Telehealth: The New Frontier
Tremendous market growth and improvements in video technology are having a residual effect on healthcare and the rise of telehealth – a broad term used to incorporate the myriad ways video is used beyond telemedicine (traditional diagnosing and monitoring). Some ways the healthcare industry applies video includes:
- Remote diagnosing and consultations
- Educational kiosks
- Chronic illness management i.e. diabetes
- Home health care including caregiver collaboration
The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has established initiatives, and state and federal agencies are approving reimbursements surrounding telemedicine to providers. Video is a way to improve access, engagement and often quality and continuity of care in a value-based environment. There is some suggestion that greater patient engagement drives Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores up, demonstrating increased patient satisfaction, and telehealth is one way to boost engagement.
Presently over 40 states have legislation for video and telemedicine. There are many approved services for assessing, diagnosing, consulting, treating and educating through video. Providers can capitalize on the use of video for peer and patient consults, education, remote diagnostics/follow-up appointments, and behavioral health, i.e., psychological counseling.
At one time, telemedicine was thought mostly useful for rural settings where distance was the dominant factor. Today, treatments have been expanded to include alcohol abuse, smoking cessation and depression. Video is considered very relevant in improving provider performance in this new, value-based healthcare environment. Medicare / Medicaid has also developed initiatives for providers who are innovating usage of telehealth services as legislation continues to be written and enacted by states and at the federal level. At present, provider eligibility for telehealth includes physicians and assistants, nurses and nurse practitioners, educators, and counselors, among other health professionals.
Beyond the increasing legislation surrounding it, demand for more video interaction is also expected to increase as people see more common uses for the commercialized ways they use video daily such as with Skype for Business or Cisco Jabber. With these types of video interactions, healthcare providers must always be aware of patient safety and protecting vital data. Compliance is securing, monitoring and documenting patient health information (PHI) before, during, and after usage and transmission. Covered entities must take precautions to handle information in ways that are HIPAA compliant. Therefore, video applications used in healthcare must maintain patient confidentiality and consideration. Additionally, the mode of delivery is significant, since few video cloud solution providers are currently HIPAA compliant.