Although Telehealth has been around for many years, the rise of COVID-19 has seen a dramatic increase in its adoption and popularity. In this article, we'll explain what it is, how it works, and the benefits it offers.
Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. Providing long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, monitoring, and more, Telehealth expands the reach and impact of the healthcare system while reducing costs and increasing convenience.
Benefits of Telehealth
Telehealth can reduce the spread of infectious diseases by preventing visits to health care settings, as seen during the early stages of the pandemic. By minimizing the surge of patient demand on facilities, Telehealth can also decrease the strain on healthcare systems and PPE use by healthcare providers. After the pandemic ends, Telehealth will continue to benefit health care providers and patients by increasing continuity of care, extending regular clinic hours, reducing and/or eliminating patient travel times, and helping to address the problem of clinician shortages, often experienced in rural locations and by underserved populations.
Tech to Scale as Practice Grows
A sudden escalation in demand for Telehealth products and services due to COVID-19 has created an opportunity for it to become the standard of care. As both patients and providers become more accustomed to having their medical needs resolved through Telehealth, its use will continue to expand. Additionally, the increase in popularity of wearable health devices that track things like heart rate, glucose levels, and blood pressure will make technology in health care less intimidating, leading to even greater adoption rates.
Including both software and hardware, Telehealth encompasses a growing number of applications and technologies that have had both a profound and positive impact on the healthcare delivery system. Some examples are:
- Patients Talking With Doctors - Telehealth makes health care more accessible than ever before by allowing for real-time care between a doctor and patient at any time from anywhere. The ability of patients and their doctors to video-conference allows them to collect and assess medical history, conduct visual examinations for many health conditions, undertake psychiatric evaluations, and provide other types of care. Telehealth can also involve behavioral and mental health programs by providing one-on-one or group sessions that patients may join remotely.
- Doctors Talking With Doctors - The benefits of Telehealth are powerful and far-reaching. Telehealth technology allows a primary care doctor to send exam notes, medical history, test results, X-rays or other images to a specialist for review. In turn, the specialist can respond electronically or conduct a virtual appointment with the patient and doctor while screen sharing imaging and test results. By enabling primary physicians to connect with a broad range of specialists and share patient information quickly, telemedicine can dramatically improve patient outcomes.
Types of Appointments
Although not ideal for every situation, Telehealth can often provide a seamless healthcare experience for both patient and provider. Some of cases include:
- COVID-19 screening.
- Low-risk urgent care.
- Overseeing case management for patients who have difficulty accessing care.
- Access to primary care providers and specialists, including mental and behavioral health, chronic health and medication management.
- Coaching and support for patients managing chronic health conditions.
- Physical therapy, or occupational therapy.
- Monitoring clinical signs of chronic medical conditions.
- Follow up with patients after hospitalization.
- Delivering advance care planning and counseling to patients and caregivers, documenting preferences if a life-threatening event or medical crisis occurs.
- Providing non-emergent care to residents in long-term care facilities.
- Providing education and training for HCP through peer-to-peer professional medical consultations (inpatient or outpatient).
Technology in Telehealth
Increasingly technology has been able to overcome barriers and improve access to health services. While telemedicine can never completely replace traditional care delivery, there are a number of ways technology is supporting and even enhancing the experience. Here are some examples:
Devices are anything that enables the electronic exchange of health information. They can include everything from video-conferencing, mobile apps, the internet, store-and-forward, streamed media, terrestrial and wireless communications, and remote patient monitoring. Additionally, peripheral medical devices such as digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, and ultrasounds can be used to aid in a remote evaluation between a specialist and a primary care physician and their patient.
It is imperative that healthcare entities maintain the privacy and security of patients' protected health information. Therefore, no matter what type of remote care platform you choose, make sure it adherences to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or similar patient privacy requirements.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Also known as self-monitoring or self-testing, remote monitoring occurs when the patient's health and clinical information are monitored at a distance. This can take the form of mobile medical devices that collect data such as blood sugar or blood pressure, or treat and manage chronic illnesses like asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Secure Patient or Doctor Meetings
One of the most common forms of Telehealth is real-time communication, where a patient at one location connects with a provider at another through secure video-conferencing. Often providing the same level of care as with that of an in-office visit, Telehealth can also present the opportunity for family members or caregivers to participate in more significant health care decisions without worrying about personal health information being at risk.
Store-and-Forward (Asynchronous) Video-Conferencing
Store-and-forward is the collecting and sending of clinical information electronically to another physician for evaluation. This typically includes demographic data, medical history, laboratory reports, images, video and/or sound files. Information is transmitted by electronic mail, uploaded to a secure website, or sent through a private network.
BlueJeans as a Telehealth Platform
BlueJeans’ goal is to deliver convenient, fast, personalized and most importantly, safe and secure telehealth video conferencing from any device, anywhere. Here are a couple of examples of how we've supported and accelerated Telehealth to improve outcomes for both patients and providers:
- Ease of Use - As a cloud-based service, BlueJeans’ interoperable platform works across all hardware types and remote devices, so you never need to worry about compatibility. Whether you're on a desktop, mobile, or supported browser, our platform enables patients and practitioners to deploy and join with one touch from virtually any device, time zone and location. You can launch BlueJeans directly from Epic or other common electronic health record platforms. This streamlines Telehealth encounters, ensures compliance, and reduces complexity. We've also incorporated closed captioning, color contrast, and screen reading capabilities to guarantee that our platform is fully accessible in all situations and to all audiences.
- Best in Class Security - Nothing is more sensitive or confidential than health information. Therefore, every touch-point between a doctor and patient must be protected by enhanced strict privacy measures. BlueJeans is proud to be a HIPAA-ready, secure service that safeguards patient and clinician data. BlueJeans also complies with CCPA and meets the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. All conversations can be secured with ‘Restricted Meetings’, and all content transit is encrypted using AES-256 GCM. Additionally, we provide meeting passwords, locked meetings, and enterprise-grade encryption to satisfy the demands of this unique environment. BlueJeans also provides BAAs to covered entities.
- Best-in-Class Audio and Video Quality - Nothing should impede clear communication and comprehension when dealing with health and well-being. Therefore, the importance of having a platform that provides superior audio and video quality cannot be understated. A breakthrough in audio technology–BlueJeans’ Dolby Voice suppresses background noise while maintaining consistent volume across soft and loud talkers, making dialog easier to understand. Additionally, our high-quality HD video closely replicates the experience of an in-person consultation regardless of whether you are on a desktop, in a web browser, or using mobile devices.
- Management and Analytics - While accurately tracking information and data in health care has always been vital, the continuing spread of COVID-19 makes it even more critical. Our Command Center’s service intelligence and insights are available to helpdesk staff, IT administrators, and senior leaders. Our platform's management and analytics tools will help you promptly identify and troubleshoot any issues. Armed with this knowledge, your organization can make smarter, more informed decisions allowing you to focus on the time-sensitive health care needs of your patients and providers.
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