Categories of Telemedicine: Software and Devices
Telemedicine software solutions usually fall into three different categories: remote patient monitoring, store-and-forward, and real-time. Here’s a quick review of what each of these telemedicine types involve.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Sometimes called “home telemedicine,” remote patient monitoring lets healthcare providers track patients’ health from home using a variety of medical devices. Patients might use a medical device in their homes to monitor their vital signs, track their glucose levels, and report how they’re feeling. This type of telemedicine solution is especially popular among patients with chronic diseases, and those in recovery after a stay at the hospital. Remote patient monitoring lets physicians check-in with their patients more frequently, catch potential warning signs before they turn into problems, and offer patients more convenience and less risk. For many patients who are elderly or recovering from a major injury or illness, for example, a trip to a doctor’s office is a challenge.
Store-and-forward telemedicine solutions are used widely all over the world. This type of telemedicine software allows patients or healthcare providers to send medical data (like photos, information on vital signs, recorded videos of patients) to another medical professional for diagnosis or consultation. For instance, a primary care provider might notice a skin abnormality on a patient that needs to be diagnosed by a dermatologist. The primary care doctor can take a photo of the patient and use a store-and-forward telemedicine software to securely send the photo and the patient’s electronic record to the dermatologist. Then, the doctor can quickly get a response back on how to move forward. This type of telemedicine is an incredibly effective way to make healthcare more efficient, especially in areas where medical specialists are limited.
Unlike with store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring solutions, this type of telemedicine requires the patient and healthcare provider to interact in real-time. Think a phone call, chatroom, or online video conference. In all cases, the patient and clinician are both present and communicating back-and-forth, at the same time.
While real-time telemedicine does require a patient and physician to coordinate schedules, it’s the most similar to an in-person visit. In many cases the physician can use the patient’s history, the live video or other visual information provided, and the patient’s comments to assess the patient and provide treatment remotely. Some real-time telemedicine software may also incorporate mobile medical devices to capture a patient’s vital signs or other health information in place of a physical exam.
Real-time telemedicine software (like the eVisit app!) is a good option for patients who need to see a physician, but cannot get into the doctor’s office, whether because of distance, cost of travel, time, physical effort etc. Recent studies have found that in some cases remote visits using 2-way video can be as effective, and more cost-efficient than in-person doctor visits.
Read more: 15 Questions to Ask a Telemedicine Software Vendor
Telemedicine Software Features
We’ve now reviewed the basic types of telemedicine solutions. But what about the different types of features that telemedicine software should have? Here are a few things to look for when evaluating any telemedicine software solution.
Since telemedicine software is often used to save, transmit, or share private patient health information, it needs to be 100% secure and HIPAA compliant. Telemedicine software should not be used as general video-conferencing programs like Skype.
Read more: Skype for Telemedicine – is Skype HIPAA-compliant?
Telemedicine software needs to be easy-to-use for both patients and physicians. The best telemedicine software incorporates best practices in user-interface design so that the user experience is intuitive. The more intuitive and simple the design, the less time and training required to get both the healthcare provider and the patient on-board. Technology should be a solution and not a barrier!
Many states now allow reimbursement for telemedicine services, especially remote visits done via 2-way video. But in order to get reimbursed, each telemedicine visit needs to be well-documented. The top telemedicine software solutions allow healthcare providers to easily document the patient encounter and then submit the record for reimbursement.
Patient visits done through telemedicine need to be documented too. Many telemedicine software solutions allow providers to import any visit notes into a patient’s EHR, to keep everything in one place and up-to-date. Some may also integrate with an EHR system for seamless record-keeping.
The idea behind telemedicine solutions is to make healthcare delivery more efficient. A process like calling in prescription orders to pharmacies can be time-consuming for healthcare providers. That’s why telemedicine software should include an ePrescribe feature. This lets a physician submit a prescription electronically, without needing to pick-up the phone or contact the pharmacy.
Watch Now: How to Choose the Right Telehealth Software Solution for Your Practice
There are a range of telemedicine software solutions out there. Some require extensive set-up and training to learn how to use the program and any accompanying equipment. Some solutions may come with a dedicated telemedicine station and mobile medical devices, whereas others may just need a personal computer with a microphone and webcam. While every healthcare providers’ needs are different, the best telemedicine software should require minimal set-up and training to get started.
Telemedicine solutions come in all shapes and sizes. The sophistication of the technology, the equipment, training, set-up, amount of users required will all affect the cost of a telemedicine service. Healthcare providers should evaluate their budget for a telemedicine software and make sure they consider how much training and staff resources they’ll need to implement the telemedicine software. Since telemedicine providers offer solutions for single-provider practices all the way up to huge health systems, there’s always a good fit.
Telemedicine solutions have the power to change the way we provide and receive healthcare for the better. Find the right telemedicine software for your practice now.