When building their telehealth infrastructure, understanding the 6 contributing factors and how they affect telehealth expansion can help health care organizations make informed decisions.
Organizations must evaluate the six essential components of any successful telehealth infrastructure to be able to make a fluid infrastructure. These components comprise of seamless integrations of all of the necessary IT infrastructure, hardware, software, IoT, individual data, security, and scalability to achieve telehealth operability.
Step by Step Process for Telehealth
When enhancing or building out a telehealth program, it is ideal to look at the hardware elements currently in inventory first which can be incorporated into a telehealth program to determine the gap of what’s required.
Hardware pieces to assess and incorporate are things like medical carts, bedside terminals, medical bills, and personal devices. As they may be mobile, these are perfect pieces to integrate into a program. Mobility enables healthcare providers to perform consultations in areas where care needs to happen.
The main reason is that healthcare professionals spend nearly 90% of their time moving from place to place, providing patient care. The hardware outlined below assists healthcare providers in attaining that constant mobility with no breakdown in operations or harmful impacts.
Medical tablets provide the mobility to access health data and consult with patients from any location through the ease of a lightweight device. Medical pills also have the function of working as an entertainment device for patients.
Twenty percent of physicians in the U.S. supply tablets for patients to access their medical information with the additional enhancements of entertainment apps.
Medical grade tablets, which are classified as medical-grade, contain antimicrobial enclosures to help prevent bacterial growth. Rugged medical pill designs are excellent for accidental mishandlings and demanding work environments to withstand falls.
Medical carts enable healthcare providers to bring clinical records and insights from room to room. These carts could be to get electronic health records (EHR), give care, record medical information, or to consult with a specialist at another location.
These carts enable the utilization of computers, monitors, cameras, keyboards, and mobile medical devices in the patient’s bedside, with a wireless connection to access individual records.
Carts, which are categorized as medical-grade or EN/IEC 60601-1 certified, provide medical electrical equipment compliance to fulfill safety regulations. And IPX1 rated carts offer the added benefit of water resistance with protection against drippings.
Bedside terminals also enable telehealth to be available where the individual is located. Depending on the type of program in telehealth on the patient and provider side, the utilization of bedside terminals can vary.
They could function as remote monitoring or document exam and lab findings apparatus, or a nurse call station to alert employees. For patients, they can act as a communication and entertainment device with people outside the facilities. These may be essential pieces in a hospital’s infrastructure by being accessible where maintenance is provided.
Bedside terminals classified as medical grade or EN/IEC 60601-1 certified for near-patient use have an antibacterial coating that is readily sanitized to prevent bacterial growth.
A successful telehealth infrastructure must be flexible enough to handle the bring your own device’ or BYOD, trend. The BYOD revolution, in which healthcare providers and their patients use their personal devices to access telehealth systems, will increase demand on telehealth infrastructure.
With the growth of smartphone usage and the number of smartphone users worldwide in over 5 billion by 2019, more healthcare providers and patients are going to be using these devices to engage with telehealth.
A recent study reveals widespread BYOD among those in healthcare, including 51% of physicians, 91% of physicians, and 79 percent of healthcare executives. The benefits of BYOD for healthcare providers include improved workflow and time savings, in addition to cost savings.
It’s essential to consider a BYOD regulated program to decrease potential security breaches for programs favoring BYOD.
Once new or existing telehealth programs have the necessary hardware selected, it is vital to have the corresponding telehealth software that can easily integrate with all current health care platforms and hardware components.
The most crucial advantage relative to program success was mentioned as telehealth technology among health care personnel. To ensure no interruptions of operational workflows, healthcare facilities must possess the suitable software and technology that easily integrates with existing and future platforms.
Like all technology in the health care space, to safeguard patient privacy all facets of a telehealth infrastructure have to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To maintain patient information safety, these regulations pertain to the storage or transmission of electronic health data by a HIPAA covered entity.
To enable suppliers to submit a prescription easily, telehealth applications should include electronic prescription features.
Healthcare providers must be able to give care remotely with software that could integrate with current EHR systems. Telehealth programs cannot be executed efficiently and efficiently without this very important integration.
