healthcaretechoutlook

Exploring the Telemedicine Landscape

By David Danhauer, System VP/CMIO, Owensboro Health

David Danhauer, System VP/CMIO, Owensboro Health

Patients battling ailments of all kind, require access to quality healthcare. This is even more important in the case of high-risk diseases like Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) or chronic behavioral health issues, wherein failure to administer care at a critical moment, could be fatal to the patients. Due to the absence of quality healthcare institutions, attending to these ailments in rural and remote areas has always been a challenge for practitioners. It is here that telemedicine, which incorporates videos besides the advancements in various technologies like computing, robotics and internet of things, to provide critical care in remote areas, becomes relevant.

"Telemedicine could replace consultant doctors’ face-to-face visits for even serious ailments in cardiology, psychiatry and even high risk OB"

Telemedicine has brought with it, a plethora of advantages. The technology deployed in the arena has decreased operating healthcare costs significantly for healthcare providers. Doctors are capable of attending to patients even during an emergency, through video visits to achieve better results.

Challenges in Launching a Telemedicine Program

Despite the benefits associated with telemedicine, there exist challenges for companies that develop initiatives to collaborate with healthcare providers, in successfully launching a program.

The first among them is in getting the correct technological infrastructure— high network bandwidth and access from mobile devices. This is crucial in treating high-risk conditions where loss of connectivity between the patient and the practitioners could be catastrophic.

Secondly, achieving collaboration with healthcare providers is hampered by the fact that a majority of healthcare providers are still accustomed to meeting patients in-person and not from a telemedicine standpoint; the workflow needs to be streamlined in a manner convincing to the providers and patients. Services provided by a healthcare institution in various areas, also impact telemedicine projects. For example, it is critical to match an experienced telemedicine practitioner to the specific disease process the patient is experiencing.

Thirdly, convincing patients, who are used to visiting the practitioners in person, to accept telemedicine programs, could also be challenging. However, this has proved to be simpler than deploying the right technology or engaging healthcare providers.

As organizations slowly move forward with telemedicine, there has been a silver lining from all the stakeholders, who are trying to popularize it due to its proven benefits.

Current Day Trends in Telemedicine

In view of telemedicine’s benefits, organizations have initiated a plethora of measures beneficial for patients. Healthcare providers have begun to offer best-in-class treatment and services to the patients at home and manage them efficiently during their brief video visits. Read mission assistance, dedicated account managers to handle the telemedicine workflow and faster reimbursement of insurance, have been some of the measures in this direction.

Reimbursement has particularly been instrumental in driving telemedicine ahead as all healthcare stakeholders—providers, patients and the insurance companies have all benefited. With the advent of reimbursement for telemedicine being the same as that for a regular consultation, patients stand to benefit the most. Insurance companies have been able to widen their customer-base, while streamlined workflow helps healthcare providers to charge for their services, without hassles. Patients stand to get all the benefits of regular consultation in telemedicine, which has been enabled by improved technology.

Technology has also enabled mobile access to healthcare for patients. Dedicated telemedicine apps have allowed patients to contact their practitioners using smartphones.

Future of Telemedicine

The future is likely to see telemedicine covering a wider geographical area, replacing the in-person consultation for both major and minor care. Telemedicine could replace face-to-face consultations for even serious ailments in cardiology, psychiatry and high risk OB. This not only simplifies the consultation process for patients, but hopefully reduce patient readmission rates.

Telemedicine has also begun to make inroads into school health programs where institutions perform minor healthcare activities for students. Attending to greater numbers of students within a limited time requires more providers, which neither the schools nor the providers can afford. Also, schools constantly battle a high attrition rate due to illness. Telemedicine addresses both the issues effectively. Through timely video visits with providers, students are treated and returned to the classroom or sent home without the delay of getting a typical office visit and pulling the parent from work.

Focus of a Chief Medical Information Officer

The imminent transformation of the telemedicine arena requires changes at the administration levels too—especially the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO). Over the years, the role of a CMIO has evolved from selecting and providing the best medical equipment like an EMR to an administrative and strategic one, concerned with examining the technology driving the sector forward. However, the need to center all the technology activities on the patients’ needs has not changed. Providing quality healthcare to maintain high standards at lower costs can happen only when the objectives and the programs are patient-centric. That has to be the major goal for CMIOs.

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