision to use virtual care, older patients used it at a much higher rate.”
Translating Insights into Action
Sweeney-Platt says that the insights provided by athenahealth’s interactive telehealth dashboard are being used to improve both the patient and provider experience.
“We also want to provide the support and the service and the partnership as we work with customers along the way,” Sweeney-Platt explains. “And so our customer success organization has spent an enormous amount of time over the last couple of years, creating entire structures that highlight specific benchmarks, and equip customer success managers with literal playbooks for helping customers to improve [their experience].”
For example, athenahealth often looks at the payer yield metric – the percentage of what a payer owes a practice that the practice collects successfully – and works with customers who are seeing lower than average yields to improve them.
“And we can then, hopefully, get them more of the money to which they are entitled for the work that they’ve done,” Sweeney-Platt says. “And that is entirely driven by insights from the data, knowing what the benchmark performance looks like, and being able to kind of surge resources to those customers who could use the support.”