Telemedicine is no longer considered a separate, medical specialty – it’s pervasive throughout the healthcare industry. Yet, as with any technology offering, telemedicine and telehealth, each come with their own respective challenges. Although services are readily available to patients through hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, and private physicians, considerations like, “Is video conferencing HIPAA compliant?” play into the equation of adoption. Other factors putting pressure on IT teams restraining success must consider:
- Matching the right telecommunication technology to end-users
- Managing QoS and video call quality
- Providing the data needed for legal and reimbursement issues
The above isn’t an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of the scope of the issues IT must manage related to telehealth. Vyopta examines the common issues the industry is facing.
Is video conferencing HIPAA compliant?
Not a complex question, but the question can seemingly bring on several types of answers. The simple answer is that video conferencing can be compliant with the government’s mandate for health security standards. However, not all major video conferencing solutions can meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) standard, especially not big industry names like Skype and Facetime.
In order for a health organization to ensure they are in good accordance with the HIPAA regulation, they will need to err on the safe side so it’s recommended that any provider using a video conferencing solution, must have a solution that offers complete encryption of any personal patient data. As telemedicine continues to grow and become a norm in today’s society, more and more video conferencing solutions are increasing their security standards to meet the standards of HIPAA and other security protocols.
Defining “Telemedicine” and “Telehealth”
Let’s define the difference between the terms “telemedicine” and “telehealth.” Often used interchangeably, the two terms however, impact the way that IT teams select and manage telecommunication technologies depending upon the term used.
This term includes a broad range of technologies and services aiming to provide patient care and improve the healthcare delivery system as a whole. Telehealth refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services, such as remote non-clinical services, which include provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services. The World Health Organization states that telehealth includes, “surveillance, health promotion, and public health functions.”
Referring to specific remote clinical services, telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. Telemedicine technology is frequently used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation, and a host of other clinical services that can be provided remotely via secure video and audio connections.
Benefits of Telemedicine Influence a $67M Forecast for 2021
According to Mordor Intelligence’s Telemedicine Market Report, the telemedicine market is expected to reach $66,606M (USD) by 2021 indicating a growth pattern of a CAGR of 18.8 %. This growth is mainly attributed to the potential of telemedicine to continue to revolutionize healthcare as a service. The American Telemedicine Association (ATA), states that telemedicine can be conducted by leveraging a variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools, and other forms of telecommunications technology making healthcare readily available to anyone – anywhere.
Telemedicine Patients Benefit from:
- Less time away from work
- No travel expenses or time
- Less interference with child or elder care responsibilities
- No exposure to other potentially contagious patients
Telemedicine Providers Benefit from:
- Increased revenue
- Improved office efficiency
- A solution to the competitive threat of retail health clinics and online-only providers
- Better patient follow through and improved health outcomes
- Fewer missed appointments and cancellations
- Private payer reimbursement
There are very few limitations to how telemedicine can be applied. Here are a few examples of how telemedicine is being used and the results a successful offering can yield.
- Follow-Up Visits: Using health software for routine follow-up visits is not only more efficient for providers and patients, but it also increases the likelihood of follow-up, reducing missed appointments and improving patient outcomes.
- Remote Chronic Disease Management: The increasing rate of chronic disease is a major challenge for our health system. It is a prime candidate for the use of telemedicine software because it makes it easier and less expensive for patients to maintain control over their health.
- Remote Post-Hospitalization Care: One telehealth program for patients with congestive heart failure reduced 30-day hospital readmissions by 73% and six-month readmissions by 50%.
- Preventative Care Support: Weight loss and smoking cessation are the keys to reducing heart disease and a host of other conditions. Telemedicine can be a valuable tool in connecting providers with patients to make sure they get the support they need to be successful.
- School-Based Telehealth: When children become ill at school, they might visit a school nurse or be picked up by their parents and taken to an urgent care center. Some innovative districts have teamed up with doctors to conduct remote visits from the school. The provider can assess the urgency of the case and provide instructions or reassurance to parents.
