Ease of Use: What Does It Mean, Really?By: Caregility Team
Every telehealth vendor will claim their telehealth solution is easy to use — but how many have truly designed their platform for both patients and providers? And how many telehealth vendors have recognized the myriad constraints of different clinical environments, including during the pandemic, and chosen designs that address these challenges?
Finally, how many telehealth companies recognize that prioritizing ease of use translates into saved time — and potentially saved lives?
Given that few vendors have carefully examined these questions or defined what ease of use means in practice, we recently created an eBook that provides a deep dive on ease of use in telehealth, including concrete examples of how a well-designed user experience in telehealth technology can address clinical challenges.
Below we share a few of the eBook’s critical concepts and insights:
The pandemic introduced three principal constraints in using telehealth technology
During the pandemic, hospitals and providers have faced three principal challenges in implementing and scaling up telehealth technologies:
- Constraints facing clinicians
- Constraints facing patients
- Constraints inherent in clinical facilities themselves
To achieve true ease of use, telehealth solutions must address all of the above categories.
For example, an effective telehealth solution must address the challenge that clinicians have to continually monitor patients with COVID-19.
Similarly, a telehealth solution must consider that patients with COVID-19 often have very limited energy (or are completely incapacitated) and thus need a very simple telehealth interface that, when necessary, can function without the patient having to do anything.
In addition, given that patients with COVID-19 are often isolated from family and friends, it’s critical to patients’ morale that they have an easy means of communicating and connecting with loved ones.
Ease of use is also critical in responding to a facilities challenge that has arisen during the pandemic: specifically, many hospitals have had to repurpose existing spaces, such as gift shops and conference rooms, into patient rooms.
A telehealth technology that requires a time-consuming installation would not be ideal when trying to quickly set up these converted spaces.
What user-friendly telehealth looks like from the perspective of patients
Given the fatigue many patients experience, the interface on telehealth technology must be intuitive and clear.
In this example of an easy-to-use mobile telehealth interface, there is one large red button for help, and one large green button to reach family and friends.
With just that one button, the interface automatically routes the call to the correct pre-programmed party. There’s no need for the exhausted patient to remember phone numbers, punch in numbers, or go through several screens.
Another design choice that contributes to ease of use for telehealth technology is not requiring a patient’s family to download a specialized app to interact with the patient. Instead, the patient’s family can receive a video call from the patient simply by clicking a link in a text.
Practical examples of telehealth that is easy to use for providers
Just as user-friendly telehealth technology must anticipate a patient’s constraints, so must it address a provider’s needs.
For example, providers sometimes need to communicate with a patient who is too weak to pick up a video call request from a provider. That’s why a feature like auto-answer at the patient’s bedside is key.
Or consider a provider who needs to remotely monitor a patient at night when the lights in the patient’s room are dimmed or off. A telehealth solution that shows the provider only a darkened room wouldn’t be of much use. But a camera with night-vision will enable the provider to watch the patient, while enabling the patient to properly rest in the dark.
Overcoming facility challenges
With so many hospitals having to repurpose spaces as hospital rooms, imagine if a telehealth technology required drilling through drywall to mount specialized cameras and monitors. That would not be an easy-to-use system.
Instead, ease-of-use means that the telehealth technology is device agnostic. It can work on smartphones and tablets, or simple carts with small cameras and screens can be rolled into a room.
The telehealth technology should also be reliable but able to reduce its wi-fi use when feasible to preserve bandwidth for other critical network-connected devices.
Ease of use in telehealth saves time
When a telehealth solution takes into account all of these real-world issues and others, its ease of use facilitates quick care, and fast, efficient care in a hospital setting can often be the difference between life and death.
If you’re interested in reading more about how telehealth design choices facilitate ease of use and promote effective care, you can download our eBook What Ease of Use Really Means in Telehealth.