Telemedicine Software–A Guide for Practitioners

Posted by Michael Hsu on 6/11/20 6:45 AM
Michael Hsu

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Telemedicine is the fastest-growing part of the healthcare industry. When choosing a healthcare provider, most patients opt for practices that offer telehealth services. Many practitioners all over the world are looking for ways to establish a telemedicine practice or incorporate remote care into their existing businesses.

Digital technology is at the core of telemedicine, and its rapid development is what propelled telehealth into stardom. Running a reliable and successful telemedicine practice depends a lot on the platform you choose for providing remote care.

Telemedicine Tools and Services

Using technology to improve medical services is not a new idea. Ever since telephone and telegraph appeared, medical professionals embraced the possibility of exchanging information remotely. What revolutionized healthcare was the live video conferencing that offered an alternative to the traditional doctor-patient encounter.

Telemedicine is the exchange of medical data via different communication channels and digital technology for the delivery of healthcare services, such as diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring. The Internet was crucial in enabling web-based telehealth in the form of real-time data transmission. Physicians and their patients can meet face-to-face now, which allows them to mimic in-person interaction.

Telehealth became a perfect solution to numerous problems that the healthcare industry was facing. Remote care has many aspects, and all of them proved to be beneficial in one way or another. Interactive encounters are among the various benefits of telemedicine. Check out the table below to see what telemedicine has to offer.

Type of Service

Definition

Example

Live Video Calls

A real-time video chat between a health provider and a patient

A medical consultation through a two-way video communication channel

Store-and-Forward

Using electronic communication channels to transmit the recorded health history (both digital images and documents)

A physician sending scans, blood test results, photos of skin conditions to a specialist for evaluation

Remote Patient Monitoring

Transmitting medical data collected by the patient to a doctor in a remote location

A patient wearing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices that report on an activity (e.g., heart rate)

Mobile Health

Utilizing mobile devices (phones and tablets) for medical purposes

A patient receiving notifications regarding appointments or reminders about when to take medication

Live Telemedicine Software

Digital technology used for live telehealth allows multiple users to join the call, so third parties, like caretakers, translators, or consulting specialists, can participate. Live telehealth is the exchange of information through secure communication channels between the provider and the recipient. You can also use it for peer-to-peer consultations and educational purposes.

Video conferencing is the essence of modern telemedicine, as it allows real-time, reliable communication. The practitioners can see and hear their patients, which enables more accurate evaluation of their condition.

Video calls are necessary as the first point-of-contact between a doctor and the patient. They are a safe way of establishing a strong physician-patient relationship, essential for responsible and effective treatment.

Store-and-Forward Telehealth Software

Store-and-forward services have been in use for quite some time, but their efficiency improved significantly with the development of digital technology. Forwarding medical data between medical professionals and patients is now happening in real-time

Practitioners can use different communication tools to forward:

  • Test and diagnostic results
  • Scan images
  • Photos of skin conditions

The exchange can happen between the providers and recipients or in the form of peer-to-peer consultations. In either case, communication is quicker, but more importantly, it is secure and confidential.

Remote Patient Monitoring Tools

Wireless internet connection is what made remote patient monitoring so efficient. Wearing medical devices, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar monitors, is a common practice. What’s new is that they can transmit data in real-time via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection directly to the physician.

Patients were required to monitor and write down the results before the wireless transmission was introduced. This was a fertile ground for errors, and it did not allow swift reaction in case of an emergency. Even more complicated devices, like dialysis machines, can be accessed remotely now. Remote patient monitoring is convenient for respirator management, as well.

Mobile Health Telemedicine Software

Mobile health takes advantage of mobile communication devices to provide a safe and prompt exchange of information between physicians and patients. Since we rarely part with our phones and tablets, practitioners use telehealth software to send alerts, reminders, or other notifications in real-time.

It is an excellent way to convey important information, not only regarding the treatment but also the disease prevention or health education. Mobile health is one of the most popular aspects of telemedicine.

Benefits of Telemedicine Platforms

Telehealth will not be able to replace traditional healthcare soon. Certain conditions and procedures require in-person visits, and that is not about to change. The most significant advantage of telemedicine is that it can serve as triage and help determine which patients do need to come to the office or the hospital, and which don’t.