- Assisted Living Center Support: Telemedicine software has already proven to be useful in keeping residence of assisted living facilities out of the hospital. Problems often occur at night or on weekends, making hospitalization the only option even for less urgent problems. With telemedicine, on-call doctors can conduct a remote visit to determine if hospitalization is necessary.
How to Address Limited Success in Telemedicine
Although cost and lack of infrastructure can be attributed to the lack of success for some telemedicine programs, ultimately, the management of telecommunications technology is the defining factor to a successful implementation. Let’s take a look at the primary issues IT teams are faced with when it comes to supporting telemedicine for their organizations.
1) Matching the Right Collaboration Technology to End-Users
In a recent study, The Growing Use of Videoconferencing in the Healthcare Market, key trends for the use of telecommunications within the telemedicine market are highlighted. Along with the influence of geographical location and country-based restrictions, this report dives into recent age trends and makes some interesting predictions. Due to millions of baby boomers now retiring, technology innovators can be found designing and building a new market for them that will allow those non-tech savvy, senior citizens to communicate with healthcare providers and from their homes or assisted living facilities.
However, Grand View Research’s recent report indicates web-based telecommunication’s “delivery mode” market held 78% of the share in 2014 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.3% by 2022. Meanwhile, cloud-based delivery mode is anticipated to be the fastest growing segment over the forecast period with a CAGR of 19.5% owing to the advantages such as easier usability, limited memory requirement, and possibility of using the system on any device. Rising investment by IT firms in cloud computing is expected to raise their demand over the forecast period.
There are a small select number of solutions on the market right now that provide cloud-based video communications that are also secure and enable HIPAA compliance – must-haves for any healthcare organization. Requirements for an effective cloud telehealth communications platform include:
- Video, audio, and content sharing
- Support for desktop, mobile, and conference room systems
- Works well in low-bandwidth environments
- Ease of deployment and ease of use
- Integration with EHR (electronic health record systems like Epic) and point-of-care peripherals, such as stethoscopes and medical carts
- End-to-end AES-256 bit encryption to enable HIPAA compliance
- Signed Business Associates Agreement (BAA)
- Virtual waiting room for patient privacy
- Platform API/SDK for integration with healthcare applications
- Remote camera control
2) Ensuring Telemedicine QoS and Video Call Quality
Managing telemedicine technology comes with some added pressures since the term means you’re dealing with doctor-patient communication, emergency diagnosis, patient file transmissions, and more important, life-related information.
Real Time: Fixing Call Quality Issues for In-The-Moment Improvement
The best way to stay on top of quality performance issues is to closely monitor video endpoint status. By having your finger on the pulse in these areas, you’ll be able to quickly identify, troubleshoot, and resolve video call issues before they make an impact your telemedicine network performance.
Long-Term: Improving QoS and Video Call Quality Performance For Good
It’s an unfortunate reality, but telecommunication technical errors and malfunctions do occur within the telemedicine industry. Although physicians who have agreed to offer patient care via telecommunications should understand that technical issues are rare, this is not always the case. Ultimately, physicians still have a business to run.
However, common issues can be avoided with comprehensive telemedicine network monitoring.
3) Limited Metrics and Reporting to Support Legal and Reimbursement Issues
Healthcare facilities and physicians are required to provide the same caliber as in-person care. However, to prove telemedicine services meet state and insurance standards, physicians must produce specific (and accurate) call data and reporting.
However, the lack of interoperability between telemedicine solutions, endpoints, and infrastructure proves challenging for both IT professionals and healthcare administrators to locate and send in a preferred format.
What’s the best way a health organization can optimize its telemedicine environment?
As organizations continue to invest more and more in video conference and Unified Communications, the need to have a sophisticated understanding of one’s UC setup and landscape has become pertinent. If a hospital aims to ensure high quality video conferencing capacity across the entire U.S. with thousands of patients, there’s a clear need to have a software in place to measure and optimize UC performance. With Vyopta, users monitor their entire UC&C environment; generating insights to improve user experience, grow adoption and optimize your investments. As telemedicine and telehealth continue to expand their user base, the need for a solution will continue to grow and evolve, paving the path to a more welcoming video conferencing environment that is both efficient and HIPPA compliant.
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