Virtual health care, virtual lawyering
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has begun experimenting with virtual health care. The Medical Director for Telehealth there recently wrote this piece for Harvard Business Review indicating that its "telehealth" or -- virtual practice -- is particularly focused on improving:
1) patient access to health care providers,
2) patient health generally, and
3) communication between primary care physicians and specialists.
As a large, established bricks-and-mortar hospital, in implementing their virtual care model Brigham and Women's had to navigate such questions as:
Which services should be offered virtually, and why?
Which technology tools will meet the demographic and business needs for these services?
How does virtual care create value for my practice or organization?
How can this value be assessed from the patient’s perspective as well as the organization’s?
These are all excellent questions, and very similar to the ones I grappled with when starting Doorways Employment Law, a virtual law firm.
Here's how I answer some of them from the perspective of employment lawyering and a virtual employment law firm.
1. Why should services be offered virtually?
People are accustomed to getting information over the phone, on their tablet or computer, and the internet. They check the news on their smartphones. They get text messages saying their prescriptions are ready at the pharmacy. And many work from home, whether regularly or from time-to-time. In short, people are pretty comfortable exchanging information and communicating online. This can add convenience to life. Whether it saves an extra trip to the pharmacy, or a few days a week of a long commute, being able to communicate and access information online can save time and cut down on headaches. Doorways was built with that in mind. But in addition, Doorways was built with a specific goal of improving customer value around employment law issues. Legal services and litigation is expensive. There is no doubt about it. It is often hard for a middle class person, or a small business, to afford the excellent employment lawyering that is required in a given situation. And what is not acceptable is to sacrifice on the quality of lawyering -- or the lawyering altogether. To the extent people forego visiting a lawyer, they risk passing up a benefit they could have gotten -- or just getting some good advice. Doorways was built with the intention of passing along the cost savings that comes from not needing to maintain an independent physical office to clients -- 100%. That simply means clients pay for excellent lawyering but not excellent law offices.
2. Which technology tools will meet the demographic and business needs for these services?
As a virtual law practice, Doorways is premised on the ability to bring excellent legal counsel, coaching and advice conveniently and efficiently to Massachusetts employees and employers through use of technology. Its strategies for success mirror those used by Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, in its implementation of a virtual health care program. Doorways adjusts to the technological comfort and abilities of its clients. Some clients like having video conferences on a product they already use -- FaceTime, Skype, Google or other product -- as opposed to phone calls. Other clients don't feel comfortable with video conference so we just connect over the plain old phone. Doorways also uses an online platform in which clients can log in to see their files at all times. It is easy. In summary, we connect in ways the clients feel comfortable. Clients have access to their files at all times. They can request phone or video conference at any time. And we do it while maximizing convenience and minimizing cost.
Importantly, like the patients at Brigham and Women's, they seem happy about it.
Doorways Employment Law is a virtual employment law practice, leveraging the power of technology to connect with its clients in the most efficient, convenient and cost-effective way possible. It specializes in employment law counseling, strategic advice and representation to individuals and businesses across Massachusetts.