This reduces the number of unnecessary visits and allows medical professionals to allocate resources better. Telehealth platforms can be useful for non-emergency consultations, secure medical data exchange, and initial evaluation of patients.

Telemedicine is viewed as the future of healthcare because it:

  1. Enables access to care to patients living in remote areas, or in areas with the shortage of medical professionals
  2. Improves patient experience by reducing travel time and waiting
  3. Reduces costs of healthcare for patients as well as the providers

Healthcare systems have been struggling with the above issues globally. Incorporating telemedicine into the existing practice, and developing remote care software is essential if we want to democratize healthcare. It is not only fair, but it improves the health of the general population significantly.

Practitioners offering their services via telemedicine platforms report that they witness a substantial decrease in:

  • Hospital admissions
  • Readmissions (in case of remote patient monitoring)
  • Emergencies related to untreated symptoms and conditions

People are more diligent and responsible when given the opportunity to participate in the treatment actively. Patients can inquire about their conditions in real-time and report issues as they happen. This reduces the need for costly acute care and allows proper reactions on time.

Mental health and behavior specialists were the first healthcare providers to adopt telemedicine software. Psychotherapy benefited immensely because the therapists were able to connect and talk to the patients during critical periods. Telehealth platforms came handy in suicide prevention. They remain the most popular tool in treating and preventing the escalation of mental health issues.

COVID-19 and Telehealth Platforms

The coronavirus outbreak showed how inadequate our healthcare system is. Despite huge amounts of money that are poured into it every year, it is still unable to provide care and treatment to all that require help.

Telemedicine appears to be a solution to the problem. The states with progressive telehealth policies seem to respond to the pandemic better. Several things contribute to this:

  1. Practitioners and patients are safer if they meet on telemedicine platforms
  2. Telehealth software is useful in test-organizing 
  3. Remote patient monitoring can help in observing the condition of mild and medium cases and allow quick reaction in case of sudden deterioration of a patient

Safety Issues During the Pandemic

Live video encounters keep both parties safe during the pandemic. Exposure to the virus is not uncommon in crowded waiting rooms and offices. The patients who don’t require hospitalization or acute care can seek help via telemedicine. This possibility is as important to people affected by COVID-19 as to the ones suffering from other illnesses.

Medical personnel can avoid unnecessary contacts, which is vital during the crisis. We are already experiencing a shortage of healthcare professionals, and endangering them even further can have serious consequences.

Testing Sites and Telemedicine Vendors

Some telehealth vendors are stepping up in assisting medical institutions and facilities in establishing testing sites that can allow efficient and safe triage. The communication between doctors and patients is vital during the public health crisis, so telemedicine tools are being used all the time.

Curogram is leading the way. The platform offers real-time communication in the form of two-way texting and live video chat, that allow both patients and physicians to set appointments, schedule screening, and conduct initial visits remotely.

The platform teamed with United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, to set up the first drive-thru testing site in the country. Quick and safe testing will be supported by Curograms’ software, which will take care of patient registration, scheduling, and result distribution.

Monitoring COVID-19 Patients via Telemedicine Tools

With the number of infected people on the rise, it is not easy to monitor them adequately. Patients receiving treatment at home are in danger because coronavirus tends to take unpredicted turns. The patient’s condition can escalate rapidly, and it is crucial to react in time.

Telemedicine tools can help observe the patients in real-time. Physicians can support and oversee the recovery remotely, which allows them to cover more patients. In certain areas, there is a concerning shortage of available physicians, so medical professionals from other regions and states can take over the treatment.

Although it is impossible to perform intubation from distant sites, out-of-state doctors can help with respirator management. During the national health crisis, we must use all resources available to fight the virus effectively

Choosing the Best Telehealth Platform

With the market flooded with various telemedicine vendors and tools, getting the right platform may be tricky. It is important to understand that the same standards apply to telehealth and traditional practice. This means that providers must comply with the same strict regulations and ensure the same quality of care.

To be able to do this, medical professionals need a reliable and stable platform that can support their practice. If you are about to establish a telemedicine practice or incorporate the services into your business, you should pay attention to the following:

  • The platform must ensure data privacy and security
  • The platform must offer secure communication channels
  • The platform should integrate with other medical software
  • The platform should have a user-friendly interface
  • The vendor should provide technical support and training

Telehealth Software and Data Security Issues 

Data privacy and security are crucial in medical practice. Failing to meet the standards can cause serious disciplinary measures and even prosecution. That is why it is utterly important to partner with vendors that can guarantee security features.

