Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced providers to switch over rapidly from delivering face-to-face care to supporting virtual visits. However, it’s hard to argue that the systems they’ve relied upon weren’t built to support the huge uptick in demand for telehealth services.
The question, then, is what such platforms need to add to meet these kinds of demands. According to healthcare CIO David Chou, the current generation of systems need to address the following issues if they want to support enterprise-level telehealth:
- Instant two-way communication: An enterprise telehealth system must allow patients to message their physicians directly, Chou suggests. Also, such a system should offer physicians the tools they need to communicate directly with specialists and share patient information support referrals.
- Pharmacy integration: To support enterprise telemedicine, such systems should offer a personalized mobile option connecting patients with drugs down to the SKU level, making it easy for patients to refill medications and track delivery to their home, he says. This tool should also support instant communication between patients and pharmacists.
- Payer support: These systems should incorporate robust payer integration, along with connectivity to all external out-of-network providers. This will help patients make financially sound decisions about their care, Chou writes.
- Remote monitoring integration: Chou notes that with patients increasingly being prescribed medical devices to monitor their health remotely from home, enterprise telehealth systems will need to integrate this monitoring function into their platform.
- Easy access to videoconferencing: Patients should be able to access video visits without having to install a third-party videoconferencing app, he argues. He recommends a solution in which patients can click a link and bring the video visit up using the web browser of their choice.
One issue Chou’s blog item doesn’t address the matter of integrating telehealth encounter data with other records stored in the EHR. It seems like something of a major oversight given the all-consuming importance of maintaining accurate, detailed and thorough patient records to both providing good care and getting paid for that care.
It could be that he considers the short summaries providers create after telehealth consults are sufficient to serve the purposes at hand. This may in fact the case when a visit involves a short meeting addressing an uncomplicated condition or a routine follow-up.
However, it seems to me that as the volume of telehealth grows and the complexity of those services rises, it will become necessary to capture those consults in greater detail, and in a manner that integrates smoothly with the existing data structure of an EHR.
This may call for a new telehealth data taxonomy. For example, we’ll have to decide how to classify the video assets generated by a video visit, taking into account future demands for this resource which may not even exist as of yet. Without providing such additional granularity in how we classify these assets, we lost the chance to build upon the unique attribute of such media.
In any event, whether you see the above-listed items as top priorities or not, it seems clear that telehealth infrastructure has a long way to go before it’s robust enough to support a wide variety of care types effectively. If your organization hasn’t sketched out what its dream telehealth platform would look like, now is definitely the time. Plus, you can follow John’s series on telehealth features to help you as well.