By Keri (Dostie) Souza
The pandemic prompted a meteoric rise in telehealth utilization, with FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker reporting an increase of nearly 3,000% from November 2019 to November 2020. This indicates just how quickly healthcare providers rushed to fill the need for virtual care. While this rapid response is admirable, it also means that many organizations opted for cheap and easy solutions that maximized the capacity for care through videoconferencing, while leaving the rest of telehealth’s potential still untapped.
Now, however, as care providers begin to look toward a future beyond COVID-19, it’s important to look at the role telehealth can play and, more importantly, what else virtual care can do. Companies that want to capitalize on the new demand for telehealth should start looking into how they can expand their offerings beyond videoconferencing to create a comprehensive plan for remote care.
How healthcare leaders can transcend video to see telehealth’s full potential
A telehealth platform should be able to handle a variety of services that can address the unique needs of patients and providers. Here are three major ways healthcare leaders can expand the scope of their health system’s virtual care offerings:
1. Tailor the tools to specific needs.
Use a platform that supports different modalities to enable the customization of tools based on patient and provider needs.
• Messaging: This makes it possible for patients to communicate with a doctor or clinical care team through secure chat and messaging applications.
• On-demand video services: Beyond scheduling appointments, a telehealth offering should give patients the option to connect with a clinician immediately in order to receive treatment when necessary.
• Asynchronous and synchronous data transmission: Care providers should be able to capture, store, and transmit patient health information as both recorded data and two-way, real-time communications. This gives providers the ability to review health data at their convenience and enables patients to have on-demand access to care to address immediate health concerns.
• Multi-specialty care: Enabling an entire care team of specialists and providers to interact with a patient simultaneously can greatly expand an organization’s reach and capabilities.
• Provider-to-provider communication: Telehealth isn’t just useful for the patient. It should also enable providers to engage with each other through secure, video-based meeting technology.
2. Integrate with medical devices.
One of the most promising aspects of remote care is the ability to monitor patients’ health data even outside of the doctor’s office. With that in mind, providers should offer a portfolio of medical devices for both in-clinic and home use. Devices for capturing vitals, medical images, stethoscopes, EKGs, ultrasounds, and more can all be used to assess a patient remotely. With proper integration, the audio, video, and data from these devices can be immediately viewable within a live session.
3. Support seamless integration with an EHR.
In order for telehealth to reach its fullest potential for an organization, providers must remain enthusiastic about its capabilities. If new tools require clinicians to perform additional tasks that disrupt their workflows, this isn’t likely to be the case.
Platforms that allow for seamless integration with an EHR can reduce administrative burden. The provider should be able to launch a telehealth session either directly within their EHR record (at least have the ability for single sign-on between platforms) and easily record the data collected from that virtual encounter. For high-acuity encounters that require more detailed clinical assessment, the platform should capture data from medical devices and store it in a clinical data repository to exchange the data with the EHR and build upon a patients’ longitudinal record.
With the rise of telehealth comes unique opportunities for the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations that prioritize harnessing the robust capabilities of telehealth beyond videoconferencing alone can offer more convenient, more effective care now and well into the future.
Keri (Dostie) Souza is vice president of marketing at AMD Global Telemedicine, a provider of virtual care technology and telehealth solutions. Keri leads with over 20 years of experience overseeing the marketing planning and strategies of various B2B technology products.