Telehealth is a new trend in which healthcare providers and patients use methodologies, technologies, and information to access healthcare services remotely, limiting face to face interactions.
Consumer preferences are shifting rapidly to remote services. The critical mobility aspect required by healthcare services and the ease in regulations has ignited the ecosystem for the development of connected health services.
Social distancing behaviors have created a necessity in consumers and the willingness to adopt telemedicine at an unprecedented pace. Many healthcare providers have been investing and planning in digital channels. But due to the new market conditions, suppliers are being forced to catch up before being left behind.
The telehealth ecosystem is having a good momentum and trending factors that could set in and become the new normal beyond Covid-19. It is very attractive for new entrant startups and partnerships.
The use of telehealth solutions is evolving in telemedicine, telemonitoring, nursing, consultations, dermatology, psychiatry, etc. Many of these terms are often confused or misunderstood.
- Telehealth is a broader term that refers to the use and distribution of remote healthcare services such as medical care, education, self-services, technologies, etc. This term is used interchangeably with telemedicine.
- Telemedicine is the delivery of healthcare services remotely using video conferencing tool. Some categories of telemedicine are teleconsultation, teleradiology, and teledermatology.
- mHealth (mobile health) is the medical practice using mobile devices
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM) (Telemonitoring) refers to the transmission of data collected from devices directly from the patient to the provider. Integration of data, storage, and applications deployed. The most common uses in-patient monitoring are blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, blood sugar, dialysis, etc.
- Mobile-enabled remote patient monitoring (mRPM) refers to the increase in efficiency and costs using a mobile app, providing benefits such as automated schedules, biometrics, easy data entry, notifications, appointment information, engagement, reminders, etc.
- Telenursing is the use of technologies to provide nursing services to remote patients. One of the most known applications is homecare.
- E-visit is an online exchange via secure communication of medical information between a patient and a physician or assistant to evaluate conditions that lead to diagnosis and treatment.
Telemedicine is booming now due to the current pandemic situation, and patients are demanding virtual services. Furthermore, Medicare and Medicaid have recently expanded their coverage to telehealth practice.
It is estimated that once customers become accustomed to receiving remote services, it will be difficult to go back unless there is a severe condition.
- Lowering healthcare costs. Reduces cost for patients, health care organizations, large corporations, insurance companies, etc.
- Chronic disease management. Increases data and clinical workflow efficiencies in managing chronic patients.
- Seamless integration with health information systems. Improving performance using data analytics and reducing data silos.
- Improves consumer’s access to healthcare. More people can receive attention regardless of location or mobility capacities.
- Contributes to deploy healthcare manpower shortage efficiently. Healthcare jobs performed from just about anywhere.
- Optimization of Resources. Matching healthcare resources with patient’s needs by notifying healthcare workers of assignments; Automation of resource assignments.
There are many challenges for healthcare organizations to design and develop mobile health solutions. A comprehensive workflow analysis of healthcare provider and device data should take place to enable secure integration with health information systems such as EHR.
A Mobile App is one of the most valuable tools in the pursuit of a remote strategy for healthcare providers. Its usually the first contact point with the customer and source of data, therefore the experience should be tailored to the customer and bring outstanding results to the business and customer.
There are many services involved in the process of telemedicine, and some can be outsourced, but developing a branded mobile app will provide the most flexibility and adaption for long term success.
The mobile app captures data from wearables and connects with healthcare. The design should consider technical interoperability between IT systems, must be device compatible, share data repositories, and provide administrative support. Also, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are significant for engagement and interpretation of device data.
App development solutions should have a patient-centered design approach and consider partnerships with other software vendors, health systems, and insurance companies to integrate efficiently and have the capability of processing large amounts of data regardless of source.
Some of the most innovative capabilities of telemedicine apps for end-users are virtual visits, summaries of care, medications, lab results, prescription refills, bills, link health apps, sleep habits, etc.
Interoperability and Connectivity
Healthcare systems have platforms that continuously stream data from devices and integrate with third parties. The communication methods used for transmitting data is usually proprietary from the vendor, making it difficult to share across platforms.
When building a mobile app, and planning the network architecture, it is worth to consider the implementation of Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) standards, HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, and ONC’s Interoperability Standards Advisory. Also, checking companies such as Epic, Allscripts, and Cerner is a good source of information.
