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Telehealth services have gained overnight popularity as soon as the pandemic took over. As a result, social distancing is imposed and people are encouraged to stay at home. Hospitals also limit their operations to essential visits and procedures to protect its staff and contain the virus’s transmission.
Telehealth, a service that isn’t widely known before the pandemic, became essential in delivering continuous healthcare to people who don’t need immediate medical treatment. Different states in the U.S., including Alabama, Kentucky, and Michigan, have already implemented a Telehealth expansion bill. There is no wonder why it might become a big part of the “new normal”.
However, this surge left some healthcare institutions struggling to meet the demands.
Not all doctors and nurses have sufficient training in Telehealth. The concept of virtual consultations and medication sounds new to many patients. Even the technology isn’t well-developed yet to maintain a smooth operation.
To stay ahead in providing quality healthcare, seeking the help of a reliable service provider becomes an option. This article discusses the following information:
What is Telehealth Services?
Telehealth services refer to various remote clinical services, from telemedicine to remote patient monitoring. It also includes non-clinical services such as medical education, provider training, and administrative meetings.
It aims to enhance patient care and health information service delivery through virtual means. Commonly, medical practitioners use digital communication and telecommunications technologies to connect with their patients. It is a great help to people who belong in the older population or have mobility issues. People with chronic diseases can also use Telehealth to monitor their conditions and connect with their doctors. Moreover, it resolves healthcare inaccessibility for those who live in rural areas.
With Telehealth services, long-distance clinical health care, self-management, and remote diagnosis have become a reality.
List of Telehealth Services
Hospitals already provide several Telehealth services on a small scale. But as the need for remote healthcare keeps increasing, the list grew longer. Below are the standard services offered by the majority of healthcare institutions.
Telemedicine refers to the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology. The clinical services under telemedicine include video consultations, digital transmission of medical imaging, and remote medical diagnosis and evaluations. It requires a direct line between a care provider and the patient. The most common channels used for this service are phone calls, text messages, and video chat.
Telepsychiatry involves video chats, SMS, and inbound phone calls to deliver convenient and affordable mental health services. It is an alternative solution for patients who can’t go to actual therapy due to school activities or work demands. It also offers a readily-accessible service to individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions due to self-isolation.
Telehealth Physical Therapy
Telehealth physical therapy or telePT refers to the remote execution of physical therapy sessions. Unlike telemedicine and telepsychiatry, telePT requires a video-audio channel to carry out the entire session effectively. The physical therapist needs to see the actual movement of the patient based on the given exercises.
Standard select services include geriatric physical therapy, neurological physical therapy, chronic pain management, postoperative care, and cancer rehabilitation.
With Telehealth, nurses deliver care and monitor patient conditions using mobile devices, remote patient monitoring tools, telephones, or computers. It is similar to how nurses function in person other than performing their duty from another location.
During this pandemic, hospitals also use this service to limit nurse-patient interactions. Instead of visiting the room every time, nurses need to look at a monitoring platform. Through this service, hospitals can alleviate their lack of workforce.
An online patient portal is a more secure way to transfer sensitive medical information. A well-developed portal offers convenience in terms of communicating with patients, reviewing test results, scheduling appointments, and getting prescriptions.
Some providers offer medical appointment services to facilitate faster and smoother consultations. Patients can call or chat with a virtual receptionist to make this happen. Meanwhile, healthcare professionals can ask their personnel to contact their patients to remind them of their schedules. Patients with a portal or an app can use the web-based service to set an appointment if they prefer the self-service method. Virtual meetings are generally for minor illnesses that don’t require an in-person visit.
Telemonitoring, or remote patient monitoring, does not involve direct interaction between a healthcare team and a patient. Doctors or nurses can look into a patient’s data for assessment with monitoring devices.
Management of Personal Health Records (PHR)
As the number of individuals utilizing Telehealth increases, so does the amount of data being registered in the system. To prevent inaccuracies, some providers offer data management solutions to assist hospitals in organizing their PHR database. A well-managed personal health records system enables emergency personnel to access accurate information quickly.
Telehealth support services aim to assist patients experiencing technical difficulties with the app or platform they’re using. Medical providers can use this to facilitate short training, especially for older people who lack technological know-how.