Doctor-patient confidentiality is sacred, and regardless of potential legal consequences, breaching it can ruin your practice and reputation. Make sure that the software you choose has:

  • Encryption
  • Password protection
  • Data backup

Only with the above features can you be sure that the sensitive patient information is safe from third-party breaches and loss of information.

Telehealth Communication Channels

Digital communication you use for telehealth treatments must be reliable and secure. Since practitioners use different means of communication depending on the type of telemedicine service, it is vital to make sure all of them are private.

The first thing you need to check is if they are HIPAA compliant. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted in 1996, and its primary goal is to stipulate how the patient’s personal information is handled in the healthcare industry. The rules and regulations are mandatory for all healthcare providers, regardless of the model of practice.

The Curogram platform offers advanced features that support efficient and secure external and internal communication.

  1. Two-way texting enables the provider to send appointment reminders and other relevant information, while the patient can schedule visits or send inquiries
  2. Internal messaging system allows secure and instant communication among employees

Free, commercial communication apps like Skype or FaceTime are not HIPAA compliant or secure enough to be used for telemedicine.

Integrating Medical and Telemedicine Software

One of the most significant advantages of telemedicine is that it saves time on administration and allows for the better allocation of resources. To be able to benefit from it, you should choose a platform that integrates with other software you are using in your practice.

You should pay close attention to the following:

  1. Electronic health records (EHRs) integration—Clinical documentation is demanding. Manual and double entries take a lot of time, so you want your EHRs to be updated automatically. That way, you can direct your resources to patient care.
  2. Billing system—This integration is especially important if your practice relies on reimbursement, though it is handy with direct payments as well. If the two systems are appropriately integrated, your appointments will be adequately coded and promptly submitted to claims.

Curogram offers integration with over 700 EHRs, so maintaining clinical documents is quick and easy. 

Curogram EHR integrations

eClinicalWorks

Athena

Epic

Cerner

DrChrono

NextGen

Practice Fusion

CareCloud

Kareo

OfficeAlly

See More Integrations Here

Telehealth Platform Interface 

Patient experience is essential for a successful practice. The platform you are using should be easy to navigate. Your patients may not be tech-wizards, so make sure that the interface is not demanding or confusing to them.

One of the key elements should be the ease of access and availability of relevant information. By providing that, you can reduce unnecessary inquiries and phone calls. The user-friendly platform will attract more patients and prevent errors in scheduling or registration.

You should opt for platforms that include virtual clinics and waiting rooms. They allow you to mimic traditional workflow, and the patients seem to respond to it perfectly. 

Technical Support for Telemedicine Platforms

Telemedicine requires complex software solutions. The technology behind the practice needs to be updated and maintained properly. Regardless of how sophisticated the technology is, there will be a multitude of hardware and software issues that will occur.

You should choose a vendor only if they can provide regular technical support so that any problems can be solved as soon as possible, if not in real-time. It is important to receive appropriate training on all tools and apps, so you and your staff can use them effortlessly.

Telehealth Software Comparison

The most appealing aspect of the telemedicine platform tends to be the price. This is not the best reason to opt for a particular vendor. All the best telemedicine companies do not offer their services for free, although most of them offer free trials.

Trying some of them to see which one is suitable for your practice is advisable. The transition to telemedicine requires time and adjustments, so it is better to check the features before you commit to a specific vendor. You should seek long-term partnerships because switching platforms can be business-impacting and complicated.

In the table below, you can check the characteristics of some of the popular telemedicine vendors.

 

HIPAA Compliance

User-friendly

Technical Support

Curogram

Yes

★★★★★

★★★★★

Medici

Yes

★★★★★

★★★★

Mend Software

Yes

★★★★

★★★★

Updox

Yes

★★★

★★★★

NextGen Virtual Visits

Yes

★★★

★★★★

Secure Telehealth

Yes

★★★

★★★

Synzi

Yes

★★★

Not available

With exceptional features, Curogram is a comprehensive solution for your telehealth practice. Don’t hesitate and start your free trial here.

Topics: telemedicine, software

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