UCaaS leaders 8x8 and RingCentral address common technology themes in disparate U.S. and Canada Healthcare markets
The difference between the U.S. and Canadian healthcare systems seldom fails to provoke a lively discussion.
In Canada, federal legislation mandates that every resident is entitled to basic healthcare, and the public sector finances about 91% of hospital expenditures and 99% of total physician services. In contrast, almost 28 million Americans do not have health insurance. And healthcare is more expensive in the U.S. — $11,916 per capita (16.9% of GDP) versus $5,782 in Canada (10.4% of GDP).
But lower spending and more regulation (healthcare is managed separately in each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories) threaten to stifle the adoption of digital healthcare initiatives in Canada.
“Right now, there are approximately 165,000 health-related apps available to Canadians, and more than one-quarter of Canadians use wearable fitness devices. Yet the country’s regulatory framework is woefully unequipped to embrace these digital healthcare trends.”
According to the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), “Canada urgently needs a more strategic approach to accelerate and adopt emerging digital health technologies,” and “the Canadian public and private sectors must be far more engaged together…to scale across the Canadian digital health marketplace.”
While the debate about the relative merits of the two healthcare systems continues, UCaaS providers Ring Central and 8x8 have focused on addressing three key priorities that are pay dividends for healthcare providers on both sides of the border.
Improving the Patient Experience
Creating a positive patient experience helps healthcare practitioners attract and retain patients, and gives those patients the confidence to adopt more efficient solutions, such as online portals or video. This positive experience often begins with the initial patient call, where bullet-proof telephony (no dropped calls!) and clear, easy-to-use automated menus can simplify patient interactions and make a good impression. This impression is critical — according to 8x8, more than 40% of patients may switch providers due to a perceived lack of convenience.
It is the adoption of emerging productivity tools, however, that promises to have the most significant impact on the patient experience. Both RingCentral and 8x8 point to practitioner mobility and collaboration as two prominent examples of productivity transformation.
The 8x8 strategy is to integrate voice, video, chat and contact center into a single platform. Healthcare providers can move seamlessly from a voice call to a video conference, or from a mobile device to a desktop or telephone. These capabilities enable real-time collaboration and information sharing with both patients and other healthcare providers.
RingCentral takes a similar approach, combining a wide range of functionality — telephony, text, video, and conferencing — into a single application and interface available from either mobile or more traditional devices. RingCentral also points to its collaboration with Zoom, a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader, and the integration of Zoom’s industry-leading video into the RingCentral application. As with 8x8, RingCentral’s solution provides full functionality and transparency for on-the-go healthcare providers using mobile devices.
The adoption of video for virtual and telehealth initiatives also shows tremendous promise in providing more efficient services while reducing costs — and not just for remote areas. A recent trial of an ambulance-based teleconsultation service in Houston lowered unnecessary emergency room visits by almost 7%.
The integration of third-party applications to boost productivity is also a key focus of both 8x8 and RingCentral. 8x8 provides a standards-based integration framework and open API support, along with full integration of popular CRM applications like Salesforce Health Cloud and productivity applications such as Office 365 and Google’s G Suite.
RingCentral also integrates easily with popular applications such as Salesforce and Dropbox, and offers an open platform and a full range of integration and development tools.
Finally, as previously ‘closed,’ premise-based health systems (such as electronic health record apps) move to the cloud, both providers are making the necessary investments to integrate those cloud-based applications into their respective platforms.
In the 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the Ponemon Institute and IBM reported that healthcare data breach costs are the highest in any industry, averaging $408 per record.
Data security is top-of-mind for both healthcare providers and patients. According to a study by health insurer Aetna, 80% of responding consumers rated patient privacy as very important and 76% deemed data security as very important.
RingCentral takes a multilayered approach to security, including offering a fully compliant HIPAA office solution. HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients' medical records and other health information.
RingCentral is also HITRUST/CSF-certified. The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) has established a Common Security Framework (CSF) for healthcare technology in collaboration with healthcare, technology, healthcare and information security vendors.
Not to be outdone, 8x8 has received third-party validation of its HIPAA compliance for its Virtual Office and Virtual Contact Center services, and offers business associate agreements for qualifying business partners. 8x8 has also earned ISO 27001 Certification, an internationally recognized best practice framework for information security management systems. Finally, 8x8 employs additional third-party validation to ensure that strict security protocols are followed through every step of coding and applications development.
Reliability of technology and communications in the healthcare industry is mission-critical; in the most extreme cases, it may even be considered ‘life and death.’
A recent 8x8 case study details how a practitioner replaced a new phone system because patients could not reach her urgent care center. And reliability doesn’t just impact patients — according to Deloitte, physicians are also demanding accuracy and reliability from their devices and solutions.
8x8 employs a number of means to ensure reliability, including a distributed cluster architecture, redundant data centers, and backup power. As a result, it publishes a ‘six nines’ (99.9999 percent) core uptime performance metric and offers a "Performance Assured" SLA for VoIP service uptime and call quality.
RingCentral delivers a ‘five nines’ uptime SLA (with available financial penalties for non-performance) through their use of multiple data centers in geographically diverse locations, combined with real-time network monitoring and several layers of physical and data security. RingCentral also offers a ‘Call Quality’ SLA, with results regularly measured and readily available to customers through a RingCentral Quality of Service report.
RingCentral and 8x8 Deliver on Both Sides of the Border
With the U.S. far ahead of Canada in many areas of digital healthcare adoption, our northern neighbors may benefit from the relative maturity of many of these U.S.-deployed digital health solutions. Video telehealth is a case in point. Almost 20% of Canadians live in rural areas, and many patients could benefit from receiving excellent healthcare ‘virtually’ without having to travel to see a doctor in person.
8x8 and RingCentral are well-positioned in the healthcare market on either side of the border. Both have well-designed platforms that serve as foundations to improve the patient experience and healthcare provider productivity. And both have made significant investments in key areas — mobility, application integration, security and reliability — that are critical to the evolution of digital healthcare in the U.S. and Canada.