Telemedicine and Unified Communications

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Telemedicine is the way practitioners leverage Unified Communications (UC) such as voice, video, and IM, to perform patient evaluations and consultations, educate and train, or even perform remote surgery. Think of telemedicine as a bridge that eliminates barriers to care caused by physical impairments or distance.

In America alone, over 15 million people will be treated through telemedicine this year and big organizations such as Walgreens and United Health Group are leading the push. None of which would be possible without the collection of services offered by UC. Today’s health services utilizing UC to engage in telemedicine are at the forefront of progressive medicine. However, these advances require high security and compliance measures.

Patient interactions that include active monitoring of various vital signs and physiological levels can now be powered by UC. Clinicians can take smartphones or tablets into the field to perform evaluations. Practitioners can set patients up with corresponding equipment that sends alerts when levels such as blood pressure or blood glucose are not within normal limits or provide reminders for taking medication and sending reports from bottles equipped with sensors that track dispersal. Smartphones are also useful within telemedicine by allowing home care through the use of the phone's technology such as taking a picture or video of the affected area and sending to the health practitioner for diagnosing or subsequent prescribing.

The issue surrounding transmitting vital patient records has to do with regulatory compliance with federal HIPAA laws. These established standards for maintaining the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI) are more easily adhered to when the health care organization has taken measures toward compliance. A solution such as Collaboration Recording from ISI’s partner, Verba Technologies, will allow recordings to be partitioned and stored on protected servers and away from mobile devices such as phones, tablets, or laptops, which may be lost or stolen.

UC is allowing patients to have their medical and health queries answered on the fly through interactive phone calls. Suppose a patient that is going in for surgery still has unanswered questions. A phone bank of information is stored with in-depth answers to all aspects of various procedures. This information bank can be accessed without having to wait to hear back from the surgeon all thanks to UC.

However, what about direct patient communication? UC has an answer for that as well. In instances when the health care practice is communicating directly with patients, Collaboration Recording can keep a record of all crucial conversations that can be accessed when needed. When used as a protective feature, Collaboration Recording helps with malpractice as well as Medicare/Medicaid fraud, by having a record of all consultative provider-patient interactions.

The overarching theme of the advancement of UC into healthcare is maintaining compliance in the regulatory landscape of HIPAA as well as protection from lawsuits due to malpractice. There are countless ways to leverage the technology of UC to propel telemedicine into the stratosphere for modern healthcare. In an industry plagued by out of control spending, UC can help with productivity and cost reductions. Overall, telemedicine aims to improve access to care and quality of care and UC is helping it meet those goals.

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Darlene Jackson is a published writer with many years of experience in digital publishing, advertising, and public relations. Her diverse assignments include stints with Chicago Public Media, The Chicago Tribune, and various print and online media and communication outlets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree at Northwestern University.

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