3 Customer Support Challenges Telehealth Providers Struggle With During COVID-19 And How To Address Them

Since it’s development in the U.S. as a way to address care shortages, especially in remote rural areas, telemedicine has been often overlooked and neglected. Patients were skeptical to use something unfamiliar and governments and insurance companies were reluctant to cover costs for telemedicine services. Today, with the coronavirus outbreak we are all encouraged to avoid in-person treatment, unless it’s a medical emergency, which brings telehealth services in the limelight. Тelemedicine turned out to be key in helping healthcare provider organizations and caregivers better respond to the needs of patients and everyone who needs to touch base on the status of their health.

As a result, telemedicine companies are seeing unprecedented volumes of patients trying to use their services. For example, Teladoc, a U.S. prominent company in this space, which provides virtual health services in more than 130 countries, in mid-March reported that it’s received as many as 15,000 requested visits per day (a 150% increase compared with the week prior to that). However, despite the bold predictions that the global telehealth market will grow by USD 95.72 billion during 2020–2024, telehealth companies were not prepared for the exponential increase in demand that came in just a few weeks with the lockdown.

The explosion in telehealth sessions subsequently led to an increase in customer support requests which caught many telehealth providers off guard. And the last thing an overwhelmed healthcare provider wants is to be put on hold.

A note indicating long customer service wait times on the website of SimplePractice, an industry-leading practice management software for health & wellness professionals to manage their businesses.

Customer service systems and processes, user onboarding, and guidance are the first line of defense against costly mistakes. Here are the most common customer support challenges telehealth providers struggle with right now and a couple of examples on how to better address them.

Live support, training, and implementation

Regardless of all the self-explanatory help guides and FAQ sections readily available to healthcare providers, they will always have questions and issues during and after the adoption phase. Some questions like “How to create a Client Portal and enter my practice information?” can be answered by sending the healthcare provider to a detailed self-help guide. Others, however, require in-person assistance.

The limited human resources due to the unprecedented influx of telehealth requests in combination with the lack of proper customer support solutions can lead to long wait and resolution times, frustrating both doctors and patients.

The key advice I would give is to think outside the box and take into account the possible versus what has been done. Consider live chat solutions and chatbots. Their greatest advantage is that they point and give immediate access to information. For example, automated chatbot solutions can help direct doctors to key areas on the website, including the FAQ document they might have missed. Even if just one person manages to find the information they are looking for on their own, it helps save time, resources (and nerves) to everyone involved in the process from patient to doctor to the telehealth support team.

In the cases when a customer has specific questions about the service that cannot be answered by the information on the website or the FAQs, real-time solutions, such as live chat and co-browsing, can assist healthcare providers immediately. The convenience and accessibility of live chat are rapidly making it a standard channel for seeking support. In fact, 79% of customers who prefer live chat said they did so because of the speed at which their questions are answered. Embedded live chat support means support teams can stay in the flow of their task rather than shuffling off to make a phone call or send an email and wait for a reply.

However, oftentimes, it’s hard for the customer service agent to figure out what is going wrong on the other side of the screen. They lack context. As a result, most of the chat time is wasted in identifying the problem instead of assisting the healthcare provider. With a co-browsing solution, support agents can instantly gain access to the user’s screen with just a click of a button from their live chat platform. The agents will no longer waste time asking what went wrong or demand screenshots. Instead, they watch live sessions of the user and start working on the issue right away. Co-browsing allows the agent to navigate users by highlighting, circling or writing on their screen.

For example, Mend, a prominent HIPAA-compliant healthcare communication platform, uses SessionStack’s co-browsing solution to watch live user sessions while discussing the issue with the healthcare provider who’s experiencing it. Of course, everything happens with the consent of the user in a private and secure way. All sensitive information such as passwords and sensitive information is hidden from the agents. Since the implementation of the solution, Mend is able to solve issues in one session saving time and resources.

By clicking “Go Live” the support agents can watch a live session or initiate a co-browsing session with the customer. Of course, the customer needs to grant access to their screen. In the photo, you see SessionStack’s co-browsing solution (mockup data).

Sometimes, while setting up and configuring a solution might take a few minutes to a tech-savvy person, it could turn out to be a tedious and time-consuming process for a non-tech user. For example, non-tech savvy users might not find the platform intuitive enough to adopt it quickly, so they’ll require training. In such cases, the ability to show and guide them throughout the process will save time and nerves on both ends.

In the photo, you see SessionStack’s co-browsing solution in action. On the left side is the screen of the agent who sees the user’s screen including all the steps they took, and on the right-hand side is the user’s screen in real-time (mockup data).

Support requests and software bugs

Unfortunately, sometimes customer issues turn out to be a platform bug. In those cases, the technical customer support team needs to investigate the issue. However, the complexity and scope of the browser/OS/network/device matrix make finding, replicating and fixing bugs and usability issues a daunting task. Even though users’ input is crucial in solving the problem, the last thing your customer support team wants to do is waste doctors’ and caregivers’ time in back and forth, exchanging screenshots and tech details.

To address the problem Mend’s support team started using a session recording solution on a daily basis which allowed them to watch each interaction the user had with their platform in a private and secure way. In addition to the video, Mend gets access to everything that happened under the hood of the customer’s browser. This includes technical information such as device and account info, bugs, crashes, and network delays — all can be accessible in the recorded session. Since the implementation of session recording, Mend’s team no longer requests screenshots or ask users what they did prior to the issue — where they’ve clicked, what data they’ve entered, etc., saving time in an unnecessary back-and-forth.

Today Mend’s support team relies heavily on recorded sessions to diagnose, document and address issues efficiently, speeding up support resolution time and letting doctors focus on the things they do best — helping patients.

Data privacy and security

Since telemedicine software is often used to save, transmit, or share private patient health information, it needs to be 100% secure and HIPAA compliant. HIPAA violations are expensive. The penalties for noncompliance are based on the level of negligence and can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record), with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for violations of an identical provision. Violations can also carry criminal charges that can result in jail time.

However, rigid HIPAA standards are not an excuse to provide poor customer support. It just has to be done right to avoid customer support nightmares. Most of the support solutions would take tremendous amounts of time and effort to build inhouse so telehealth providers are faced with the task to search, evaluate, and choose the right provider that will help them solve support requests in a fast and efficient manner. Even though everyone is shifting to the cloud, for organizations operating in highly regulated domains, such as healthcare a more reasonable choice is to go for third party vendors that offer on-prem solutions. Collecting and storing data locally minimizes the risk of data leaks in general.

Conclusion

During such critical periods, telehealth providers are on the front line providing the tools to stay healthy in times of social distancing. Investing in customer support solutions that can improve wait and resolution times can not only delight both doctors and patients but could potentially prevent life-threatening mistakes.