Together with creating a telehealth program, it is necessary to track and manage operations by previously defined aims to establish the program’s progress.
Very similar to HIPAA compliance, it is very important for telehealth software to use the most recent encryptions to ensure patient data protection meets HIPAA security standards and guidelines.
As stated previously, many U.S. states’ new policy changes allow reimbursement for telemedicine services. Yet, each visit has to be well-documented to get reimbursement. A platform that documents care properly will assist with reimbursement procedures.
3. IT infrastructure
An effective telehealth infrastructure comprises all the parts needed for execution, consisting of hardware and software with the capability to configure these pieces in ways that adapt to different healthcare environments.
Two attributes of an effective I.T. infrastructure must be fulfilled in order to adapt to these multiple healthcare environments. In an ICU setting, for example, clinical information systems integrate patient care applications and data management tools to empower real-time decision making at the point-of-care.
These systems may be used at patient bedsides and in ICUs. They can be retrieved via the hospital network or online, and improve access to a patient’s EHR or other information. This type of integration allows patient health information to be gathered and shared with maximum efficiency in any healthcare environment.
The first attribute is that the technology has to be accessible where care happens, and the next is that it needs to be reliable. The first is accomplished using the proper hardware and software pieces that supply mobility so that telehealth services can be accessible where maintenance happens.
Another must-have for telehealth infrastructure is a reliable technology. According to a recent survey of healthcare executives, nearly 70% believe reliability that a”must-have”, yet almost half estimate their current telehealth solution fails 15% of the time.
One of the top three reasons stated by providers as to why they’re slow to adopt telehealth programs is a lack of confidence in the dependability of the technology. The next is attained through a reliable I.T. system composed of open system integrations and a trusted broadband internet connection.
Access to strong digital infrastructure is one key to successful telehealth services. Reliable technology is a must-have for telehealth infrastructure. Healthcare organizations must provide adequate infrastructure during the planning stages to make sure that networks can handle the demands of telehealth applications.
The American Telehealth Association Practice Guidelines recommend a sufficient transmission rate to make sure,” the smooth and natural communication pace necessary for clinical encounters.”
When doing telehealth services, a minimum bandwidth of 384 Kbps or higher is suggested. With reliable broadband connectivity, this ensures that where care is provided, it can be accessible and dependable.
Open system integrations
In addition to connectivity, the next attribute of a telehealth IT infrastructure is the ability to incorporate into the current IT infrastructure and is made up of elements that integrate easily. Healthcare executives prioritize that telehealth solutions are easy to navigate, easy to use, and compatible with their existing systems.
When creating a telehealth infrastructure, integration with EHR is also a priority. The ability to integrate with EHR was rated as valuable by almost 80 percent of respondents in a 2017 survey of healthcare personnel.
Integration with other systems is also vital, with a majority (73%) of healthcare executives putting a priority on the ability to access PACS images (such as CT Scans) directly in the telehealth system.
For facilities planning their telehealth infrastructure, integration with remote monitors, lab systems, and all communications systems are also vital. The provision of open APIs and SDKs ensures smooth integration with existing infrastructure and management systems.
Hardware and software integration may decrease latency and optimize performance for users. Having these components work together is advantageous to any system integration.
Having a flexible IT infrastructure in place, the foundation is set to incorporate IoT into telehealth programs. Healthcare networks are increasingly investing in the Internet of Things, or everyday devices which are connected to the net as the dependence on smartphones and BYOD’s grows.
These include wearable technologies like smart sensors or wristwatches that monitor a patient’s movements. Physicians and hospitals are employing this technology to connect with patients and improve the overall visibility of their operations.
Data shows that more than half (60%) of healthcare organizations surveyed have already introduced IoT apparatus in their facilities, citing a rise in innovation and cost savings as advantages of the adoption.
Further to the growth in IoT adoption, IoT devices can help practitioners monitor their patients remotely and can help administrators track bed occupancy.
As an example, using IoT real-time location services (RTLS) is a way to utilize the IoT to keep parts of telehealth infrastructure secure by tracking equipment throughout the health care facility. RTLS helps to enhance workflow and decrease profit loss through misplacement or theft.
