A Telemedicine Program involves providing healthcare services to individuals remotely through using telecommunication tools such as smartphones and computers. Leveraging advances in things such as patient monitoring and smarter healthcare, it has the potential to not only minimize but eliminate traditional healthcare challenges. The implementation, however, requires a well-thought-out plan.
What is a Telemedicine Program?
A Telemedicine Program can be either simple or complex for a healthcare provider to implement a telehealth system into their practice. Solo practitioners and clinics mostly require the basic HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software in order to start delivering telemedicine consultations.
For medical health providers that are interested in having a more complete virtual clinic solution, they have to consider their existing workflow and then incorporate the telemedicine software solution into their current practice. This software usually needs a waiting room, EHR as well as a payment function.
The simple way of defining a telehealth system is as “the remote delivery of healthcare services.” There are 3 common types of telemedicine, which include, but are not limited to:
- Interactive Medicine: This gives patients and physicians the ability to communicate in real-time while maintaining HIPAA compliance.
- Store and Forward: This permits providers to share various patient information with practitioners in other locations.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: This allows caregivers to remotely monitor patients that reside at home by the use of medical devices that collect data (e.g., blood sugar or blood pressure)
The Difference Between Telemedicine and Telehealth
The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to telemedicine as “healing from a distance.” So it is when telecommunications technology and information technologies are used to provide remote clinical services to patients. Physicians generally use a telehealth system for the transmission of digital imaging, video consultations, as well as remote medical diagnosis.
This advancement has allowed individuals to no longer need to schedule an in-person visit with their physician in order to receive treatment. The use of secure video and audio connections allows specialists to treat patients who are located in areas with limited access to care.
HealthIT.giv has defined telehealth as “the utilization of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health education, public health and health administration.”
Although this definition sounds very similar to telemedicine, there is one difference that is very distinct. Unlike telemedicine, telehealth covers non-clinical events as well. An example of this would be administrative meetings, continuing medical education (CME), and physician training. A telehealth system is not a specific service, but rather a collection of methods put in place to improve patient care as well as education delivery.
Telemedicine and Telehealth
The terms we know as telemedicine and telehealth bring with them a regular debate amongst individuals that work in the healthcare field. One of the reasons for this debate is due to the varying definitions pertaining to the terms themselves. Some experts consider telemedicine to be physician-focused and telehealth to include all health professionals in general.
With technology in the medical field continuing its advances, the two terms will more likely become easily distinguishable. Fortunately, industry experts are keeping up with these advances and varying changes for physicians and hospitals. Healthcare organizations that are interested in implementing telehealth or telemedicine no longer have to do so alone.
How to Implement a Telemedicine Program
Telemedicine involves providing patients with healthcare services and doing so remotely by using telecommunication tools such as smartphones and computers. Leveraging advances in patient monitoring and smarter healthcare, telemedicine has the potential to not only minimize but possibly eliminate traditional healthcare challenges. Its implementation, however, requires a well-thought-out plan.
8 Steps on How to Implement a Telemedicine Program
Establish a Strategy and Set Goals:
Define your reasons for establishing the telemedicine program in a clear manner and then set measurable goals. Identify the key metrics which you will consider to evaluate the success of your program.
Gather a Cross-Functional Team:
Your telemedicine program may involve several providers, staff as well as services from other businesses. A designated implementation team with a capable leader will help ensure your program has the desired progress.
Check the Essential Rules, Protocols, and Reimbursement:
Telemedicine is continuing to gain well-deserved popularity. Authorities are progressively introducing laws and regulations to prevent the improper exploitation of telemedicine. The policies vary by state. Therefore, you should check with local authorities to maintain compliance.
Partner with Reliable Technology Companies:
The technology that you will use plays a significant role in the success of your program. It’s important to consider its security, ease of use, integration, branding as well as reimbursement authentication.
Design a Strategy to Maximize the Programs Uptake:
The program you use for telemedicine won’t reach success if no one participates. Therefore it is best to educate your staff and patients about the program and its benefits, as well as when and how it will come into play.
Completely Integrate and Implement Technology:
This may be the easiest part. You can rely on various cloud-based solutions that integrate with your telemedicine program.
Encourage Feedback from Patients and Staff:
One of the most important sources of feedback is your patients as well as staff. They could help you in identifying bottlenecks that you should work on to ensure that your services improve.
Measure Performance Frequently Against Goals and Act Accordingly:
Occasionally evaluating your goals will ensure that you are achieving your prioritized results. If you are lagging, you could consider the adjustments that you need to make and then make them accordingly.
What Benefits Does Telemedicine have to Offer
1. Easy Access to Specialists
Not all individuals have ongoing relationships with doctors that they can call whenever they need one. In addition, many online medical networks offer round-the-clock access to various specialists, without the need for an appointment, at any time during the day or night.
2. Lower Costs
Doctors, along with therapists, can be very expensive, even if you have good health insurance. However, telemedicine appointments often cost less than in-person consultations do. Because of this, out-of-pocket costs are reduced, thus removing the barrier to good healthcare.
3. Medical Access for Individuals Without Health Insurance
Inadequate health insurance is often the most common obstacle to seeing a doctor. Various online companies provide cash-pay telemedicine. This does not require health insurance or referrals.
4. Access to Medical Care for Individuals in Rural Areas
Although country living has its benefits, fast access to the required medical care is not always one of them. For individuals that live miles away from their nearest medical facility, telemedicine provides them with a way to see a doctor as fast as possible. This arrangement saves time and allows individuals to stay off the road in circumstances where driving conditions are less optimal, such as during a snowstorm or hailstorm.
5. Medical Access for Individuals in Unreserved Urban Areas
Hospital closures in inner-city neighborhoods have affected thousands of Americans, especially those who are part of communities of color and people that are without health insurance. Telemedicine helps with breaking this cycle by providing a way for individuals to see a doctor before they become extremely sick.
6. Reduced Exposure to Pathogens
The wait at a doctor’s office could be hours long, and the other patients could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, the flu as well as other viruses. Telehealth keeps patients at home, thus avoiding exposure to viruses and germs. This not only protects the patients but the medical professionals as well.
7. Middle-of-the-Night Care for Babies and Children
It’s not uncommon for babies and children to spike fevers or get sick in the middle of the night. Rather than relying on an internet search, parents can use telehealth services to connect with a doctor who will give answers as well as provide a diagnosis and, if needed, a prescription as well.
8. Reduced Medical Overhead Costs
Telemedicine helps doctors lower the office costs, such as the need for front desk help.
9. Support for People With Chronic Conditions
Various at-home monitoring tools that transmit readings to medical professionals may signal new symptoms, worsening health as well as potential emergencies. This could help individuals get fast interventions that may ultimately save their life.
Is Telemedicine the Future of All Medicine?
With telemedicine taking over various parts of the medical field, we do know that in-person care will never disappear. There are some things that cannot be fixed or diagnosed over the phone. Telemedicine, however, provides individuals with medical care without needing to leave their homes. This is a great way to ensure that everyone receives the medical services that they require.