Telehealth, an innovative branch of healthcare, has experienced a transformative surge in recent years. The convergence of technology and medicine has brought telehealth software solutions, changing how we access and receive medical care. Telehealth encompasses a range of services that employ telecommunication technologies to deliver healthcare, including virtual doctor visits, remote monitoring, and telemedicine.
When a patient encounters an inconvenient healthcare situation, whether facing an emergency or trying to maintain consistent access to their regular provider during a quarantine, virtual care can help them navigate the roadblocks that might otherwise stand in their way. Patients may interact with physicians remotely via video or real-time text/voice/audio, depending on their telehealth software solutions. This is sometimes called “synchronous telehealth.” These live interactions often come to mind when people think about telemedicine and typically involve 2-way conversations between doctors and patients. However, telehealth software solutions can also provide asynchronous, recorded telehealth services. This might be something like a medical specialist in California reviewing a case with a team of doctors in Florida, or it might be a remote patient monitoring system that records a patient’s vital signs (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels) and alerts a doctor if the data deviates from normal. For medical providers, asynchronous telehealth can improve efficiency by reducing hospital bureaucracy, giving employees more flexibility to serve patients during quarantine, and optimizing the workload of their staff.
The cost of telehealth software solutions depends on how many features you need to run your practice effectively. However, choosing a telehealth services and software provider that offers flexibility to meet your unique needs is the best way to minimize costs. For instance, if you use a digital stethoscope and examination camera to perform virtual exams, the total equipment cost will be higher than a software-based solution that does not include these devices. Nevertheless, there are many ways that telehealth can reduce the overall costs of healthcare delivery. For example, telehealth increases clinician productivity by converting travel time to clinical time. It also allows clinicians to substitute asynchronous telehealth consultations for in-person services, which can decrease consultation times. In addition, telehealth can reduce secondary care resource use through remote patient monitoring, teletriage, and hospital avoidance. However, the economic evidence for these cost savings is limited.
Additionally, telehealth can help decrease the cost of healthcare by encouraging patients to visit their physicians more often and to follow their treatment plan. This prevents patients from developing more severe symptoms and saves the healthcare system money on medical bills, hospital admissions, and other associated costs.
In addition to the patient-facing capabilities of telehealth solutions, the technology allows for medical education and collaboration between doctors in different locations. Ultimately, virtual care enables clinicians to meet patient needs when it is most critical, even during a pandemic. This can improve outcomes, enhance patient satisfaction, and increase revenue for healthcare systems and clinics. When selecting a telehealth platform, ensure it is future-proof and can support scalability as you grow your business. This includes a customizable UX, flexible scheduling, and scalability features such as an intelligent algorithm that allocates clinician time based on patient volume. It should also offer asynchronous patient/clinician chat messaging to add convenience and flexibility, as well as remote patient monitoring (RPM) to reduce the need for patients to travel to your clinic for routine blood glucose or pressure checks. It should also allow you to document a patient’s treatment plan with asynchronous clinical notes that can be uploaded directly into the provider’s EHR.
A good telehealth software solution should allow practitioners to work more efficiently. It should be easy to communicate with patients, eliminate the need to reset the room between each appointment, and reduce overall scheduling time. It should also offer an improved patient experience with the ability to customize each telehealth appointment based on each patient’s unique needs. In addition, telehealth solutions can help to reduce waste and emissions from unnecessary travel.
Additionally, a well-designed telehealth system can make it easier to manage the spread of infectious diseases by enabling clinicians to perform e-consults and video consults with each other without leaving their homes. This allows them to provide better and more timely support for their patients while reducing the pressure on the nation’s hospitals and clinics, which are already operating at capacity.
With patient information stored in the cloud and data access occurring through mobile devices, security is a crucial consideration for healthcare professionals when implementing telehealth solutions. It’s not only in a physician’s best interest to prioritize data security. It is also required by law. In the United States, this is mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To protect sensitive patient information, telehealth software must utilize robust security measures. This includes using strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authorization, which requires a second step after entering the user’s password.
Additionally, the telehealth platform should use secure communication protocols that encrypt data and prevent it from being intercepted. In addition to implementing robust security measures, healthcare organizations should train their employees to avoid cyberattacks. This is crucial to reducing the risk of a data breach, as hackers often target employees by phishing or encouraging them to connect their work devices to public Wi-Fi. This is especially important when employees are working from home or offsite locations. In the past, many telehealth challenges stemmed from technology barriers such as outdated systems or unreliable internet connections. However, these obstacles are now less of an issue thanks to modern telehealth technologies.