How Cloud-based Communication Improves Healthcare Industry?

Cloud
Cloud communication in healthcare

How Cloud-based Communication Improves Healthcare Industry?

Jane’s 5-year old daughter has a fever. Using a mobile app, she schedules an appointment with a pediatrician within a few minutes.

Mary suffers from arthritis and requires prescribed medication every month. Her physician submits an e-prescription to the pharmacy, and the medication is home-delivered to Mary.

John has anxiety and takes therapy every week through live-video sessions.

Healthcare is changing!

Cloud-based communication and API integration solutions have made it feasible for medical practitioners to deliver services to patients in the comfort of their homes, offices, or while on the go. However, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that truly inspired hospitals, medical centers, and physicians to adopt this technology on a massive scale to help patients seek medical help via cloud-based applications.

These developments have been the driving forces of the increasing success of telehealth and telemedicine during the pandemic.

With new policies, technologies, and techniques being adopted to ensure the best services, a lot of positive changes are being witnessed in the way the healthcare industry is functioning today. However, the challenges are ever-increasing, and, at the same time, the situation is ripe for new solutions to enter the healthcare world.

How has COVID-19 disrupted the healthcare industry?

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are overburdened with an unprecedented influx of patients seeking urgent care for the COVID-19 crisis. This has given rise to many technological challenges such as appointment scheduling/rescheduling, adaptability to new products, hardware, and software failure among others.

Healthcare professionals providing consultations over phone and voice calls have proved to be a great help. However, the patients still have a hard time getting their prescriptions or receive their medicines on time.

With so many difficulties that the healthcare industry faces, cloud-based communication coupled with API integrations offers viable solutions at affordable costs. This makes providing medical services convenient and safe, for both doctors and patients.

How does cloud-based communication bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients?

Nebraska Medicine runs a healthcare network in Omaha with access to 1,000 doctors, 40 health centers with primary and specialty care units, and a combined staff of 8,000 employees. It was a first-line leader during the outbreak of COVID-19, who guided people on self-quarantine norms, symptom monitoring, and general information through customer service.

With the help of Avaya OneCloud, a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) provider, the support hub set up a 24/7 support line that helped people get information without any delays. This platform was scalable to fit a large number of callers, direct existing patients to e-visit scheduling, lead new patients to the organization’s website, and, most importantly, quickly provide information to callers. Today, Nebraska Medicine extends this call flow to help its 8, 000 employees along with the existing callers.

Benefits of cloud communication

The top priority for physicians and medical staff is always patient care and on-time treatment. Therefore, it is important that the means of communication is error-free and user-friendly.

So, how does cloud-technology extend its support?

#1 – Communication through a single platform – Voice and video calls, instant messaging, webchat, EHR management, patient portals among others enable hospitals, healthcare facilities, physicians, and nurses to connect with patients through a single communication platform via the internet.

#2 – Accessible on any device – Patients and medical staff have the flexibility to connect through their phones, laptops, or tablets from any part of the world.

#3 Establish a secure connection always – A HIPAA compliant cloud platform maintains the safety and security of patient data and avoids any leakage of sensitive information.

#4 – Manage increased users easily – The cloud communication platform is easily scalable with timely upgrades offered by the cloud service provider. This makes it easy to handle sudden increases in patient activities.

With many benefits and lesser shortcomings, cloud-based platforms have boosted the use of Telemedicine and Telehealth applications among patients and physicians, both. Their use is expected to see a rise of 64.3% in 2020 in the US, and by 2025, a seven-fold growth is projected by experts in the field.

Why are Telemedicine and Telehealth apps the much-needed silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis?

With people confined to their homes during the pandemic, the healthcare industry had to find ways to reach patients yet maintain the same level of care as clinical visits. Consequently, physicians turned to telemedicine and telehealth apps to keep abreast of their patients’ well-being. In a survey conducted by GlobalData, 79% of specialists in the US confirmed that their use of telemedicine had increased during the COVID-19 crisis.

Effective Reduction in Treatment Time with Cloud-based Platform Pulsara

Pulsara is a cloud-based telehealth platform connecting medical teams of different healthcare facilities like EMSs, nursing homes, imaging centers, and testing clinics through a single application. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bozeman-based startup extended its support by enabling smooth coordination between geographically-distributed care groups.

The process involves creating patient channels and forming a care team to establish real-time communication via video and audio calls, instant messaging, images, and others. It allows the core team to add medical professionals and organizations for expert opinions, facilitating the exchange of critical information. In fact, In fact, Pulsara has helped the healthcare facilities decrease the average treatment time by 30%.

In case there were any hospital admissions, the platform informed the physicians prior to the patient’s arrival to minimize exposure to the virus. For the convenience of outpatients, adding family members was also possible on the Pulsara PATIENT app developed by the same platform. Furthermore, physicians of different specialties could consult each other by adding care teams on the app and avoid any direct contact to avoid any further spread.

Why should patients and doctors consider telemedicine?

