Telehealth options can help companies rein in healthcare costs while ensuring employees access high-quality care. However, not all telehealth providers are created equal. The best telehealth solutions will offer many features that help patients and practitioners connect on their own terms. This includes a patient portal that allows patients to record metrics, schedule appointments, request prescription refills and more.
With the shift to value-based care, telehealth is increasingly needed to support successful patient outcomes. However, implementing a sustainable, high-quality telehealth program can be difficult for medical facilities with limited resources.
Choosing a telehealth solution that is both cost-effective and flexible can help you achieve these goals. The telehealth platform you select should offer EMR integration to connect seamlessly with existing medical software, minimizing the duplication of records and processes and creating a single source of truth for patient data. It also should be able to track patient-centered data, such as symptom surveys and virtual visits, with diagnostic services, including wound imaging and radiology.
In addition to allowing patients to schedule appointments online, the best telehealth solution should allow them to make virtual rounds from the comfort of their home or office. This feature can be especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize the need for personal protective equipment and to keep patients safe and connected with their physicians or other healthcare providers.
Some patients cannot see their doctor in person due to time or location constraints. A telehealth visit allows them to avoid the costs and risks of traveling, which is particularly helpful for older adults or those living in rural areas with limited mobility. It can also maintain continuity of care or provide a second opinion for complex diagnoses.
Whether you’re hosting telehealth appointments with patients in your clinic or remotely facilitated by your IT service, you must ensure that all the information is HIPAA compliant. Any telehealth service providers you use, such as video calling platforms and secure messaging apps, must be fully HIPAA compliant.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, any telehealth company that processes ePHI and transmits it over electronic channels must deploy security measures to safeguard this data. This includes video calls, mobile applications, and secure messaging platforms. However, audio-only telehealth sessions that do not contain ePHI do not require a telehealth provider to comply with the security requirements of HIPAA.
A HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform must also have a BAA in place with each Covered Entity it works with. A BAA is a business agreement between two entities stipulating that the former is responsible for protecting the latter’s PHI and will not use this information for any other purpose besides delivering their respective services.
To stay fully HIPAA-compliant, you should only choose a telehealth solution that supports encrypted messages. You should also hold telehealth appointments in private spaces like your office or a client’s home. This will prevent unauthorized individuals from overhearing sensitive client information.
Medical facilities must ensure their telehealth solution integrates seamlessly with other technologies, software, and devices already in their healthcare environments. A flexible software architecture is important because new tools, libraries, and approaches will emerge. Flexibility allows for these changes to be incorporated into the original software design and not break it.
A flexible telehealth system must also work well with the existing data infrastructure. This includes the EHR, other medical tech, and external telehealth devices. Having open APIs that allow simple and secure interconnection between all systems is vital for the success of a telehealth platform.
A telehealth program is only as useful as its user experience. It is vital to have an intuitive interface and features that make navigating the platform easy for patients, physicians, and other staff members. Additionally, it is helpful to provide useful resources that help patients understand how to use the telehealth platform, even after the initial training period.
Lastly, a telehealth system should be able to reduce no-show rates and other financial losses that arise from missed appointments. A recent Wolters Kluwer study found that patients with telehealth access are more satisfied with their healthcare providers and feel they receive better quality care. This could be due to several factors, including telehealth eliminating barriers such as transportation and other limitations that may prevent patients from attending in-person medical appointments.
Inaccessible telehealth solutions can be a major barrier to care for patients who require it. The technology must be designed to meet the needs of patients with various abilities and disabilities. For instance, visually impaired people can experience problems judging distances and interpreting information in visual media such as photographs or video. They may benefit from alternative text, high contrast between text and background, audio descriptions of videos, and large and clear fonts.
The use of telehealth has grown rapidly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can help people stay at home and receive health care from their medical providers without worrying about being exposed to the virus. It also allows those who can’t travel to see their doctor or clinics to get the necessary health care.
Choosing the right telehealth solution for your facility requires an in-depth understanding of your patients’ needs. Evaluating your current software and workflow is important to ensure technical requirements for a new telehealth platform will have minimal impact on your day-to-day operations. Then, find a vendor or product designer committed to making your telehealth solution accessible for all users. Accessibility is more than equal opportunities — it’s about designing according to equity, not equality. That means ensuring everyone has access to the same information, resources, and opportunities.