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 to contain the transmission of the virus.
Telehealth, a service that isn’t widely known before the pandemic, became an essential tool 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 Telehealth might become a big part of the “new normal”.
However, this surge left some healthcare institutions struggling to keep up with 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:
Telehealth services refer to various remote clinical services ranging from telemedicine to remote patient monitoring. It also includes non-clinical services such as medical education, provider training, and administrative meetings.
Telehealth 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 take advantage of Telehealth to monitor their conditions and connect with their doctors. Moreover, Telehealth resolves healthcare inaccessibility for those who live in rural areas.
With Telehealth services, long-distance clinical health care, self-management, and remote diagnosis become a reality.
Hospitals already provide several Telehealth services in small-scale. But as the need for remote healthcare keeps on increasing, the list grew longer. Below are the common Telehealth services offered by the majority of healthcare institutions.
Known as the most recognizable subcategory of Telehealth, 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 the use of 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 who are experiencing anxieties, depression, and other mental health conditions due to self-isolation. Telepsychiatry is also called Telehealth mental health or teletherapy.
Telehealth Physical Therapy
Telehealth physical therapy or telePT refers to the remote execution of physical therapy sessions. Unlike telemedicine and telepsychiatry, telePT solely 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.
Common telePT 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 quite similar to how nurses function in person other than they perform 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 simply need to look at a monitoring platform. Through this service, hospitals can alleviate their lack of workforce.
An online patient portal serves as a more secure way of transferring 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 get in touch with their patients to remind them of their schedules. Patients who have a portal or an app can utilize the web-based service for setting an appointment if they prefer the self-service method. Virtual appointments are generally for minor illnesses that don’t require an in-person visit.
Telemonitoring, or widely known as remote patient monitoring, does not involve direct interaction between a healthcare team and a patient. With the use of monitoring devices, doctors or nurses can look into a patient’s data for assessment.
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, there are providers that 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 who are experiencing technical difficulties with the app or platform they’re using. Medical providers can use this to facilitate short training, especially to older people who lack technological know-how.
Taking the time to teach the patients how to use a health system is crucial for its success. If they don’t understand how Telehealth works, they are likely to go back to the traditional version of healthcare after the pandemic. But if they experience how convenient Telehealth 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 which healthcare facilities can readily use. However, for those who would want to develop a tool unique to their organization, they can contract a third-party to develop it for them.
Medical billing is an essential part of the healthcare industry. It ensures the financial security of a hospital or clinic so it could continue its mission in 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 every day.
Here are the other clinical and non-clinical services under Telehealth:
Telehealth services rely on technology to provide remote health care and education. Despite the limitations and lack of direct personal touch, it still has huge contributions in maintaining human connections.
Over the years, Telehealth has moved from phone calls to more advanced technologies.
mHealth, or mobile health, is the use of mobile devices, including mobile apps and programs, for medical and public health administration. 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 for setting medication and appointment reminders, tracking health measurements, and sharing information with a medical professional. mHealth gives patients more liberty and control in managing their personal 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 went 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 who live in far locations.
This delivery method is common in radiology, pathology, dermatology, and ophthalmology.
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 both new and returning patients even if they can’t visit the hospital or clinic. But to maximize its full capability, it is important to know the limitations of offering this service. This can help you in preparing a solid plan on how you would package and offer this service to your patients.
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, Telehealth is a convenient way to bring healthcare closer to your patients.
Improved engagement and loyalty
Thanks to the presence of 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 would 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 serious conditions in the hospital 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 decreases. Setting appointments faster through digital means instead of manually calling a doctor’s office also 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.
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 about it. The same goes for patients, particularly those who don’t use much technology in their daily life. Providing training is the fastest way to get through this dilemma.
Confidentiality of information
Transferring sensitive patient data is unavoidable with Telehealth. Some patients are concerned with information leakage and 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 with 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.
Let’s get things straight: outsourcing your Telehealth doesn’t mean you can transfer any Telehealth services to a third-party. In this industry, you need to have full 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? It is better to stick with those first, 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. Telehealth outsourcing is also helpful in managing appointments and schedules.
Outsourcing part of your Telehealth gives you the ability to manage the influx of patients who would like 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 Telehealth services, you can use the huge chunk of your budget for the development and improvement of your core services.
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 have to 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 make sure that you won’t receive substandard service in the future.
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:
It is still best to talk directly with a company representative to give you a quotation.
The only direction to attain success is the way forward. Taking a step back is good in assessing the current situation but if you’re not willing to take two or more steps ahead, you might get stuck.
Telehealth opens another door to improve the way we deliver and receive healthcare. It is not yet perfect but is already good enough to help us get through 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, give us a call! We’ll see how we can help you.
Contact us today for more information.