Teladoc Launches Integrated Health App

Unified experiences are the name of the game in 2023, and Teladoc just made its first play of the year by revamping its mobile app to cater to the whole-person care needs of its users.

The new app integrates Teladoc’s services for primary care, mental health, and chronic condition management, paving the way for more patients to reap the benefits of personalized navigation to all of their treatments with a single login.

  • The app includes all of Teladoc’s services that can be covered under employers and health plans (DTC solutions like BetterHelp remain separate), enabling users to view services covered by their health plan and review care plans across all their physicians.
  • An engagement component translates real-time data for clinicians and patients into “applied health signals” designed to improve decision making for all parties.
  • Teladoc is aiming to drive better health outcomes (and revenue) by steering patients toward a combination of its services when appropriate, giving the example of better A1C levels and blood pressure control for those enrolled in both its chronic care and mental health programs.

The other major highlight from the press release was that Teladoc’s full suite of services is now available in Spanish on the mobile app and website, welcome news for the 40M Americans that report speaking Spanish at home. 

  • Teladoc is clearly going out of its way to improve the Spanish-speaking member experience beyond the new language option, adding over 100 Spanish-speaking providers and expanding its nutrition plans to include cultural preferences.

The Takeaway

It was almost surprising to find out that Teladoc didn’t already have a unified experience for its various solutions given the clear benefits of bringing them under the same roof, but apparently it wanted to get the care coordination features dialed before the grand debut. The app is now available in select markets, but it’ll be interesting to hear how dialed the final product really is after the nationwide roll out later this year.

Mobile Technology for Hospitalists

Mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets might not be living up to expectations when applied in the hospital setting, at least according to a new study published in JMIR Human Factors.

The purpose of the study was to identify difficult tasks and contextual factors that introduce inefficiencies to the hospital workflow, with the goal of informing better integration of mobile technology.

  • Methods – The researchers recruited 12 hospitalists at a 200-bed VA hospital in Indiana to undergo interviews guided by the Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety framework, which analyzes five factors (people, environment, tasks, tools, and organization) to describe how providers’ work systems impact outcomes.
  • Results – The hospitalists identified chart reviews, orders, and documentation as the most redundant or difficult tasks, with most of the issues associated with a lack of access to EHRs at the bedside. Participants noted that many apps are designed to be broadly useful, causing them to lack task-specific features that would improve usability.

When asked about ideas for mobile technology, participants prioritized reduction in task time and task completion at bedside, leading to three representative examples of needed tech:

  • Apps that improve patient-provider communication and entering orders at bedside
  • Note-taking apps with sharing features and nurse contact information
  • Apps for electronic consent

The Takeaway

Although this was only a small study, the theme that emerged in the interview responses was clear: designing for the many overlooks the needs of the few. All participants reported that mobile apps with missing features are quickly abandoned in favor of “their memory” or “pen and paper,” while the most useful apps address a specific problem with a purpose-built solution.

Solv Expands Into Lab Testing

Appointment-booking solution provider Solv is expanding into the lab testing space with the introduction of its new Test Finder service aimed at helping consumers discover and schedule local health tests.

  • Test Finder currently includes 25 lab test services such as blood panels, drug testing, and STD testing. Solv reported that the service will expand in the coming months based on the search volume recorded for early users.
  • Lab tests used to require physician orders, but regulation changes have allowed direct access to many tests for consumers. Solv stated that it hopes its new service will help to address the problem of patients deferring testing to avoid an in-person visit.
  • Solv raised a $45m Series C round in September, and has been busy putting the funding to work. So far this year, the company has added EHR integrations to its suite of apps, as well as advanced patient management features and in-app test results. 
  • Testing services have seen a boom since the beginning of the pandemic, and not just for COVID-specific tests. DTC healthcare company Ro recently acquired Workpath to enable in-home blood draws, while Cue Health announced that it plans to use the proceeds from its November IPO to expand its on-demand test offerings.

The Takeaway

Patient expectations of on-demand healthcare are rising quickly, and Solv’s app-based solutions center around creating a smooth experience on familiar mobile technology. The expansion from appointment booking to lab testing is a natural move for the company, giving providers more ways to reach their patients, while giving consumers an easy way to find local services.

The Health App Scorecard

A recent study in Nature provided a new scorecard approach for evaluating which digital health applications actually produce meaningful clinical results, using a sample of oncology apps to demonstrate the need for standardized evaluation criteria.

The Problem – Low entry barriers have created a confusing digital health landscape, with the growth of apps outpacing digital health stakeholders’ ability to validate their quality.

The Solution – The study evaluated 22 popular oncology mobile apps using a digital health scorecard with 5 evaluation criteria (technical, clinical, usability, end user requirements, cost).

The Results – Although usability was adequate, the oncology apps carried significant technical limitations, were of limited clinical value, and “generally did not do what end users wanted.”

Across all 22 apps, the average score (100% max) for each criteria was:

  • Cost – 100% (all apps were free)
  • Usability – 56.7%
  • Technical – 37.3%
  • End-User Requirements – 37.2%
  • Clinical – 15.9%

The Takeaway

Healthcare apps are here to stay, but the shortcomings of highly downloaded oncology apps highlights the need for standardized frameworks like this scorecard to evaluate their clinical appropriateness. We’ll also need far more healthcare apps that satisfy these criteria.

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