Taking the time to teach patients how to use a health system is crucial for its success. If they don’t understand how it works, they will likely go back to the traditional version of healthcare after the pandemic. But if they experience how convenient this service is by learning to navigate the different platforms, its growth will carry on even after the lockdown.
Development of Personal Health Apps
There are several tools available online that healthcare facilities can readily use. However, those who want to develop a tool unique to their organization can contract a third party to create it.
Medical billing is an essential part of the healthcare industry. It ensures the financial security of a hospital or clinic to continue its mission of providing quality care.
Hiring a virtual team can aid the in-house medical team in processing claims, especially when there’s an influx of patients daily.
Here are the other clinical and non-clinical services under Telehealth:
- Group psychotherapy
- Psychophysiological therapy
- Speech/hearing therapy
- Eye examination
- Clinician training
- Consumer education
- Continuing medical education
- Self-care management training
- Wheelchair management training
Different Types of Telehealth Delivery
Telehealth services rely on technology to provide remote health care and education. Despite the limitations and lack of direct personal touch, it still has enormous contributions in maintaining human connections.
Over the years, it has moved from phone calls to more advanced technologies.
mHealth, or mobile health, uses mobile devices for medical and public health administration, including mobile apps and programs. According to the World Health Administration (WHO), mHealth “involves the use and capitalization of a mobile phone’s core utility of voice and SMS as well as more complex functionalities and applications including GPRS, 3G and 4G systems, GPS, and Bluetooth technology”.
Patients can use various mHealth applications to set medication and appointment reminders, track health measurements, and share information with medical professionals. mHealth gives patients more liberty and control in managing their health.
Videoconferencing refers to the use of real-time video communication platforms to diagnose and prescribe medical treatments for patients at remote locations. Medical professionals can also use it for consultations with fellow healthcare workers, the education and training of medical staff, and business functions.
Its basic system components include codec, camera, input devices such as medical scopes and document scanner, viewing monitor, interaction devices like mouse and keyboard, and output and storage devices.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a technology that enables the monitoring of patients outside the conventional healthcare setting. Digital technologies for a secured collection, transmission, evaluation, and reporting of a patient’s health data from one place to another. The use of RPM after a patient goes home from a healthcare facility reduces readmission rates.
Store-and-forward technologies are used for the asynchronous transmission of medical information. It doesn’t require a direct and real-time connection between the source and the destination nodes. This delivery method involves communication tools such as secure email. Some data that can be transferred using the store-and-forward approach include MRIs, X-rays, text-based patient data, photos, and pre-recorded video exam clips.
Store-and-forward decreases the wait times for specialty care, increases convenience for both parties and improves healthcare delivery, especially for people living far away.
This delivery method is standard in radiology, pathology, dermatology, and ophthalmology.
Benefits and Limitations of Telehealth
Due to the support, it receives from the government, the benefits associated with Telehealth increased. When you incorporate it into your medical practice, you can continue serving new and returning patients even if they can’t visit the hospital or clinic. But to maximize its full capability, knowing the limitations of offering this service is important. This can help you prepare a solid plan to package and provide this service for your patients.
Benefits of Telehealth
Serve more patients in a day.
With the presence of RPM tools, you can monitor the condition of your patients simultaneously. Video consultations also save the time of both you and your patients because it removes the need to travel.
As long as both parties have a stable internet connection and reliable devices, it is a convenient way to bring healthcare closer to your patients.
Improved engagement and loyalty
Thanks to interactive telecommunication channels, you can talk with your patients as if they are in your office.
Lower unnecessary admissions and readmissions
When patients can manage their health conditions at home, they prefer to stay there instead of going to a hospital.
Better healthcare service
Telehealth offers patients faster access to specialists to evaluate their conditions and illnesses. Meanwhile, giving patients more control of their well-being empowers them to take charge of their health.
Give more focus on critical in-patients.
Patients with more severe conditions can receive more attention from healthcare personnel.
Improve the overall efficiency of healthcare.
By reducing the number of unnecessary admissions, readmission, and transfers, the costs within a hospital or clinic decrease. Setting appointments faster through digital means instead of manually calling a doctor’s office contributes to its efficiency.
