Floridians are all too familiar with the business and logistical hurdles bad tropical weather can create. However, even less expected are the everyday human errors such as an overzealous backhoe operator digging above a fiber optic cable and inadvertently cutting a data connection. The reality is that disruption can happen anytime, not just during hurricane season. The good news is that recent developments in technology provide a new way to both augment the practice of medicine and insulate a business against downtime. Telemedicine or telehealth is rapidly becoming an inexpensive and secure way to interact with patients and medical professionals just short of the tactile response from pressing flesh during an introductory handshake.
Granted, telemedicine and telehealth are generic terms that incorporate layers of many technologies. For simplicity’s sake we’ll discuss some of the most popular options for video conferencing, cloud based technology and virtualization. If that sounds intimidating just look past the buzzwords you may hear in commercials mentioning a certain character from a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel. It’s all elementary. See what I did there?
1. Video Conferencing
Information technology vendors such as Microsoft, Cisco and even upstart Zoom have been diligently working on developing new enterprise-class computing platforms to make the transition to telehealth easier and less expensive. Think of “enterprise class” as “industrial strength”. If you were a chef at a gourmet restaurant you wouldn’t use knives bought on sale at Target? No. So why would you use equipment to run your 15-year old’s video game marathon to run your business? For example, Microsoft provides an entire stack of software that runs HD quality video conferencing, chat and e-mail for a few dollars a month. The benefit of using their equipment is that you get to leverage the same technology a $500 billion company uses but pay only for what you use. Using collaboration technology such as video conferencing allows you to establish a secured connection with your patient on the internet. In a scenario where power is out in your building and you and your patient have already evacuated safely, it’s more than likely there will be a smartphone available with a connection to the internet for the two of you to discuss their health concerns.
2. Cloud Based Technology
Now, let’s assume video conferencing isn’t an option for some reason. Maintaining access to your records as well as communications with the rest of your team is essential for continued business operations. The ability to securely save your documents to a single repository that is not only backed up but also replicated to another facility is a game changer. The benefit to this, if it isn’t obvious already, is there are backups of backups and no need for you to worry about storing anything manually.A true telehealth practice incorporates more than just a pair of cameras and microphones. It requires a methodical approach to what you want to offer your patient or client. The economies of scale have recently tipped in your favor so much so that what would have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars just five years ago can be accomplished faster and more efficiently for a fraction of the investment. Even better is the ability to pick and choose features and only pay for what you use. If you find you’re not using a feature then simply turn it off, end the cost. If you need an extra feature, perhaps the ability to video conference more than one person at a time, add that function for a few dollars more. It’s up to you.
Virtualizing means you are basically digitizing your hardware. Florida based practices that did not have their data in an off-site data repository or with the capability to conduct telehealth practice services (think more than just electronic medical records) with their patients were the ones left stranded after this most recent storm. Time and again I heard of practices shuttered for days merely because the power connected to their building was down. The reality in this day and age is that a relatively small investment by these businesses could have prevented the loss of thousands of dollars in revenue and would have facilitated much needed help to their patients.
Developing a telemedicine or telehealth practice strategy not only helps patients in time of need during a natural disaster and keeps business flowing despite the after-effects of human error but it makes your practice more efficient and ultimately more profitable everyday. When you leverage the enterprise computing technology already pioneered by the titans of Silicon Valley you begin to find that your practice has myriad of virtual possibilities.
Frank Diaz is an information technology professional and the founder of Ōmzig, a business focused on leveraging the benefits of enterprise-class computing to create business custom solutions. Clients benefit from 10+ year partnerships with major organizations such as Microsoft and others by having the latest and most reliable services on the SMB market available. Email Mr. Diaz via email@example.com or call 561-295-8672.