EHR integration is the next looming challenge for telehealth vendors

Doctors look at scan
Epic's virtual care solution stands out from those of other telehealth providers because it is linked to its EHR. (Getty/DragonImages)

The telehealth industry is riding a wave of satisfaction from healthcare clients that say virtual care vendors are generally worth the money.

But a looming challenge around EHR integration could set some companies apart.

That’s according to a new analysis released by KLAS Research which evaluates some of the top telehealth companies including MDLive, American Well and Epic.

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Of the 10 companies evaluated by KLAS, the most common type of visit varied widely. Most of American Well’s visits, for instance, are associated with on-demand urgent care, while the vast majority of Epic’s visits are tied to its virtual clinic.

RELATED: CMS physician payment proposal nudges open the door for telehealth

And healthcare organizations are largely pleased with those varying approaches, though Epic and InTouch outpace competitors when it comes to driving outcomes to fulfilling expectations. SwyMed and InTouch received high marks for customer support and proactive service. Some respondents said American Well’s growth led to staffing shortages and a backlog of service requests.

The report did not include the industry’s largest telehealth vendor: Teladoc. KLAS said the company declined to share its client list, “making it difficult to reach the required minimum of six unique organizations for limited-data performance ratings.”

RELATED: Study charts recent spike in telehealth usage, particularly within primary care

Regardless of the industry’s high marks, it's staring down a problem that nearly every other industry participant is facing: EHR integration. With a few exceptions, contracting with a virtual care provider means adding another EHR, KLAS analysts said.

“Although integration between EMRs is generally understood to be important for care quality, patient safety, efficiency, and productivity, few interviewed VCP customers have full bidirectional transfer in place,” they wrote. “Most say that they are too early in their virtual care programs to pursue integration or that it simply costs too much.”

That will be a challenge moving forward, particularly with regulators focused on interoperability. More than half of consumers using American Well or MDLive said they are on a path to bidirectional EMR integration.

But once again, Epic stands out in this regard, according to the report. All of its customers can stay within its EHR workflow since the company has integrated virtual care into its MyChart patient portal.

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