With Heidi West
Zoom, Head of Healthcare
As the role of digital health continues to grow, new use cases are emerging and enabling communication between patients and physicians. The rapid adoption of telehealth solutions over the past year and a half has led to a boom in innovation that has expanded the scope of the technology well beyond the “virtual visit.”
In this Digital Health Wire Q&A we sat down with Zoom’s Head of Healthcare, Heidi West, to discuss the role of telehealth today and how the technology is evolving to meet the needs of consumers in a post-pandemic world.
Since the start of the pandemic, Zoom has enabled everything from remote schooling to virtual healthcare visits. How has Zoom’s healthcare business changed over the course of the past two years?
When the pandemic happened, there was a very abrupt shift from in-person visits to telehealth. At the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth was all about the virtual visit, and figuring out ways to engage the patient and provider. Throughout the course of the last year and a half, through the creativity and innovation of nurses and doctors and administrators, it started to focus more on all the ways that we can break down the communication barriers throughout healthcare.
It also served as a family connection point in many ways, helping patients that were isolated and vulnerable during the pandemic. As Zoom for Healthcare’s platform continues to evolve, the focus will be on augmenting or enhancing the communication experience along the entire continuum.
What are Zoom for Healthcare’s top priorities in this space?
Our number one goal is to continue to provide a simple and frictionless experience within healthcare communication. Whether it’s virtual visits, telehealth, or even internal communication between the business and the clinical side, we are looking at all of those strategic communication points and finding ways to simplify and tie more of a ubiquitous familiar experience across healthcare.
There’s a lot of passion in what we do, and a tremendous responsibility to clients and patients. A patient’s health and wellness conversations with their doctor are some of their most private communications, and that’s not lost on us.
A recent survey listed Zoom as the the most used telehealth platform, with 34% of physicians using the service. Why are so many physicians already choosing Zoom over other healthcare-focused platforms?
There’s a couple of reasons. It’s the simplicity, quality, and you’re not becoming tech support when you engage in a telehealth visit. There are niche products that are just telehealth, but many miss the business-to-consumer piece of the puzzle. Zoom is really uniquely positioned to bridge that gap.
It’s the same solution that their kids are using in school. It’s the same solution and look and feel as their trivia nights, or parent-teacher conferences. Zoom serves as a familiar connectedness that we’ve all really needed over the past year and a half.
Many telehealth offerings include services such as text and email notification, payments, and file transfers. Is this indicative of the direction that telehealth is heading?
Telehealth is in no way done with just a virtual visit. With Zoom Apps, any number of those needs that you mentioned can now reside within the Zoom meeting and serve different purposes. We’ll also begin to see more functionality leveraging biometrics and enabling live vital sign monitoring during telehealth visits.
Zoom will always remain simple and easy to use, but simple does not mean non-innovative. The mobile web client is a perfect example of that. Our clients asked for it, and within a quarter we’re already in beta. I’m really proud of the fact that we are customer-driven in the way we’re building the platform.
In the same survey, top physician concerns regarding telemedicine were “technology challenges for patients”, “poor integration with other technologies”, and “new telehealth specific workflows.” How can telehealth technology be improved to address these concerns?
This goes back to the reasons why so many physicians are already using Zoom, and that’s that we have an integrated workflow. Our goal is not to create parallel workflows, but to work within the workflows that clinicians are already sitting in today.
The beauty of our open platform is that it allows our clients to build within their own workflows. Providing that level of flexibility in the way people can develop with Zoom sets us apart significantly in solving a lot of these problems. From a patient perspective, I think addressing any friction point should be the goal, which is why we launched the mobile web client to help anyone struggling with the app.
Safety and data privacy concerns are always a priority with sensitive interactions like a telemedicine visit. How does Zoom ensure patient privacy is protected and that sensitive data is never vulnerable?
First and foremost, Zoom holds privacy and security to the highest level of responsibility. We enable HIPAA compliance throughout our entire platform. We have safeguards spanning everything from end-to-end encryption data to data-at-rest, but it’s important to remember that technology only enables HIPAA compliance. It’s the responsibility of everyone involved in the conversation to protect the information.
So it’s safe to say that patients don’t have to worry about someone “zoombombing” their doctor visit?
They don’t have to worry. Protecting user privacy is Zoom’s top responsibility and something we take very seriously.
Outside of doctor/patient visits utilizing telemedicine, where else is there a role for the technology that might not be as obvious?
I look at the entire healthcare continuum, and telemedicine has a role anywhere from a well-visit, to primary care, to an acute care setting, as well as in the home. There are dozens of communication points along this continuum, and our goal is to look at them and ask if there’s a way that Zoom can improve them or remove friction. For each communication component, we ask questions like: Do you augment this with video? Do you leverage Zoom Phone? Can Zoom Rooms tie different pieces together? The entire healthcare journey needs to be the focus, not just the virtual visit.
I would almost flip the question and ask: Where wouldn’t telehealth fit? Even in just the patient’s room, there’s entertainment, education, food services. All of these can be improved through technology, but so can things like care coordination and family engagement. We’re looking at the patient room as a source of digital transformation that revolves around putting the patient at the center of all of the different communication that goes on within the room.
How do you see the telehealth space evolving over the next few years and where does Zoom fit into this picture?
The biggest thing to remember is that the landscape has changed following the pandemic. Patients have choice. Patients have flexibility. There’s a lot of competition in delivering care today. Never underestimate the consumer’s wants and needs from healthcare.
Look at all of the four hour blocks of care and say, how do I augment in-person with virtual? Do I leverage nurse practitioners? Do I leverage medical assistants? Then augment to provide that flexibility and convenience to patients. Healthcare still uses pagers and fax machines, so the chance to upgrade to a more strategic communication strategy will only continue to evolve.
The healthcare industry just saw 10 years of innovation in six months, and I think it’s made people aware that the consumers and the communities they serve will follow the innovation – and I’ll say it again: never underestimate the consumer.