What technical requirements does telehealth require? There are five main requirements — the internet, is of course, one. Read on to learn more about the other four telehealth technical requirements like software and hardware.
Telehealth continues to grow in popularity as it offers convenient and productive remote care sessions for physicians across the healthcare industry and patients. As more healthcare providers and patients navigate telehealth for remote healthcare access and delivery, many are left wondering about the technical requirements for telehealth, mainly that it involves the integration of technology. Many physicians and patients think that the technical requirements for telehealth might be too advanced and high-priced to adopt.
However, fulfilling the technical requirements for telehealth is easy, as many are common (you and your patients likely already have them). Knowing about the telehealth requirements for both healthcare providers and patients is as important as knowing the benefits of the service. After all, if physicians and patients don’t possess the basic requirements to get started with telehealth, the implementation is unsuccessful, and patients might be less inclined to receive care using telehealth in the future.
The following are five technical requirements for telehealth that a healthcare provider and patient must know before implementation.
1. Stable Access to the Internet
Perhaps the most vital requirement of telehealth is access to the internet. Without the internet, telehealth is not possible.
Telehealth is synonymous with the traditional way of going to a physician, except without the need to travel and spend time in a waiting room. With telehealth, patients can get healthcare services remotely with working technological devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, computer) that have access to the internet.
Physicians and patients need a fast and secure internet connection to guarantee that the video and audio quality transmit smoothly for a successful telehealth consultation. Otherwise, a poor internet connection results in low video and audio quality, and may even stop working during a consultation, which a patient may equate to a mediocre medical practice.
Two internet connection factors may contribute to the delivery of healthcare services online:
Before a telehealth consultation, it is crucial to test the internet speed of both the physician and patient. To achieve a satisfactory video consultation experience, you should have a minimum of 10 Mbps for download speed and 5 Mbps for upload speed. Internet speed is vital to avoid video lags during the consultation.
An excellent way to check the internet speed is to go to speedtest.net and simply click "GO."
If the internet speed is not fast enough, an ethernet cable may be a viable option to connect to the internet router. Although most devices connect to the internet via WiFi, this connection sometimes can be unreliable due to bad reception or interference.
Also, physicians and patients may use the mobile network on their smartphones, but it is important to note that streaming video uses a significant amount of data. If you or your patients choose to use a smartphone, make sure you’re in a location with a strong signal for the best connection.
2. Technical Support Staff
Even though telehealth is an innovative solution for healthcare delivery, it is not a technological platform that operates unassisted.
Most telehealth systems such as Curogram provide round-the-clock tech support included in their services. The support team provides answers to questions and concerns regarding software, hardware, and other technical problems. The professional training the technical support staff receives guarantees they can properly assist healthcare providers using a telehealth program in their practice.
During the implementation of the telehealth platform, the technical support staff works on configuring the system according to the organization’s needs and preferences. To achieve a successful transition, physicians and their medical team must know how to use the software and ask questions to the support staff when in need of clarification or further information.
3. Telehealth Software
Selecting telehealth software is crucial for healthcare providers. The system must adhere to HIPAA rules and regulations to prevent violations of the distribution of patient health information (PHI) and avoid abuse in healthcare delivery.
Curogram ensures all communication between physicians, patients, and medical staff is secure and HIPAA-compliant. Popular video conferencing tools such as FaceTime and Zoom are not HIPAA-compliant by default.
Apple’s FaceTime is a covered entity of HIPAA and is considered a healthcare provider’s business associate (BA). A BA needs to enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) to ensure that a healthcare provider’s HIPAA-defined responsibilities for protecting and securing electronic PHI transfers to the BA as well. The agreement guarantees that FaceTime will adhere to the HIPAA rules to protect sensitive patient data.
The same agreement goes with Zoom as a third-party app when in use to transmit electronic protected health information (ePHI).
While FaceTime and Zoom may be a possibility for video conferencing, additional telehealth software features, like those Curogram has, are important too, such as:
- Electronic health record (EHR) integration
- Online appointments booking
- Encryption security
- Reimbursement documentation
Health information and patient data can be transferred in multiple ways; we can’t stress enough how important it is to have a HIPAA-complaint system like Curogram for telehealth software.
4. Reliable Hardware
Choosing hardware for telehealth technical requirements is easy; healthcare providers and patients are likely to use the technology in their everyday lives already.
Almost every smartphone or tablet has a built-in camera/microphone with advanced features. However, some patients still use an older version of a desktop computer or laptop with no camera but can still plug in an external camera. Fortunately, plenty of external cameras are available on the market, and there are inexpensive units with quality features.
A digital camera is an essential tool in telehealth to allow physicians to virtually meet their patients in a face-to-face manner. When physicians see their patients, even on an electronic screen, it makes the patients feel like they are in a healthcare setting.
Smartphones and tablets have built-in microphones to send and receive clear audio. Patients must hear what their physicians are saying or explaining over a telehealth video visit to avoid medical mishaps like treatment errors — for example, failing to follow the prescribed dose of medication because the patient misheard their physician.
When using a computer, the physician and patient must also have a built-in microphone/speakers or external (separate) earphones/headphones. Many affordable microphones are available in the market that have good quality and features such as noise cancelling.
5. Telehealth Certification
Healthcare providers can deliver telehealth services across state lines, depending on rules set by state and federal policies. But for many states, to practice telehealth, healthcare practitioners must get certified first.
Healthcare workers must know how to approach telehealth and use adequate tools, proper communication channels, and correct Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. These codes are medical terms created to make a uniform standard when referring to a wide range of medical services.
To obtain a telehealth certification, healthcare practitioners need to meet specific qualifications proposed by the state of their medical practice. Some of the most common requirements in the majority of states for telehealth certification are:
- Being a US citizen or having an updated legal permit to live and work in the country
- At least 21 years of age with good moral character
- Completing the Telemedicine Rules Review Course
- Having a license to practice medicine issued by the State medical authority
- Passing the state’s Medical Board examination, COMLEX-USA, National Board’s parts 1, 2, and 3, NBOME, FLEX/USMLE steps 1, 2, and 3, or a combination of these tests
As mentioned, each state has its own rules and regulations on telehealth certification. Healthcare practitioners need to check first for the complete telehealth certification requirements in the state they are practicing.
Telehealth is here to stay, so get ready with the technical requirements now.
Reliable, secure technology is the foundation of any telehealth platform. And even though telehealth uses some of the most advanced features such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) and electronic health record (EHR), telehealth does not require a healthcare provider or patient to be technologically savvy to achieve outstanding healthcare delivery outcomes.
To achieve the technical requirements for telehealth, all you need are some of the most common technology applications today. Your patients are already on the internet, and with millions of healthcare providers and patients immersing themselves in the advantages of remote, technology-driven health services, consider giving Curogram, a comprehensive telehealth solution, a try today. You won’t regret following the telehealth trend when it adds value to your practice.