Telecommunication tactics are transforming our healthcare platforms. More specifically, using HIPAA compliant videoconferencing to create virtual clinics has majorly opened up the way healthcare is delivered. It does so by creating one centralized, easy to access platform which can integrate with existing EHRs to store patients’ electronic health information. One specific area: Remote patient monitoring (RPM) has improved patient outcomes by creating new opportunities to assess important health parameters, such as vital signs and blood sugars, from outside the hospital setting. Integrating Telemedicine into current institutional models helps the provider keep track of their patient’s progress, and address any alarming signs without having them readmitted.
This is important when considering the wellbeing of the patient and the large readmission penalty that should happen if too many occur. Instead, a quick follow up can be made over video to make sure the patient does not have a relapse in recovery.
The Virtual Exam Room
RPM, or using a mobile device at home to take routine tests to send through a secure database for review by your doctor, is useful for all members of the healthcare team, including patients. Imagine the immediate impact and long-term effect using a glucometer at home, with the added benefit of uploading and sending the results to your physician daily. Taking this concept a step further, picture visiting your physician in a Virtual Exam Room (VER), instead of returning to the hospital after uploading your results. For Internists and Geriatric Specialists this is helpful when closely monitoring glucose levels in their endocrine fragile patients, especially when caring for those who have recently received post-acute care.
Expanding telehealth to skilled nursing facilities and home health instantly connects providers to patients, reducing fragmented care, a frustration to both clinicians and patients.
- Telehealth offers to extend support for patients receiving home health care.
- Digital connectivity provides an instant continual flow of information between providers and patients, reducing frustration among all team members, especially patients and their family members.
- Research shows telehealth strategies reduce hospital re-admission rates and improve patient outcomes.
- Emergency rooms are less overwhelmed with revolving door re-admissions from post-acute care facilities.
- RPM and VERs have shown to simplify chronic illness management, improving patient care.
Improving Quality of Care
Telehealth isn’t new to medicine and it has been proven to increase patient access in rural areas. Specifically, telecommunication systems have helped physicians deliver behavioral and rehabilitative services when treating patients recovering from substance abuse. Though the two are commonly associated together, (behavioral medicine and telehealth), other medical practices, such as neurology, also benefit from using Telemedicine in their practice models.
Some rural healthcare facilities lack the resources to provide comprehensive stroke care to patients who are possibly experiencing a transient ischemic attack or an acute infarct. It’s common practice for a stroke specialist or neurologist from an accredited stroke hospital to carry a tablet, facilitating communication between institutions. Outside providers can immediately connect with these specialists when they receive patients with signs and symptoms of an acute stroke in their facility, improving immediate diagnosis and treatment. In these scenarios, Telehealth assists with immediate communication between providers, sometimes even with the transfer of a patient to a higher level of care, ensuring quality outcomes.
How Telehealth Impacts Patients
Patients can virtually connect with their physician to ask questions and express concerns, instead of returning to the hospital by using non-expendable resources, such as an ambulance, urgent care or the emergency room. At times, it’s difficult for your physician to confidently evaluate your signs and symptoms over the telephone. So, you can imagine why doctors often express to their patients, “Just return to the hospital.” But with Telemedicine, patients can easily connect with their healthcare practitioner through a HIPAA-compliant secure video platform, experiencing a live virtual exam from the comfort and privacy of their home. Healthcare team members can view and evaluate patient’s vital signs and radiographic images, making important diagnostic decisions, affecting the quality of care patients receive.
Some hospitals have begun integrating Telehealth into current infrastructures, reporting immediate results, such as improved communication, easier access of patient data, and most importantly–reduced hospital re-admission rates. Simply put: emergency rooms become less crowded and patients receive better follow-up care, resulting in both improved patient outcomes and lower readmission rates.