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Why High Fidelity Audio Matters in the Telehealth Industry
Dolby.io

The landscape of medicine is changing – remote consultations and diagnoses become more and more popular every year. In a market that’s projected to grow from $38.7B in 2020 to $191.7B in 2025, telehealth software providers need to ensure a seamless experience for doctors as well as patients. Competition will become more difficult as the market evolves.

Ensuring high fidelity audio—the reproduction of sounds that are as close to the original as possible—is one of the best things you can do to create that experience.

When doctors and patients aren’t able to communicate openly, it causes issues throughout the consultation and diagnosis process. So much of the telehealth patient experience is centered around the ability to communicate effectively through a remote video conferencing tool. If your tool doesn’t make those conversations easy, you’ll never be able to grow your business.

And low fidelity audio won’t just hurt your business; it will also make diagnosing issues and prescribing the best possible remedy much more difficult for doctors. Both doctors and patients need to feel comfortable and secure communicating through your tool, which requires a considerable amount of trust. Without that trust, it’s impossible to build a user base that’s engaged with your product.

High Fidelity Audio Mitigates the Risk of Misdiagnosis

To provide accurate and helpful diagnoses, telehealth software providers need to have conversations with their patients about incredibly sensitive and potentially personal topics. These conversations are difficult enough to have in-person, let alone via a video call. High fidelity audio is the key to making conversations between doctors and patients clear and easy-to-understand.

Low fidelity audio makes it difficult for doctors to hear important things like coughs, sneezes, or other indicators of potential health issues. Combine that with any background noise, cross-talk, or garbled words, and doctors then have to rely solely on the patient’s understanding of their illness. While patients are the authority on how they’re feeling, missing out on important audio cues means doctors aren’t able to get a complete picture of what’s going on with their patients.

In our recent case study of InputHealth during the Covid-19, Damon Ramsey spoke directly to the value of high fidelity audio in his own telehealth conversations:

“I can tell you as a practicing physician who sees patients through our own technology, which embeds Dolby.io, that high-quality audio in the context of video-based visits is instrumental to having productive conversations with patients and providing the care that they need.” – Damon Ramsey, CEO & Co-Founder, InputHealth

Poor sound quality also forces patients to repeat themselves or speak louder to overcome low fidelity audio issues. These issues are exacerbated if the patient is:

  • in a shared space during the consultation
  • has a quiet speaking voice
  • hard-of-hearing

You don’t want to make patients broadcast their personal health struggles to a wider audience just to overcome audio issues with your telehealth tool.

Having to repeat things due to low fidelity audio can also affect the overall productivity of doctors and other telehealth professionals, decreasing the number of calls doctors can take and increasing wait times for virtual patients.

Clarity enhances the patient experience as well, as they’ll be able to gain a clear understanding of their diagnosis as well as any follow-up steps. Whether it’s learning more about the type of medication and potential side effects, asking direct questions about wellness care, or just having a conversation about day-to-day struggles, high fidelity audio is a must.

The audio experience matters even more if you work in psychology. Low fidelity audio makes it difficult to hear vocal inflection, tone, or other emotional markers doctors use to assess a patient’s mental well-being. Wellness care and psychological consultations rely on these verbal cues as valuable context.

In many ways, the tone of the conversation is as important as what each party says. Ensuring crystal-clear video and audio gives both doctors and patients the intimacy they need to tackle difficult problems remotely.

High Fidelity Audio Helps Users Build Relationships Faster

When doctors and patients can easily have conversations remotely, it enables them to build rapport, which helps create more trusting relationships quickly. Those relationships are at the core of the doctor-patient experience. Poor audio quality makes it much more difficult to foster these kinds of engaged relationships because the conversations are harder to manage. As a result, neither participant will be able to make the kind of emotional connections required to share personal information openly.

Many older adults are also using telehealth or video-conferencing platforms for the first time, so providers need to work even harder to overcome first-time user bias. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, the first quarter of 2020 alone saw a 50% increase in telehealth visits.

Increases to telehealth visits via the Centers for Disease Control.

And with the market still evolving, these numbers will likely continue to rise. When you include high fidelity audio in your tools, you’re also showing potential users that you care about their experience. That builds trust in your tool while also making it easy for patients to receive the care they need. As trust is one of the most difficult things to build remotely, overcoming these audio issues is a great first step to showing users that you care.

High fidelity audio helps both doctors and patients pick up on subtle social cues that would otherwise be missed on a video call. Remote consultations already feel less personal than in-person doctor visits, so anything your telehealth tool can do to make conversations more immersive will set your product apart.

A telehealth software platform using high fidelity audio makes the experience of interacting remotely feel more normal and familiar. And that familiarity goes a long way towards building the kind of relationships that foster trust and open communication.

If your tool has a poor audio experience, that can negatively impact both the doctor and the telehealth provider’s credibility by making them seem less professional. Professionalism is key when providing a service, even more so when that service has to do with patients’ sensitive feelings and information.

Being able to build these emotionally-connected relationships also requires a certain level of comfort, for the doctor making the recommendations as well as the patients. When you combine a feeling of comfort with professionalism, safety, and trust, you’re able to provide the best possible experience for patients and doctors.

How to Choose the Right High Fidelity Audio Tool For Your Team

Creating a seamless audio experience for patients is dependent on the tools you have at your disposal. As you think about how to build high fidelity audio into your telehealth service, consider what different features are most important for your team. Then list these features out to get a help organize your search—each tool or platform you vet has to add value for your team while also helping you build something useful for patients.

One way to prioritize your search is to categorize features into a Needs, Wants, and Nice-to-haves hierarchy:

  • Needs: Features you absolutely need to make the audio technology valuable for your team.
  • Wants: Features that add additional value for your team and will sway your decision towards a particular platform.
  • Nice-to-haves: Features that would be useful, but aren’t requirements for your team at this time.

Evaluating different features in this way makes it easier to see which platforms offer the things you need to move forward with a purchase, and which ones don’t. If a potential audio technology platform lacks one of your Needs you can quickly identify that absence and move on to the next tool.

For a the telehealth industry, your Needs, Wants, and Nice-to-haves list might looks something like this:

Using this framework makes it easy to narrow down which audio tools match your teams’ unique requirements and ensures you’ll be able to choose the most valuable option.

Create a Better Patient Experience with High Fidelity Audio

Ensuring the highest-quality audio experience for patients helps them feel at ease with communicating complex issues remotely. And it helps doctors properly diagnose these complex issues. As the telehealth and telemedicine market continues to grow, the patient and doctor experience will evolve as well. Telehealth platforms will need to stay in-tune with the kind of high fidelity audio users expect.

Being able to provide experiences that are as close as possible to in-person visits will become the norm, and your ability to build a better, high fidelity audio experience will be your competitive advantage.

Dolby.io Interactivity APIs offer a complete scalable audio video solution that is HIPAA compliant. To learn how Dolby.io can create a premium experience for your telehealth users, contact us here. Or sign up for a free account today!

Tags: telehealth
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