Telehealth 101: Everything You Need to Know
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare services between a provider and patient who are physically apart using communication technology. Telehealth services can be delivered through different technologies, including over the internet with video conferencing and mobile apps, or in some cases even wireless or landline phones.
Is telehealth different from telemedicine?
Though sometimes used interchangeably, the term telemedicine is being largely replaced by telehealth, which more accurately represents the wide range of uses for the technology. Telehealth visits can be used for physical and occupational therapy, speech language pathology, home health, counseling, chronic disease management, and more.
What are the four types of telehealth?
Telehealth is a broad term, but usually encompasses four applications: live video, store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health.
Also referred to as ‘real-time’ communication, this is a live, two-way interaction between a provider and their patient using telecommunications technology. The most prominent telehealth solution is video conferencing, which allows both parties to communicate in real time to conduct services like check-ups, evaluations, health education, and home exercise programs, as well as provide certain kinds of treatment.
Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring refers to health and medical data collected from an individual and then transmitted to a healthcare provider for use in care and diagnosis. Monitoring programs collect a breadth of health data like vital signs, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, and more.
‘Store-and-forward’ telehealth is an asynchronous platform that makes patient records and medical data accessible over long distances outside of a real-time interaction. Rather than a patient-provider interaction, this method is primarily used between medical professionals to help in diagnosis and consultations, particularly when consulting a specialist, and is commonplace in radiology, dermatology, pathology, and more.
Mobile health is the use of smart device technology and health-based apps to monitor and support healthcare plans. These telehealth apps are available for devices such as smartphones and tablets, and are intended to encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors. They can also function as a platform for education and home exercise programs, monitoring patient progress, and gaining insights with data reporting tools.
What are the benefits of telehealth?
Improved patient access and reach
Telehealth has the power to overcome physical barriers to care. It improves the reach of healthcare providers for patients who have difficulty attending in-person appointments or live in rural areas.
Reducing patient cancellations and no-shows
No-shows and cancellations are costly, but a telehealth appointment reduces common barriers to care for the patient, such as conflicts with their work or personal schedules.
Lower patient costs
Because care is conducted in the home and at their convenience, patients save money on travel costs, time missed from work, and childcare.
Telehealth visits significantly reduce overhead costs, and allow clinicians to see more patients per day.
What should I look for in a telehealth solution?
When choosing a telehealth solution, you’ll want to look for a few critical technological and quality-of-life features.
HIPAA-compliant platform with secure encryption
If clinicians are going to be dealing with sensitive PHI during your telehealth sessions, protecting this information is paramount. While CMS made allowances for e-visits and telehealth on a wide range of virtual platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic, going forward you’ll want to ensure that your telehealth platform is both HIPAA-compliant and features secure encryption.
Intuitive and easy to access for both patients and providers
You’ll want a platform that is intuitively designed and accessible on a variety of mobile and desktop devices. One of the most effective ways to promote patient engagement is with a platform that offers easy enrollment via text or email, encouraging the patient to securely download the app.
On the provider side, a telehealth platform that can integrate with the organization’s electronic medical record (EMR) will save time at the point of care and increase ease of use.
Robust quality-of-life features
- A virtual visits platform with high-definition video, waiting room functionality, and the ability to stream HEP and educational resources within the video player to help provide a seamless therapy session
- Patient messaging functionality to improve patient adherence to treatment plans
- An integrated home exercise program library
- Packaged and customizable patient education programs
- Educational resources available in multiple languages
- Digital as well as printable handouts to provide technological flexibility for less tech-savvy patients
How can MedBridge help with telehealth?
MedBridge Telehealth Virtual Visits has been optimized for ease of use by both clinicians and patients, offering a simple way to provide remote care for patients while sharing personalized Home Exercise Programs and Patient Education resources. Our telehealth solution helps providers expand healthcare access through virtual triaging and assessment of patients, efficiently manage patient care through virtual visits, and ensure optimal long-term outcomes with post-discharge engagement.