Krishna Kurapati, MS is founder and CEO of QliqSoft of Dallas, TX.
Tell me about yourself and the company.
I’m the founder and CEO of QliqSoft. We’ve been in business for eight years. I have been tech entrepreneur for over 20 years. I started a couple of companies that were successful, one in communications and the other in security. That’s where I found the epiphany of having a secure communications company in healthcare.
How has demand for your virtual visit solution changed in the last few weeks?
Coronavirus stopped the healthcare system and its providers from seeing the patient in a personal, face-to-face setting. That has driven everybody to find ways to address that problem.
We had a simple solution that allowed quickly onboarding patients. The challenge in telehealth is always adoption by patients. The providers have the tools, but patients don’t want to download an app or get to a desktop. A key healthcare requirement with COVID-19 is ease of use, and providers were looking for a simple solution that allows them to reach their patients effectively. That’s one reason that tools like ours quickly sprung up and got lot of traction in the marketplace with providers.
From the demand point of view, we have never seen such a huge uptick in the use of telehealth. One health system is delivering 10,000 to 20,000 video visits in one day. That is unheard of. It used to take a year or more for somebody to do that kind of volume, and how they’re doing it in one day. Some of our customers used 365 days’ worth of video minutes in just one week. There is a huge demand. There’s a bunch of solutions, but we offer something simple for providers to reach patients.
What factors distinguish one virtual visit solution from another?
Everybody is going virtual. The time to onboard and train is important. How fast can you onboard a clinic, practice, or health system? Then, how can they customize it to meet their needs?
A small practice and a large practice have different requirements. A dermatologist has different needs than an internist. They all want to get on board faster, but they also have specific requirements.
Traditional telehealth solutions have been built around monolithic, large implementation needs, and those do not help in rapid fashion. We built, with our Quincy chatbot and Quincy video visits platform, fast tools that let you onboard a provider, bring them up on video visits, and customize it to meet their needs. The solution needs to be easy for the patient, but it also must allow getting providers online and using the tool quickly.
Has the pandemic changed the long-term strategy of health systems that were using third-party telehealth services before, but now are offering virtual visits with their own providers?
Face-to-face visits will not go away after COVID-19. The need to see a patient face-to-face and give them advice will come back in a big way. But providers will offer services such as follow-ups, post-op visits, and other ancillary services virtually, along with services that have traditionally been offered by all-in-one telehealth solutions. As a patient, you trust the provider you know and who treats you. That has been a big problem with the all-in-one solutions all along. That option was OK, but not great.
When you have traditional providers offering the same solution, the patient gets better access to healthcare from wherever they are. They don’t have to leave the workplace. They don’t have to travel 50 miles from a rural area.
COVID-19, if you see a silver lining, has shocked the industry to go all in and see what the experience is. Some providers may hate it now, but I’ve talked to several of them, my customers and my friends, now that they are using the solution. Some wonder why they weren’t doing it before, saving time for themselves and the patient. Even some specialists, like orthopedic surgeons, are using it for post-follow-ups in a way that they were never using it.
The industry has shifted overnight in being forced to use it, but in turn, there’s a lot of lessons and a lot of best practices. The new way of doing business is not going to change.
How are health systems using chatbots?
Healthcare is good at using calls, faxes, and other technologies for inbound stuff, such as referrals or patient access. These technologies existed for a long time, and suddenly there is pressure on them. Call volumes went up. People are always on text and they know how to use it. The chatbot gave initial productivity to health systems that wanted to tackle call volume, to offload it and get people the appropriate help. The chatbot can send a form, send a survey post-visit, collect information that humans had traditionally collected, or serve in the arcane way of answering services.
Chatbots already had found their footing in traditional support and sales models in other industries. Healthcare has now found their value in this tough time when volumes are so high.
Once healthcare organizations have adopted the technology and become comfortable with the outcomes, they will next use it in places where it makes sense, such as post-op surveys, pre-op information gathering, and helping patients who are really in need. It’s the 80-20 rule — 80% of patients can be served by the chatbot.
COVID-19 has accelerated technology adoption, both for virtual visits and for using automated responses and navigating patients using chatbots.
What other technologies could see a usage uptick?
Think about physician pain points before and after COVID-19. They want to continue to serve their patients effectively and efficiently. How can they do it? What are the tools and technologies beyond the EHR?
It has to be a mix of digital and face-to-face, but beyond chatbots and virtual visits, there’s a need for other AI-based tools, such as for transcription and other technologies that can simplify the problem of EHR productivity. The timing is right, with everything becoming virtual.
Technology would go a long way toward furthering patient care if it could transcribe the physician-patient communication and immediately put a 30-page document into the EHR without the physician typing anything. The end goal should be to allow the physician to interact with the patient face-to-face without worrying about the technology.
How will the company’s direction change after we find a new normal?
Our goal is to help customers to achieve better outcomes and better efficiencies. I have been a strong believer in these two technologies for the last four to five years. Before that, it was secure messaging. We’re going to double down on our efforts to continue to serve our customers and innovate to meet their needs. A technology evolution is starting, and it will create requirements and needs that we can’t anticipate.
Think of a new product being introduced, such as the first IPhone, versus where it is today. We will see a rapid evolution of products towards the complete virtual value for healthcare. Community-wise, for a country or as a world, this will be a good outcome in the long run. If another pandemic happens, we will be prepared. These technologies will stay and evolve rapidly and we want to be part of it.