It’s a new era of accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes and other efficiency-driven, value-based delivery models. As a growing number of healthcare organizations look to improve patient care accessibility, coordination and outcomes, they see significant advantages in telehealth technology.
By connecting patients and clinicians face to face, regardless of location, telehealth saves time and money, speeds intervention and treatment, strengthens collaboration and communication between physicians, and provides potentially life-saving remote monitoring.
Changes in reimbursement further fuel the expansion of telehealth. Most states now require some form of Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services, and many states require coverage by private payers.
A constant stream of technology advances has made it easier and more affordable to implement a variety of high-quality mobile and stationary telehealth solutions, making distance no obstacle to speedy diagnosis and quality treatment. Telehealth options range from smartphone video applications that are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to enterprise-wide platforms that integrate high-definition video, audio, medical devices and collaboration tools.
Telehealth Expands Care Boundaries
Moving far beyond its roots as a way to provide care to residents in remote rural areas, telehealth now offers the opportunity to provide timesaving, cost-effective access to clinicians and specialists for routine, chronic and emergency care. It no longer matters where patients or physicians happen to be located locally, nationally or even globally.
Telehealth adoption continues to accelerate as providers and patients alike recognize the many benefits. For example, telehealth technology allows them to:
- Monitor homebound elderly, chronically ill or post-operative patients to improve care and reduce readmissions, without requiring difficult trips to clinics or a physician’s office
- Widen in-hospital and local access to specialist care, from psychiatrists to neurologists to oncologists
- Provide remote triage care to evaluate the severity of illness or injury and determine the best care facility
- Guide provider teams at small hospitals in using emergency procedures, tools and medications
- Help physicians remotely diagnose and treat stroke patients with time-sensitive protocols
- Remotely monitor vital signs of intensive-care patients
- Provide medication-dispensing oversight for pharmacists when required by the state
- Reach underserved or challenging populations in prisons, on ships and at military outposts
- Handle routine or follow-up care at corporate and school clinics as a convenience to patients and their families
- Enhance collaboration and communication between physicians, hospitals and affiliated practices
- Educate geographically dispersed clinicians on patient care and medical procedures
Technologies That Support Telehealth
While the possibilities are impressive, healthcare organizations cannot move forward with telehealth until they meet certain technology requirements. Thankfully, a virtually limitless spectrum of telehealth configurations, from simple to advanced, can easily be customized to meet the specific objectives and budget of each healthcare enterprise.
- Devices to enable viewing, consultation and communication
- Software to facilitate collaboration and connectivity
- An infrastructure robust enough to support telehealth applications
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