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Is Your Medical Organization Telehealth Ready?

An up-to-date look at virtual care—staying ahead of the telehealth curve, continuing virtual health interactions, and delivering affordable telemedicine.

It’s convenient and easy for practically anyone to talk to a licensed doctor anywhere, anytime…even while driving the kids around. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the adoption of telemedicine (also called virtual care or telehealth) shifted into hyper-drive during the pandemic, because of social distancing requirements. In fact, it represents a veritable tsunami of telemedicine usage as compared to before COVID-19 hit.

The surge in telehealth

Before the pandemic, medical costs, physician availability and personal relationships kept patients going to physicians’ offices. Then, a national state of emergency hit the U.S. and doctors and patients were urged to avoid in-person visits after the COVID-19 outbreak hit the U.S.

Health insurers and hospitals made a strong push for patients who have milder symptoms to use their telehealth platforms during the crisis to help alleviate the strain on emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. Virtual visits were literally a lifeline for the business of the practice. Then, they became a real lifeline for patients. Otherwise, those people would not be able to be seen.

The digital healthcare revolution

Video communication is playing a vital role. A high quality, easy-to-use video conferencing solution is essential for telehealth.

Healthcare providers are using the latest video conferencing software to make telehealth a reality and improve the quality, equity and affordability of healthcare worldwide. With skyrocketing costs, regulatory changes, and evolving technology creating new challenges and opportunities for healthcare, there’s no better time than now to explore how video communication can improve patient care and provider efficiency, while simultaneously reducing costs.

“Although at a nascent stage, the United States’ virtual care market is expected to achieve significant growth by 2025, reflected in an astounding compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.4%,” says Frost & Sullivan. “However, the concept of virtual care presents opportunities that extend beyond telehealth and telemedicine and can improve the management of patients across all healthcare segments, and the movement of care outside traditional settings is transforming medicine through digital health solutions.” 

The tremendous growth prospects for virtual care, according to the same resource, include…

  • The use of technology to manage the increase of behavioral health issues that have been reported since the onset of the global pandemic. Virtual care’s benefits are visible as beleaguered mental health professionals seek to remotely manage pandemic-related spikes in conditions such as depression, stress, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal thoughts.
  • Expanded ways to utilize patient-generated health data. This new volume of valuable data will be accompanied by advances in data analytics, new solutions for clinical decision support, and the evolving use case for population health management (PHM).
  • Opportunities to ensure dynamic security standards across all elements of virtual care platforms. They must be designed to instill confidence among healthcare stakeholders that the threat to the anticipated surge in online health data can be protected.
  • Creation of an end-to-end virtual care solution that fulfills and exceeds the essential capabilities and components of traditional in-person healthcare services.There is a need to increase knowledge among all healthcare stakeholders about the functionality and workflow-related potential of virtual care.
  • Development of a virtual care implementation strategy defining the program and benefits offered. Healthcare providers of virtual care solutions must revitalize their infrastructure to manage the supply chain and logistics for their customers with 24/7 support to enable a complete and rewarding virtual care experience.

Huge opportunities and challenges

This poses huge opportunities and challenges for providers and vendors alike. Among researchers' predictions: more user-friendly sensors and remote diagnostic equipment, are enabling better patient outcomes. They also see more practical applications of AI and robotics, with advancements such as interactive virtual assistants enabling more opportunities for non-traditional care.

Health insurers and hospitals have made a strong push for patients who have milder symptoms to use their telehealth platforms during the crisis to help alleviate the strain on emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. These virtual visits are literally a lifeline for the business of the practice, and then the real lifeline for the patients, because otherwise those people would not be able to be seen.

Right now, accommodating the new flood of patients seeking virtual care remains a challenge for both small practitioners and larger telemedicine providers alike, as do the regulatory barriers to telehealth.

Regulatory barriers to telehealth

Embroiled in decades-old debates over its effectiveness in providing patient care, telehealth has also faced other obstacles to its adoption and use, including licensure, reimbursement, and eligible services.

“State and federal barriers in the use of telehealth and AI have served as hindrances to the launch of its full capabilities,” says The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions. “The U.S. health-care system has only begun to scratch the surface regarding the integration of telehealth practices into the traditional delivery of health care.”

Priorities for a more uniform telehealth regulatory environment

Brookings goes on to say, “Telehealth regulations—especially those at the state-level—must be drafted with a broad eye toward the future, being as flexible as possible to incorporate existing and emerging modalities of the future.”

  1. Data on COVID-19 telehealth administration and programs must be collected and analyzed. The federal government, associations representing the health-care industry, and the private companies that comprise the health-care sector need to amass data on how telehealth was used during the pandemic, identifying the opportunities and blind spots in its use. 
  2. Regulatory flexibility should be built into telehealth to accommodate the range of use cases. In addition to collecting data on telehealth’s use, the current regulations (particularly those that were waived) and the guidance going into COVID-19 will need to be assessed by Congress—before any changes or a return to legacy regulations are made.
  3. Telehealth services should be utilized for primary care to reduce service redundancies. Telehealth visits and other telehealth modalities, such as remote patient monitoring, can bring health care into the homes of patients who often face additional barriers to having more than enough (or any) insurance and health access.

Is your office ready to tap into telehealth?

The culture of doubt, of fears around privacy, of inadequate reimbursement, or of the unknown, has been replaced by a culture of confidence and trust, a culture which values convenience, affordability, and rapid access to quality care if your organization is  ready.

“Initial experience suggests that telemedicine implemented without attention to workflow risks eliminating—rather than enhancing—teamwork and by returning to a solo-hero model, risks introducing new hazards,” the authors concluded in the article, “Telemedicine and Team-Based Care: The Perils and the Promise.”

Today Blue Eagle Consulting can help you, your staff and your patients become familiar and comfortable with the technology, capabilities and expectations of telehealth.

At Blue Eagle Consulting, we provide healthcare organizations with the individuals crucial to making large software investments perform as expected. We help empower your staff with the software skills and expertise vital to managing critical patient information in today’s complex operating environments. Contact us today and let us help you improve your business and reach more clients efficiently and effectively. We can’t wait to help you!

To download the PDF version of this article, click here.