“Telehealth,” a term widely used in healthcare, is, generally, a simple concept that means organizations possess the capability of delivering treatment, health information, or other health services through some form of telecommunication technology.
Telehealth technologies include video conferencing, mobile apps, remote patient monitoring devices, and electronic exchange of health information from a patient to a medical provider. Other technologies that support the exchange of health information include video conferencing, the Internet, store-and-forward imaging devices, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.
The definition of “telehealth” is, in a nutshell, care provided by a nurse or other caregiver to a remote, off-site patient through telecommunications technology.
While telehealth is the remote delivery of healthcare to patients, there a variety of concepts that “make” telehealth happen. Perhaps the most common of these are interactive medicine, store-and-forward of information, and remote patient monitoring.
Interactive medicine is the ability of the patient and his or her nurse, physician, or caregiver to communicate in real-time, no matter the distance between them while maintaining HIPAA compliance.
Store-and-forward is the collecting of clinical information and sending the information electronically to another physician for evaluation. This information typically includes demographic data, medical history, documents, such as laboratory reports, and image, video and sound files.
Remote patient monitoring capabilities allow caregivers to monitor remote patients by using mobile medical devices to collect data (e.g., blood sugar or blood pressure). Remote monitoring technology can be used for a host of patients, from newborns to the elderly, in an outpatient setting. Remote patient monitoring allows health systems to monitor ongoing health conditions of the patient, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and even COPD, for example.
Telehealth manifests in several forms, each driven by the need to connect with patients despite their location. Telehealth is health data collection and health data transfer, and communication between caregiver and patient. Because of this wide definition, there are many different types of telehealth. The following are some of the most prominent:
Remote Patient Monitoring. Beginning with a critical reason for telehealth’s being is remote patient monitoring. Remote patient monitoring allows caregivers the ability to monitor patients’ health remotely. Remote patient monitoring is a highly effective method of caring for patients when outpatient care is not feasible. Also, when the patient’s health condition is not life-threatening especially chronic conditions –– for example, diabetes and COPD –– remote patient monitoring cuts down the time a patient spends in the hospital, when necessary, and lets them recover in an outpatient setting.
Remote patient monitoring technology shares patient medical data regularly with the patient’s care team. This technology transmits the information automatically, leading to active ongoing care monitoring in a more passive data collection process. If any problems with the patient arise, members of the care team can respond immediately. Telehealth technology practically exists in these situations. Letting patients self-monitor and report regularly to their caregiver alleviates burdens on the health system and allows for resources to be spent on more pressing issues.
Store-and-forward. Store-and-forward telehealth is another primary reason for telehealth being. Store-and-forward telehealth makes patient records and medical data more accessible across long distances. Medical data, including images, test results, bio-signals, lab reports, and substantial documents can be acquired and transmitted (stored-and-forwarded) across great distances. Also, this method doesn’t require simultaneous attention of the delivering and receiving parties. The information can be sent and received at separate times and collection points. A caregiver can collect the data, upload it and send it, and leave the data for review by another provider at a later time.
Real-time Telemedicine. Real-time telehealth means real-time care between a doctor and patient at any time from anywhere. Real-time telehealth includes any two-way communications involving a connection via video conferencing and phone consultations, that connect providers and patients. Assessments of medical history, visual examinations for many health conditions, psychiatric evaluations, and other types of care can be carried out through real-time telehealth.
Physician-to-physician consultations. Through telehealth technologies, physicians can connect to provide a broader range of care. For example, a primary physician can easily access a specialist without the need for travel, but with more clarity than just a phone. Physicians also can gain greater access to a broader range of specialists that they may have at their immediate disposal. Telehealth creates the ability to share patient information quickly and can improve patient outcomes in part because of the immediacy of the care available.
Medical Imaging. Modern telehealth technology accelerates how X-rays, scans, and other images are shared between locations. By sharing these images, they can be reviewed at any time by any licensed radiologist connected to the system. Thus, patients are no longer at the mercy of their local radiologist for review of their images. Many organizations contract with networks of radiologists all over the country, who review images remotely as required. For example, a hospital produces an image onsite, transmits the image to a cardiologist across the country, and received a response and analysis within a short time versus days or weeks.
Telehealth technology should be secure and protect patient privacy and meet the strict patient protections required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Systems like Skype and FaceTime are not HIPAA-compliant so are not appropriate for telehealth use.
Telehealth is rapidly expanding as the technologies allow care to improve. Telemedicine offers patients and caregivers many benefits, including reduced costs; patients receiving better access to more caregivers in underserved areas; better quality and continuity of care; and faster and more timely treatment.
In rural areas, telehealth connects patients to services at a distant site, reducing travel times and unnecessary commutes. Telemedicine also helps reduce any physician shortages in these areas since patients can get connected to caregivers in any number of places outside their home communities.
Telehealth can also improve patient-provider communications, patient self-management of a condition, patient health literacy, patient medication management, and changes in patient health and lifestyle behavior.
Telehealth is altering healthcare and has done so quickly. More communication and information sharing between patients and medical professionals lead to better quality of care and outcomes — telehealth redefines how providers and patients connect. Telehealth allows for better engagement, and, ultimately, more access to better care.
Quality communication with the patient is critical, which is at the heart of telehealth. At Tiger Connect, we understand that patients are at their most vulnerable leading up to, during, and after a clinical event and that they have lots of questions. But, access to their doctor can be limited, especially pre- and post-appointment.
TigerConnect Patient Engagement approaches patient communication innovatively by pushing provider-initiated care information via secure text message to the patient’s preferred device. We open conversations between physicians and patients outside the confines of physical location and support telehealth initiatives and telehealth-provided care. Additionally, with TigerConnect Patient Engagement, there are no portals or logins required, which improves care and increases communication between provider and patient.
With TigerConnect, health systems can communicate directly with patients through video, voice, and text. Our solution, TigerConnect Patient Engagement, helps patients become more active in their care, and interact with physicians, nurses, case managers, and home health caregivers. This level of connection is critical for modern healthcare.
Healthcare organizations that connect caregivers and patients see improvements in outcomes, patient safety, cost reduction, and staff satisfaction.
See how TigerConnect helps 6,000+ healthcare teams collaborate seamlessly across the hall or across the health system.
TigerConnect is healthcare’s most widely adopted communication platform – uniquely modernizing care collaboration among doctors, nurses, patients, and care teams. TigerConnect is the only solution that combines a consumer-like user experience for text, video, and voice communication with serious security, privacy, and clinical workflow requirements that today’s healthcare organizations demand. TigerConnect accelerates productivity, reduces costs, and improves patient outcomes.
Trusted by more than 6,000 healthcare organizations, TigerConnect maintains 99.99% verifiable uptime and processes more than 10 million messages each day. To learn more about TigerConnect visit www.tigerconnect.com.