Telehealth is a key digital transformation solution, and players must gain synergies and form partnerships to obtain results. Players capitalizing on healthcare digital transformation are health systems and hospitals, telemedicine providers, medical devices and software, consumer devices, employers, provider startups, private insurers, insurance startups, retail clinics, health maintenance organizations, etc.
Many successful tools in the market are open to integrating with third parties and should be considered when building a mobile app.
Healthcare Solutions in the marketplace are full platforms, data & remote connectivity platforms, physician referral tools, recruitment platforms, HIPAA-secure dialer apps, consumer-controlled health data platforms, clinical API’s, EHR vendors, cloud services, data streaming providers, etc.
Data Sources and Analytics
As Healthcare organizations provide access to advanced technologies, they receive information that is analyzed at a personal level, predict and adjust treatment protocols with better precision. By implementing AI-driven solutions, diagnosis improves greatly, disease cause predicted earlier, and the healing process becomes more streamlined.
A team of software developers is needed to build and manage integration with platforms and obtain user-generated data. Third-party health technologies usually provide data. The software connects hundreds of devices and extracts data and builds tools that provide solutions.
Mobile apps connect with platforms already processing data and using connectivity methods such as API, OCR, Bluetooth, or SKD. The app should connect with a toolset already developed to create, integrate, and operate within existing workflows.
Evaluations are discussed with the mobile app development company. When planning a new development, it’s important to analyze the sources of data:
- Electronic Health Record (EHR) / Electronic Medical Record (EMR). It’s the electronic patient medical history readily available.
- Clinical Decision Support (CDS). It’s a health information technology system that provides clinical decision support.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). Collects medical and health data in one location and transmits to health providers in another location.
- Practice Management Software. Its use for scheduling and tracking patients, billing, claims, etc.
- Master Patient Index (MPI). It’s a patient record database that brings together records from multiple registrations.
- Document management system. Software for centralized location filing.
- Consumer Health Applications. These platforms track consumer routine and consumer activities.
- Lab Testing Information. Coordinates lab samples, testing, and results for patients.
- Clinical In-home medical devices. Internet of medical things (IoMT) connects devices and generate data.
- Health Data Aggregator. Consumer-facing applications that collect and manage health data.
- mHealth Apps / Telemedicine Apps are software applications that run on mobile devices and capture data.
IT environments are complex and depend on combinations of cloud infrastructures, managing and analyzing APIs, data, and services, so making an assessment is essential to make the right choices for the organization.
When working with health data, transferring and storage of protected health information (PHI), the development of such applications should contemplate compliance with federal laws in securing and assuring the safety of data.
Confidentiality, Privacy, and Deregulation of Telehealth
Telemedicine apps should have the appropriate implementation to protect the confidentiality and privacy of patients. The app should comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), effective immediately, is exercising enforcement discretion and not imposing penalties for noncompliance of regulatory requirements under HIPAA rules to covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public emergency.
Under HIPAA Security Rules, healthcare providers or business associates must set the standards for security, maintenance, transmission, and handling of ePHI. This rule outlines standards to keep in place for integrity and safety of ePHI, including physical, administrative, and technical safeguards. Companies should have HIPAA policies and procedures documenting the specific standards.
Although telehealth was lagging due to regulations and reluctancy, the pandemic created a risk of infection for patients at facilities, rising demand for virtual services. High demand is the main driver creating a race for brands looking to capitalize on this opportunity.
Organizations with experience in mobile health ( mHealth ) services have obtained benefits such as cost savings, low readmission rates, higher patient satisfaction and compliance, reduction in hospitalizations, reduction in ER visits, staff satisfaction, etc.
Connecting Electronic Health Records (EHR) to mobile health apps and cloud computing services creates continuous streaming of data that becomes readily available for better decision support, assessment of risks, trends, and trajectories increasing the profitability of the business.
Telemedicine is a win-win model for providers and consumers. Due to the benefits that bring to all parties, it has become an innovation arena and a new channel for delivering worldwide healthcare services.
Interoperability between electronic health records is increasing every day, and barriers are decreasing. As data moves freely between providers, vendor systems, and third-party applications, patients gain more control and a more proactive role in their health. Technology will allow customers to switch providers and continuously seek their best options.
Organizations that innovate in mobile health solutions will create new standards, better brands, profitable operations, and an overall better competitive advantage.