#1 – Provides 24/7 care – With apps like Teladoc that provide 24/7 healthcare services, you can receive a fast diagnosis at your convenience for conditions like cold, sore throat, and acne. In a survey conducted by Updox, 42% of US adults confirmed that they preferred telehealth services during the COVID-19 crisis

#2 – Ensures personal safety – With the required treatment delivered at your doorstep, the danger of being exposed to the virus reduces for both patients and doctors. Research suggests that around 61% of doctors find telehealth a promising platform for healthcare services.

#3 – Cost-effective – While an appointment at a clinic can cost up to US$125 per visit, you can get the same level of medical treatment at home between US$25 and US$40 per visit depending on the platform and your health issues.

#4 – Includes therapy and counseling – The University of Colorado saw a surge of 10-20% to 100% in video-driven visits after the COVID-19 outbreak. With a lot of people losing their jobs due to the pandemic, mental health issues have grown substantially. Apps like TalkSpace provide online counseling and introduce users to licensed therapists for all mental health issues through Unlimited Messaging TherapyTM.

#5 – Offers COVID-19 consultations – With virtual screenings and e-visits, physicians inform patients of their preliminary diagnosis while limiting their exposure to the virus. As a result, telehealth apps with virtual screenings are gaining popularity among various organizations and individuals.

Why is API integration essential for the smooth functioning of healthcare apps?

Cloud-based Application Programming Interface (APIs) is the link between your application and the best-in-class services of the healthcare sector. With telemedicine platforms adopting advanced technologies to achieve new heights, your patients will expect the same level of comfort and services from your software.API allows you to explore features that can be integrated into your application as a one-stop solution for your patients.

“So why not develop my own features instead of opting for API providers?” you may ask. Well, there are dedicated teams of developers that work on these interfaces with a goal to make them easily scalable, cost-effective, and a value-addition to your application. This gives you ample time to focus on the bigger picture and create unique features to set you apart.

APIs for healthcare apps

We have created a list of commonly used APIs in telemedicine and telehealth apps as well as for special use cases to embed in your app –

Voice APIs for Telemedicine Apps

When it comes to a healthcare app, voice API proves to be most beneficial for the physically disabled, visually challenged, and senior citizens. It’s important that you design telemedicine apps keeping in mind their needs and inadequacies. Some common problems include lack of good vision, difficulty in movement, inability to keep their hands steady while using a smart device, following commands on the screens, and others. Voice APIs, however, can help these patients navigate through the app with pre-recorded commands on calls and have their questions answered.

Let’s take examples of the services offered by two top-notch Voice API providers-

#1. Vonage offers a pay-per-second billing option to its customers, so you can analyze the usage and accordingly select a long-term plan. Global connectivity to tier 1 carriers and Vonage’s own trusted carrier network ensures uninterrupted communication and excellent voice quality.

Furthermore, the text-to-speech feature covers 40 native languages and generates machine-generated responses, ridding you from the pain of recording audio files. What’s more, the auto-join for conference calls feature allows callers to join the meeting as it starts, facilitating the exchange of expert opinions from physicians and discussions with authorized attendees.

Some other features offered by Vonage include –

– Customization of preferred WebRTC and PSTN calling options
– Strong encryption and real-time fraud detection system for secured calling
– Call recording/tracking options to anticipate patient expectations

#2. Twilio Voice API offers the flexibility to access and manage patient calls on all devices, reducing the waiting time and improving patient engagement. Furthermore, the SIP interface allows you to switch from PSTN to cloud telephony without any hardware or software deployment.

It is also cost-effective and easily scalable to increasing demand. TwiMLTM Voice conference connects up to 250 participants on a conference call with moderator controls, participant management, and call recording. This is especially helpful in organizing conferences during the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, Twilio’s Media Streams allows you to access raw call recordings in real-time so you can get feedback from the patients and modify your responses for similar queries better.

CipherHealth, a patient engagement platform, initiated essential care and virtual screening for patients during the COVID-19 crisis. The Voice API was designed to make automated calls and messages to users that get recorded in the system. In cases where the responses include positive symptoms, a doctor steps in to guide them to the next steps.

Similarly, Arkansas Children’s Hospital used Voice API to improve their appointment scheduling to bring down patient no-shows and reduce the costs involved. As a result, the hospital recorded a 90% decrease in the number of missed appointments, and the appointment no-show came down to 2%.

Video APIs for Telemedicine Apps

Just as Work from Home is the new normal, video consultations with doctors and nurses have become a preferred mode of communication for most patients. In fact, the American Medical Association and Wellness Council of America revealed that 75% of the ER visits, urgent care, and doctor visits can be handled over a phone or video.

Additionally, as doctors save time in commuting to hospitals and clinics, they can dedicate that much more time to patients and their concerns. Telemedicine apps around the world are pushing their limits to make video calls between doctors and patients as effortless as possible. Therefore, it is essential to integrate the best Video API into your application for better patient engagement.