Get connected with other specialists in the industry.
Minimizing in-person visits for non-emergency concerns frees up time for medical professionals.
Limitations of Telehealth
Internet connectivity issues
The lack of access to high-speed broadband internet limits the full implementation of Telehealth programs to rural areas. A slow internet connection can lead to video buffers which can cause patient dissatisfaction.
Technically-challenged staff and patients
Before the outbreak, Telehealth remained as a small-scale operation. Many hospital staff aren’t equipped with sufficient knowledge about the technologies and policies. The same goes for patients, particularly those who don’t use much technology daily. Providing training is the fastest way to get through this dilemma.
Confidentiality of information
Transferring sensitive patient data is unavoidable. Some patients are concerned with information leakage which might prevent them from disclosing details that can be helpful during a consultation. Using a secured communication channel, or partnering with a service provider with HIPAA certification, can boost patients’ confidence in Telehealth.
The improper utilization of Telehealth services can lead to fragmentation of care. This happens when various healthcare providers fail to work together. To prevent this, different providers need to use an integrated delivery system that they can use to maintain an organized, coordinated, and collaborative network.
Outsourcing Telehealth Services
Let’s get things straight: outsourcing doesn’t mean you can transfer any Telehealth services to a third party. In this industry, you need complete oversight of how things are going. As much as possible, you should keep your primary clinical services in-house. Patients’ health comes above all.
So, what can you outsource, then?
Remember the non-clinical Telehealth services discussed earlier? Sticking those first is better, especially when you’re still new to Telehealth and outsourcing.
You can use a call center to assist patients in navigating an app or tool by providing short product training. Some providers also offer software development services specifically for healthcare. Those who need support in processing technical patient data can count on the service of licensed nurses who work in the BPO setup. Outsourcing is also helpful in managing appointments and schedules.
Outsourcing part of your Telehealth allows you to manage the influx of patients who want to try this service. This can prevent your team from being overwhelmed and exhausted. Outsourcing some services is also a more cost-effective way of implementing Telehealth services. Instead of investing heavily in infrastructure for non-clinical services, you can use a huge chunk of your budget to develop and improve your core services.
Choosing a Telehealth Service Provider
It is easy to find a service provider, but choosing which one you should partner with can be challenging. To make outsourcing work for you, you must pick a service provider that can work well on your terms without hurting your budget.
Here are some of the non-negotiable elements you should look for in a service provider:
Before asking anything else, find out if the company has a HIPAA certification to ensure its credibility and the security of your patients’ sensitive personal and health information.
Appropriate technology and infrastructure
Look into the availability of technology and infrastructure needed for the service you plan to outsource. This translates to a faster onboarding of your Telehealth account, providing you the assistance you need at the fastest time possible.
Proven track record
Choose a company with several years of experience in the healthcare industry. Assess the efficacy of the projects they have handled in the past. This can help you determine if the company is worthy of consideration.
Value for money
Your reputation is on the line when you outsource. Choose a service provider that can guarantee you of high-quality services at a reasonable price.
Quality control measures
Find out the provider’s ability to maintain the quality of its service delivery. See if there are quality monitoring procedures in place. This is to ensure you won’t receive substandard service in the future.
How Much Do Telehealth Services Cost?
The cost of a Telehealth service depends on what you plan to outsource. It varies from one service to another, given its unique requirements and goals.
In general, here are some factors that affect the price:
- The service you need
- Length of contract
- Number of staff needed
- Any add-ons (e.g., business continuity options)
It is still best to talk directly with a company representative to give you a quotation.
Telehealth as Part of the New Normal
The only direction to attain success is the way forward. Taking a step back is suitable for assessing the current situation, but you might get stuck if you’re unwilling to take two or more steps ahead.
Telehealth opens another door to improve the way we deliver and receive healthcare. It is not perfect but it is already good enough to help us overcome these trying times. With proper implementation and readiness to accept this idea of healthcare, Telehealth can become an integral part of the new normal.
And you don’t have to take this way alone. You can always share the burden and the risks with a trusted partner.
When you’re ready to venture into this territory, call us! We’ll see how we can help you.
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