Elements needed for a successful telemedicine program are x.
1. Collaboration tools. These are the devices that enable the hospital to connect patients with providers, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, or what Mr. Baird calls “video endpoints.” These video endpoints, he says, have been the focus of many telemedicine offerings. “A lot of vendors in the space, have focused solely on video telemedicine carts of some form, but that’s not enough to deliver a telemedicine solution.”
2. Peripherals. Peripherals are the diagnostic tools used in telemedicine, such as otoscopes, ultrasound machines, or digital stethoscopes. Coupling peripheral devices with collaboration tools and workflow software enables the delivery of high definition audio, video, images, and data for caregivers to provide treatment and diagnosis from multiple locations. Ease-of-use and flexibility of peripherals are critical to support multiple service lines with the same devices.
3. Workflow. “Workflow is the ability to have full documentation for various sub specialties and modalities,” Mr. Baird says. This means in addition to the telemedicine hardware (i.e., carts, medical peripherals), hospitals also need adequate software to manage the complete process of connecting patients to medical professionals and to integrate telemedicine with their existing it resources, like EHR systems. A telemedicine program should offer clinicians the necessary capabilities, such as secure messaging, store and forward capability, connection to EHR’s, and access to billing codes. In doing so, Mr. Baird says the only thing that is different between telemedicine and traditional in-person treatment is that the physician is in a different location than the patient. Everything else, workflow-wise, remains the same as an in-person consultation.
4. Cloud-based services. Traditionally, telemedicine systems have run on enterprise systems, costing healthcare organizations thousands of dollars to run just one telemedicine cart. For large institutions, this isn’t an issue as they have large telemedicine programs. But as telemedicine expands to nursing homes and smaller clinics the expense can make telemedicine less feasible for smaller providers. Having a cloud-based service can save thousands of dollars, directly impacting a provider’s bottom line.