Technology has changed drastically since InTouch Health’s inception in 2002. Early experimenters and innovators in the tech-enabled services space when they began commercial sales in 2005, they continue to shape the future of healthcare. Manufacturers of telemedicine remote presence devices and their global cloud-based TeleHealth Network, the Santa Barbara, California-based company now plays a key role in 1,250 hospital locations worldwide.
Always on and always connected, InTouch Health’s high level of reliability and reach outperforms what the typical IT department in a clinical setting can control. With over 150 different health systems already in place amongst the 1,250 hospital locations, InTouch Health is eliminating the challenges surrounding telemedicine user adoption by leading their customers through the process. The pioneering of the network has led to new developments spawned through customer interaction and familiarity – a virtual marketplace where a variety of services can be offered and interchanged between healthcare providers and organizations. The growth of the service-sector network initiated through InTouch has become a welcome surprise for Tim Wright, Vice President, Strategy & Service Line Development.
“One health system having a preponderance of psychiatrists for example, could offer those services through this global network to any other organization that needs better psychiatric coverage,” he said. “We have more than 40 different partners around the country that now offer a wide range of services across geography through our network, so it gives them access to all of those different hospitals and emergency rooms.”
Made up of three teams, InTouch Health’s corporate structure remains committed to humanizing the technological shift overtaking the healthcare industry. From 150 people in Santa Barbara to 60 team members in the market and a 24/7 technical and user support group based out of Argentina, the connected and communal culture is well placed and prepared.
“A physician, for example, who’s trying to log on at their home or at a Starbucks and is having trouble accessing the network, can either call an 800 number or chat with a technical expert at a moment’s notice to get help,” Wright said.
“We’re all about innovation and trying to develop new technologies and new processes,” he continued. “We’re very much oriented towards continual expansion and change. In Telehealth, if you hold still for too long, the market and technology changes again. We thrive where things are constantly on the move providing more opportunities to innovate.”
An integral component to their brand identity, InTouch Health’s innate ability to disrupt the industry with its forward-thinking technology doesn’t come without obstacles. By valiantly sticking to their ethos, the company’s vision remains striving towards continuous development, innovation and access.
“To achieve ubiquitous physician access we are moving more and more towards the consumer platforms. So whatever a doctor happens to have in their pocket or their bag – be it an iPad or an Android or Windows-based machine, we are able to make that physician accessible all the time,” Wright said. “However, we have less control over consumer-based hardware, making it harder to create the optimal user experience. For example the quality of the audio system is fundamentally limited by the hardware microphone. We must find more ways to deliver a great experience through software.”
“The other big challenge is data integration. Telemedicine doesn’t work in a vacuum as a video encounter,” he continued. “It enables a virtual workflow which includes many things that have to do with patient data and clinical information. Providing access and integration into all those data sets regardless of patient location is a huge challenge, but one that we’re very focused on trying to solve.”
Having made significant and noteworthy leaps in care delivery with their innovations and advancements – not to mention conquering early obstacles to access, changes in the market and staying ahead of the steep technological curve since becoming commercially available in 2005 –- InTouch Health’s impact and influence has not gone unnoticed. At the 2014 Medical Design Excellence Awards, the company was a finalist in the prestigious Critical Care and Emergency Medicine Products category for their RP-Vita remote presence telemedicine robot. Having done close to 500,000 patient encounters since the company began, the nod from the MDA, while great for business, forges an emotional connection.
“It reminds us that what we’re doing is important. We have the opportunity to have a real impact on patient lives and change outcomes,” Wright said. “We figure our solution is saving thousands of lives each year, so we’re excited to be recognized.”
Recognized in the acute care setting, the award further validates the goals, hard work and focus outlined by the company from an application and product development perspective. Building on the success, Wright foreshadows where InTouch Health may be heading, considering the high scalability of their core platform and the profound presence telemedicine will have on the broad expansion of care delivery.
“We’re trying to advance in two directions. One is to expand the various ways physicians and patients can have access to the network; supporting more communication endpoints,” he said. “The second direction is building on the idea of a telehealth community or virtual market. To this end we’re working with a number of different companies that provide services or technologies that can be delivered over the network, expanding its value and enabling entirely new remote capabilities. It’s a very exciting future where we can imagine a whole spectrum of world-class clinical capabilities delivered at the precise time and location needed.
In healthcare especially, location is not just a challenge, but an issue that deeply affects patients who do not have immediate and tangible access to the physicians and services they need. A great equalizer for access, the rise in familiarity of telehealth and the relationships constructed from it improve not only the location and access conundrum, but also the range of partnerships that InTouch Health is able to establish in order to expand their reach.
“Our partnerships are in two categories,” Wright said. “One is different services companies that can be made available over our network. The second is technology-oriented partners who are able to fill a critical gap or provide a new capability.”
“In partnership development the first thing is to see if there is a match,” Wright continued. “Do our customers truly value this new capability? Is there synergy in this capability being delivered through our network? Then we go through a process of saying ‘do our incentives align, is this something that would benefit both organizations?’ And then it’s a process of implementing whatever the relationship requires.”
Still considered to be a very small company by their own admission, InTouch Health’s position as thought leaders and innovators in the healthcare industry came about through careful and measured approaches – in not just the corporate side of things, but even from a marketing perspective. Changes in the market mean changes in approaches to how you market your product and service. For a number of years InTouch focused its success in a few key telemedicine applications. However, the market has changed, so they are now positioning their solution as a general purpose platform for almost any application.
“Our biggest challenge is still getting the word out,” Wright said. “We have the challenge and opportunity to broadly establish the unique values of our offering. We intersect the market through a variety of ways, primarily through a sales force that’s out speaking directly with current and future customers, learning what’s happening around the country and then identifying organizations that are ready to make the step into telehealth.”
Having already accumulated a respected and deep knowledge base on telemedicine and telehealth and a proven track record of implementation across a wide scope – they are present in 30 countries – InTouch Health has come a long way in 13 years. Carrying on their legacy, their mission to change and save lives continues.
“We want to expand our offering and the application of telehealth from the acute care setting, where we’ve had a lot of success and experience, into the post-acute and home settings, and help our customers provide world-class patient care anywhere, anytime.”