In light of global health issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine adoption may remain a popular healthcare delivery option for the foreseeable future.
But how does telemedicine work? And what makes it such an effective healthcare option?
Put simply, telemedicine is the use of digital technologies to connect patients with healthcare providers without needing to be in the same room. This is not to be confused with telehealth, which refers to the specific electronic and communication technologies used to provide those services remotely.
Telemedicine can support patient care across almost any area of speciality, including:
Mental Health Practitioners (counsellors and psychiatrists)
There are countless applications of this healthcare strategy, from providing a socially-distanced method of clinical healthcare to improving access in remote areas and for individuals with mobility issues.
But how does telemedicine work in practice?
Providers set up telemedicine through secure platforms that enable HIPAA-compliant communication for key healthcare tasks, including:
Patient data management
Information transfer across clinics/specialists
Medical record uploads to patient portals
Telehealth platforms are increasingly becoming cloud-based, but they may also be hosted entirely on the clinic’s own servers. When the system is set up, providers can launch virtual sessions where both physicians and patients log into a portal for a face-to-face medical appointment.
This type of virtual healthcare strategy gives healthcare professionals a way to provide care to remote areas - and to those with mobility challenges - while staying connected to their platforms at all times.
How Telemedicine Is Transforming Health Care
How is telehealth used in healthcare? Telemedicine and telehealth have become chief strategies in improving patient healthcare outcomes across the world. They provide significant boosts to care quality, access, and data organization that contribute to better outcomes overall.
But, how does telehealth work? And, how does telehealth improve patient care?
Let’s look at these benefits in more detail.
Healthcare From Anywhere
Primarily, telemedicine reduces geographic boundaries and allows patients to speak with healthcare providers from anywhere.
This approach has specific benefits in the COVID-19 era, where healthcare providers aim to limit in-person interaction. It’s also handy for patients who prefer the convenience of having their physician and healthcare provider available right there in their homes!
But more broadly, telemedicine is an important way to increase healthcare access for patients across the globe.
Telemedicine can reduce the need for in-person visits and expands healthcare access to remote areas, thus supporting a healthier population overall.
Better Quality of Care for Patients
How is telemedicine used to improve patient care? When backed by the right platform, it’s a powerful way to improve outcomes across all aspects of care delivery:
Faster care delivery
Patients can get urgent questions answered through email, live chat, or video conferencing, saving them the trouble of scheduling an appointment and showing up at the hospital, clinic or practice. This can improve healthcare outcomes while even reducing healthcare administration costs as well.
Easier access to information
Patients can access their healthcare information easily from the telemedicine patient portal. When they have blood tests, x-rays, or other tests, the results are uploaded to the platform for simple viewing from any device.
Enhanced patient engagement
Telemedicine reduces the need to show up for in-person appointments and simplifies the intake process.
This is particularly valuable for patients in rural areas who have chronic issues or mental health conditions to monitor; the accessibility of remote health makes it easier to stay on top of regular appointments and helps clients feel more engaged.
Additionally, these platforms feature patient reminders that keep them aware of their appointments and reduce no-shows, further optimizing the scheduling process.
Reduced administration costs
Telemedicine platforms reduce healthcare costs by streamlining patient data management and communication. Rather than having each patient undergo a lengthy check-in and appointment process, visits are done remotely.
This reduces the labor costs associated with patient intake and allows providers to stay efficient.
Expanded care access
Telemedicine also improves care access for patients who struggle with mobility issues. Whether they’re bedridden, infirm, or simply unable to drive, telemedicine gives them an easy way to receive the same quality of care and counselling process as others.
Improved Organization of Healthcare Data
Another key advantage of telemedicine is how it supports better organization of healthcare data. Telemedicine allows providers to digitize all clinical records and test results, making them easier to share.
This is a noteworthy benefit as many healthcare facilities still rely on physical, paper documentation, which presents a challenge when other facilities need access to those medical records.
Telemedicine makes it easy for providers to share details, patient records, and other data as needed with pharmacies and specialists to support the best possible treatment – no matter how many providers are involved.
Is Telemedicine HIPAA-Compliant?
With strict HIPAA laws surrounding all aspects of patient health data management, compliance and security are top priorities in telemedicine. Each telemedicine platform is secured to ensure that no electronic protected health information (ePHI) breaks HIPAA policies.
This applies to how messages are sent, how data is stored, and how records are disclosed among providers.
Healthcare clinics interested in telemedicine can start by focusing on three goals:
Choosing a secure telemedicine platform and understanding its security/privacy policies;
Limiting access to sensitive information and setting policies around telemedicine data;
Establishing cybersecurity monitoring for the system and developing a response plan in the event of a breach.
HIPAA compliance in telemedicine has to do with how your platform is set up and how it’s used by staff. The platforms themselves are configured for end-to-end data security and compliance across all communications, but how users manage the system affects compliance as well.
Most healthcare organizations work with third-party auditors who can review their systems and provide an extra level of assurance beyond what they’d find in a self-assessment.
Telemedicine is the Future of Healthcare
Telemedicine provides distinct benefits over traditional models of healthcare delivery. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the healthcare industry into an ongoing state of remote work, it’s clear that current telemedicine solutions will only improve over time.
If you’re curious about how to use telehealth or other ways telemedicine could be leveraged to support your organization, we can help you.
Our all-in-one telemedicine platform offers a fully HIPAA, PIPEDA, GDPR, and APP-compliant way to send communications, host virtual video sessions, manage records, and more. Contact Adracare today to learn more about how our cloud-based telemedicine platform can benefit your practice.