MirrorFly provides Video Call APIs and SDKs that can be integrated into cross-platforms and web browsers for a seamless video chat experience. These interfaces are 100% customizable with additional features, hosting options among others to suit your design. With video calling available in HD resolution and assured low latency with support from WebRTC signaling server, patients and doctors can experience seamless communication throughout calls.

Screen recording is another video calling feature offered by MirrorFly that allows patients to rewatch the sessions for everyday exercises. With Doctors Video Conferencing feature, physicians from across the globe can be added for expert advice. Finally, being a HIPAA-compliant platform, end-to-end encryption is provided for secure communication between the users.

Vonage offers Video API solutions to web and mobile applications with video use-cases, where you can choose between 1:1 video communication, group chats, and broadcasts. The platform is HIPAA compliant and also provides users with BAAs as an additional service. Live video session recording, messaging during video calls, and screen sharing are some of the additional features to make communication between doctors and patients effortless.

With limited time, Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Tel Aviv built Telehealth systems with Video API after the COVID-19. It helped the organization treat patients remotely to ensure healthcare services were delivered on time.

Chi Mei Hospital in Taiwan integrated Vonage’s Video API to ensure better coordination and efficiency among the medical staff. It enabled the doctors to communicate with each other and connect with patients and their families through video conferencing. What’s more, they could also conduct meetings with interns for educational purposes.

APIs for specific use cases

#1 – Better Patient Engagement with Telehealth for Physicians

Telehealth helps with patient education and consultation, vital signs monitoring, and medical research through mobile and web app. While handling large scale data as this for all patients, it is imperative that physicians and medical staff can access, transfer, and exchange data securely among themselves without any delays or system failure.

Cloud Healthcare API by Google allows organizations to store large amounts of data from applications built on Google Cloud through various mediums like EHR medical history into the cloud. Users can analyze it with Machine Learning and Analytics to help patients get proper treatment and reach a conclusion about a specific medical condition in real-time.

Google ensures standard protocols of FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) to facilitate the exchange of electronic health records. Furthermore, it also provides Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) format which is considered a standard for sharing digital images among medical staff. Most importantly, Google has a secure data management system in compliance with HIPAA regulations.

#2 – Easy Access to EHR for Patients
EHR (Electronic Health Records) is essential for the smooth functioning of the healthcare industry today. Especially in these unprecedented times, when there is a constant increase in the number of patients seeking medical help, organized patient data will enable physicians and nurses to diagnose faster and better.

Not only medical staff but also patients should get access to records so that seeking medical help from different physicians is convenient. While all this holds true, it is also important that the API integrated with the application is HIPPA compliant and maintains 100% security in patient data management.

Redox offers an EHR Integration API that connects your application with a secure platform to access medical records stored in different software. It uses JSON and FHIR models to read data, apply HIPAA and HITRUST for maximum security, and offer 24/7 monitoring.

#3 – Daily Health Tracking with Connected Wearables for Patients
Health trackers and monitors will determine the future of healthcare in the years to come. According to research published by ReportLinker in September 2020, by the year 2025, the global market for wearable devices is expected to reach the US $61.4 billion. Just as Fitbits have taken the fitness world by storm, health monitoring devices will be the next big thing in the healthcare sector.

The main reason for this popularity is the convenience with which patients can access their daily records on their devices and set health goals. Doctors can also monitor this data through the same platform and accordingly decide the treatment and medication.

Omron, a leading manufacturer of health monitoring and fitness devices, provides Omron API for developers to integrate it into their cloud-based applications. The data on blood pressure and fitness activity received on the devices are recorded in Omron’s database and then made available to the healthcare apps.

The company ensures that secure communication is established between the two platforms, which is the most important factor while developing any healthcare app. It provides an OpenID connect and gives access to their production and staging environments.

#4 – Improved Management with E-Prescriptions For Pharmacies

With healthcare making technological advancements, pharmacies have also entered the game by introducing online purchases and on-time delivery of medicines.

e-Prescriptions are safer and faster as compared to paper prescriptions since there’s no risk of misinterpreting medicines due to illegible handwriting. What makes this development critical is that it solves the drug overdose issue as pharmacies directly receive instructions from doctors.

Dosespot offers two API platforms – JumpStart API and Plus+ API – that include EPCS and Surescripts certifications that can easily be embedded into your app. These can either be used in the original form with JumpStart or customized to suit your needs with Plus+.

Conclusion

With more and more developers exploring the potential of cloud technology and API solutions, the healthcare industry is becoming a breeding ground for new advancements. Some of them can include better utilization of health trackers and monitors with real-time updates to doctors, connecting biometric sensors to healthcare apps for early detection of diseases, effective use of IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) for better patient care, etc.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and the challenges that it posed for the medical field, experts have found opportunities to improve healthcare support with technology at the heart of its development.

Simform is an API integration partner to Vonage, and together the two companies are taking the world one step ahead in the future of technology. Let us know about your unique ideas on developing a healthcare application.

Twilio vs Nexmo

Hardik Shah

Working from last 8 years into consumer and enterprise mobility, Hardik leads large scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization and best practices.

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