As with many other aspects of modern life, new technologies have had profound impacts on the healthcare delivery system in the US. Modern healthcare customers think nothing of booking an appointment, requesting a prescription refill, or looking at test results online. Many of us count our steps, keep track of what we eat, and monitor our heart rate from a smart device. These days, healthcare and technology go hand in hand.
Telehealth technology is especially poised to have a significant impact on the way patients interact with providers and receive care. It deserves a closer look.
Any technology that is used to store, share, or analyze health information can be referred to as “health information technology” or healthIT. This broad category includes things like practice management systems and online patient portals. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is a group of technologies within health IT that is used to provide clinical care, health information, or health education at a distance. Telehealth technology includes both software and hardware.
Not all state and federal agencies define telehealth in exactly the same terms, but most are fairly consistent with the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, which defines telehealth this way, “The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”
The population of the United States is growing, aging, and becoming more prone to chronic conditions like diabetes, congestive heart failure, and COPD. This is creating a perfect storm of demand on the healthcare system, yet there is a shortage in the pipeline of healthcare providers being educated, trained, and licensed to practice. This necessitates getting very smart about how healthcare resources are leveraged to provide high-quality care to the highest number of people possible. Telehealth technologies increase the efficiency of the healthcare system overall by maximizing the productivity of each provider and removing geographical barriers to care.
There are three main categories of telemedicine technology: remote patient monitoring, store-and-forward, and real-time audio/video encounters.
Remote patient monitoring, which is sometimes called self-monitoring or self-testing, is a means of monitoring patient health and clinical information at a distance. It helps to simplify patient compliance with testing and it lowers the cost of frequent monitoring. It is frequently used in the treatment and management of chronic illnesses like asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Store-and-forward is the oldest form of telehealth technology. It refers to the transmission of images or information from one provider to another. For example, if your doctor sends digital images of an x-ray to a radiologist for analysis, they are leveraging store-and-forward telehealth technology. This is one of the most common uses, but images and information of any type can be transmitted in this matter. One thing we should point out, however, is that store-and-forward telehealth is not always covered by state telemedicine reimbursement laws, even in states that require parity for real-time communication.
Real-time communication is probably what jumps to mind when you think of telehealth technology. It happens with the patient is at one location and the provider is at another and they connect using a video-enabled device and a telephone or computer audio. Sometimes the patient might be at a healthcare facility with a provider and they establish communications with a specialist at a remote location, other times the patient might not be at a medical office at all. She might join the encounter from work or the office, for example. Many state laws require insurers to reimburse for these types of video visits. Most don’t have a similar stipulation for telephone calls that don’t involve video.
Chiron Health believes that the right technology is the key to ensuring both patient satisfaction and provider reimbursement. Our easy-to-use, real-time telehealth solution gives providers the piece of mind that they will be able to deliver top-quality care, while increasing revenues and remaining compliant with HIPAA and other laws and regulations. It is perfectly suited for chronic disease management and follow-up visits.
Telehealth technology tools should ease the burden on office staff, not make it worse. That’s why our solution is integrated with the practice’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) or Patient Management (PM) system.
There are a wide variety of state laws and payer policies in terms of getting reimbursed for telehealth. In order to ensure that providers get paid, our solution runs each patient’s information through an eligibility Rules Engine to make sure they are covered.
Most providers don’t want to be in the business of understanding the required legal documentation and patient consent requirements for telemedicine, so we take care of all that on behalf of our customers.
It is essential to safeguard patient privacy any time technology is used in the delivery of healthcare. HIPAA rules apply to a video visit as much as an in-person one. Chiron Health uses a fully encrypted platform that meets HIPAA’s high standard. We also execute a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with every customer that we serve.
Our solution is easy-to-use, but when questions come up, we are there for our clients. We offer high-touch support for both patients and providers, plus expert guidance on reimbursement questions.
Telehealth technology has some big advantages for providers and can substantially change the way that practices are run. Here are a few:
Several studies have revealed that patients are starting to seek out providers who utilize telehealth technology. It’s no wonder. They enjoy:
Telehealth technology will play a critical role in meeting the healthcare needs of the US long into the future. It increases access, reduces costs, and provides a more convenient delivery channel for patients and providers alike. Practices that embrace the technology now will protect themselves from increasing competition, develop closer relationships with patients, increase profitability, and help their patients stay healthier. We’re proud to be helping make all of that happen for our customers.