This technology can also help monitor patients in senior care centers to prevent injury or patients drifting off. By equipping hospitals and eldercare centers with connected monitors and devices, providers can give bedside care more conveniently, for both the provider and the patient.
5. Scalable design
The plan must possess the capacity for expansion when designing a healthcare IT infrastructure together with IoT integrations. Healthcare organizations have to have a telehealth system that could grow together as regulatory, demographic, and compensation shifts happen.
This scalability includes possessing a broadband service and servers which can be updated easily to support more devices. Capacity for expansion follows the trend in telehealth with systems moving from fragmented, siloed initiatives into an enterprise approach, which takes a systemwide view and pulls disparate elements into a cohesive system.
The 2018 REACH Health survey states that almost half of the respondents are taking an enterprise approach to telehealth, which is a 23% increase compared to 2017. Over half of hospitals that began with a departmental method have already transitioned or are evolving toward a holistic operation.
With those healthcare institutions which use an enterprise model achieving 30 more of their goals than ones who are handled from separate departments, this approach is an effective tactic.
One way to accomplish this approach is to choose portable devices that have the ability to integrate with hardware and software outside of its manufacturer. This stops the dependence on a single supplier and ensures future scalable expansion.
Whether with current or new connective and telehealth software vendors, it’s crucial to check if services can encourage additional components or increased utilization. For future growth, health care organizations should ask any possible limits of components or users to achieve a business approach to scaling a telehealth program.
6. Patient data and security
Despite the fact that it was covered previously in hardware and software, patient information and security can’t be iterated enough. Any system that provides for the patient, the provider, and the health care system is a vital part of a telehealth infrastructure.
A vulnerability might lead to inappropriate access to patient information, medical device malfunction, or a breakdown in health care services if the infrastructure is open to a breach of security. These breaches can have a profound effect on patient safety and care.
This, plus violations to regulations can be costly for healthcare institutions. A recent data security firm report estimated that security breaches cost the health care sector $ 6.2 billion in 2016, while HIPAA Security and Privacy rule breach penalties for providers range from $50,000 per breach incident around $1.5 million.
Security concerns are also significant to patients, thirty-five percent of respondents are concerned about the safety and privacy of their health information. Two of the reasons why protection is critical to any successful telehealth infrastructure would be the cost to both bottom line and reputation.
It’s essential to acknowledge the BYOD trend and its potential impacts on data breaches together with the harmful impacts of information breaches. While due to its ease and cost savings, the BYOD movement has gained popularity, in addition, it increases the risk for both non-compliance and data breaches.
These devices enable healthcare providers to be productive from anywhere, but telehealth providers must focus on how they could secure the devices being utilized and create a secure infrastructure.
The mobile devices should have HIPAA-compliant applications with their operating system and any third-party applications that are utilized. So as to limit access to sensitive data by people outside the healthcare environment, mobile devices should be two-factor authentication secured.
Should the device be lost or stolen, infrastructure must also include the ability to remotely disable and remove data from any mobile device containing protected health information, to prevent possible breaches. Securing your telehealth from all possible threats is vital to the success of any program.
It’s necessary for healthcare organizations to build a telehealth program with easy integration of all six essential elements of a successful telehealth infrastructure above as they play catch up to the fast-growing telehealth services.
Fluid telehealth operability can be accomplished by preparing a program with the appropriate IT infrastructure, hardware, software, IoT apparatus, and individual and data security. The arrangement of these six elements isn’t without the effects of external factors shaping how apps are being assembled.
U.S. demographic changes of the elderly continue to increase, and the increase of people with chronic illness, telehealth technology, and service will adapt to augment service and care these growing requirements.
As they explore this route, slow investments to telehealth applications currently hamper healthcare organizations. Alterations to state policies will further increase adoption as reimbursements are recognized via these services. Lastly, both patients and providers highly approve of and are ready to adapt to telehealth services.
It is important to consider the outside influences as well as the six essential components of a successful telehealth infrastructure to comprehend how it will impact operations and telehealth services both now and in the future.