In this Telehealth Feature Series, we’re going to cover the long list of potential telehealth features available today. As you’re considering your own approach to telehealth, we will provide you a look at all the possible features telehealth companies are offering on the market. Plus, we’ll offer our insight into the nuances of each feature so you can select the right telehealth company or companies you use. Not all telehealth is created equal, so taking the time to understand all the possible features and options is worth the effort.
The next feature we’re going to cover is ePrescribing and Patient Education.
In some ways I shouldn’t group these together, but I think they make sense together since these are both items that are logically found in the EHR. That begs the question of why a telehealth company would incorporate these features into their telehealth platform. There’s probably a list of other features that are similar, but this should illustrate the EHR features that sometimes overlap with a telehealth platform well enough.
On the one hand, easy access to ePrescribing sounds like a great feature to have in a telehealth platform. It’s kind of like the doctor walking into the exam room with a prescription pad in their pocket. Easy access to prescribing seems like a great feature to have since it’s often the final result of a visit with a patient.
The problem here is figuring out how to track the prescription in your EHR. That’s right. Even if you do a prescription in your telehealth platform, you still need that prescription added to the note in your EHR. Does that mean you’re doing double work if you have to prescribe the medication in the telehealth platform and then again in the EHR? Either that or have an interface, but that just gets really messy really quickly. Therefore, while ePrescribing in a telehealth platform seems to make sense, most people are just going to opt to open their EHR software and write the prescription the same way they would if it was a regular office visit.
There’s one little exception here and that relates to direct to consumer telehealth companies. There are a whole group of telehealth companies that are designed to give you a prescription. They may not like me saying it that way, but that’s the reality. In most cases, it’s focused on drugs that you need regularly such as birth control, pain medications, the blue pill, etc and so they’ve created a telehealth platform with integrated prescriptions to make it easy for patients to get their prescriptions refilled. These are a topic for another day, but in this case it makes sense for them to have ePrescribing built in. In fact, some of them act as the pharmacy as well.
This telehealth feature is one that most telehealth companies haven’t thought much about. As I’ve talked to various telehealth vendors, the response has generally been, “Well, the doctor will just do what they’ve usually done.” Basically, the telehealth companies haven’t built any patient education that’s integrated with the platform and so they just pan it off on the doctor to deliver the patient education themselves.
In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. No doubt the doctor has a way to provide education to the patient after the visit, so why should the telehealth company reinvent the wheel? I think in many cases telehealth companies will be fine to not incorporate patient education into their platform and doctors won’t care either way. However, if your telehealth company is handling the majority of the communication including telehealth scheduling and patient form completion, then it begs the question why the telehealth company wouldn’t finish the communication with patient education.
The other aspect of patient education that’s interesting is education provided within the telehealth visit. I don’t know of any telehealth vendors that have incorporated patient education tools within the visit, but you could see why this could make sense. Basically, you could replicate the anatomical posters on the wall of the doctor’s office that they use to illustrate what’s happening with a patient. Things like this would make sense to make easily available to the doctor on a patient visit.
If this makes sense and would be easy to implement, why aren’t telehealth companies building this integrated in-visit patient education into their solution? The answer is simply that most are falling back on telehealth screen sharing capabilities to solve this problem. If you can share your desktop, then you can share any patient education material that you want with the patient during the visit. I expect this is how the majority of telehealth companies will approach in-visit patient education.
The overlap between features of an EHR and those of a telehealth software are something to keep an eye on. It’s also a reason why some think that a deeply integrated EHR telehealth solution is the right approach. Then, you already have all the EHR capabilities at your fingertips.