Telehealth systems, such as virtual triage assistants, are helping healthcare providers across the industry give their patients efficient access to care guidance from the comfort of their homes.
The benefits of these systems are numerous. They reduce lines and crowds in waiting rooms, can guide patients to the right care in some cases more efficiently than a GP or nurse practitioner can, reduce demands on hospital staff’s time, and during COVID-19 have allowed patients to get assessed without going to the medical office in person and risking exposure.
In fact, the pandemic has greatly accelerated the development of telehealth, which, according to Mckinsey, will become a "A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality.”
As the vaccine becomes more widely available and we enter the new, post-pandemic normal, those organizations who have already positioned themselves to react to changing customer expectations will be handsomely rewarded, while those who have not will be stuck playing catch-up.
As the saying goes, the best time to build a telehealth system for your organization was yesterday, but the second best time is now.
Pros of Telehealth Services for Organizations
The benefits and efficiency gains telehealth can provide organizations with are massive. While these systems had until recently been in their infancy, the Covid-19 pandemic has massively accelerated the development and implementation of telehealth systems. The pandemic is now thankfully drawing to a close, but telehealth isn’t going anywhere.
According to research data, almost $250 bn. Of current US healthcare spending could be on telehealth services in the coming years.
Let’s take a look at some of the major telehealth pros for organizations
Increased Patient Engagement and Satisfaction
With features like appointment reminder text messages, online booking and bill pay, telehealth apps can give your patients a smoother, more streamlined experience with your organization, leaving them more satisfied and more likely to stay with you as provider.
In addition to the fact that telehealth allows patients to conduct many appointments from their homes, also decreases no-show rates. This is another of the key advantages of telehealth.
AI Triage Models and Implementation
AI triage assists are one of the most useful telehealth systems you can build, which enables you to take advantage of the benefits of telehealth nursing. first step in developing an AI triage assistant is to decide what model of assistant you want to build and how you are going to implement it within the overall delivery model of your organization.
For example, a small private practice will take a different approach than a hospital, and the resources they need will vary. You’ll need to choose the model and tech stake that best fits your needs.
Choosing a Tech Stack
When building a Telehealth system for your organization, you’ll have to be sure to choose the right tech stack, or more realistically, several tech stacks to build the system.
Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used tech stacks in Telehealth. While could talk about specific programming languages here, that’s something that your software development partner can go into in more detail with you. For now, we’ll keep it big picture.
“In the post-pandemic era, telehealth is here to stay. Now more than ever, its important for providers not just to offer remote care, but to define how it is going figure into their overall organisational strategy going forward. To succeed in this, a strong technical foundation is necessary.”
— Vlad Medvedovsky, Founder and CEO at Proxet (ex - Rails Reactor), a software development solutions company
AI or machine learning, is the technology that enables computers to recognize and act on patterns. The applications of this in telemedicine are numerous.
One of the most common applications of AI in telehealth is chatbots.
AI-based chatbots feature allow patients to quickly access diagnostics and triage. The app uses natural language processing to identify symptoms input by the user, asses risk levels, and recommend a course of action. A chatbot can be a standalone app or integrated into a broader one.
AI also automates data entry and sort EHRs, reducing physician’s workloads. There are also pros and cons of EHR systems, which you will want to carefully evaluate before deciding which one to use.
Big Data technology
Patients generate enormous amounts of data each day in the form of patient reports, data collected from wearables, and any interaction they have with you as a provider or your app.
By using machine learning to analyze this data, you can leverage this information into your greatest asset.
And keep in mind, not all the big data analysis you do needs to be directly related to treatment and symptoms. For example, if you have a telehealth app with a broad user base, even just tracking patterns in how your users interact with the app may reveal areas where you can create greater efficiencies.
As telemedicine is based on the concept of remote healthcare, that means that you will be transferring sensitive patient data over the internet. This creates security and compliance risks that you need to be aware of.
One way to remedy this issue is to encrypt patient data packets on the blockchain. This allows for more security and verification.
Though remember, when it comes to patient data, be sure to check your local laws to ensure compliance. If the blockchain isn’t approved for this function in your jurisdiction, then you are better off going with a more traditional encryption solution.
Cloud storage and Cloud Computing
Cloud storage and cloud computing are both necessary tools for supporting any telemedicine project.
The application of cloud storage is obvious, no matter if you are a small private practice or a hospital-size institution, you won’t be able to fit a whole server farm on your premises. This where cloud storage comes in. Almost every major name in tech offers cloud storage solutions for businesses, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.
Cloud computing is what you’ll need to leverage the Big Data and Machine Learning technologies we mentioned earlier, as it simply is not possible to analyze data at scale and with daily-use computers. You’ll need to outsource this to an orgnanization dedicated to providing raw computing power.
AR and VR
Telemedicine apps can use video app features and tools to diagnose patients. VR and AR technology can help the doctor to make remote diagnoses
Another place this comes in is in conference calls, where doctors can use VR and AR to as visual aids when discussing a patient’s case remotely.
The internet of things has significant Telehealth applications. For example, wearables can be connected to the app, and alert both the user and medical professionals if a health event occurs. For example, if a user's cholesterol suddenly increases or there is a sharp change in blood pressure, a wearable can instruct the user to go to the hospital now, meaning they will get treatment before a heart attack occurs, greatly increasing their chances of survival.
The Cons of Telehealth Services
Earlier we looked at the benefits of using telehealth systems, but there are some disadvantages of telemedicine as well, which we’ll cover below.
Not Everything Can be Done Remotely
Medicine is a fundamentally physical field, which means that there are some things which will never be able to be done remotely.
Blood tests, surgery (for the most part), physical therapy, and many other types of visits can only be done in person.
Electronic Transmission of Medical Data
This is another one of the cons of telehealth services. While there are encryption steps you can take to mitigate this, it is still a fact of the matter that transmitting patient data remotely creates certain risks.
This is especially a concern if you are using 3rd party apps and integrations as part of your telehealth system. You can’t control what 3rd parties do with data, and whether or not their HIIPA compliance practices are up to date.
One of the negative aspects of telemedicine is that as telehealth has exploded during the Covid-19 pandemic, some insurance companies are a bit behind the curve, and don’t cover telehealth services.
This is why you need to be aware of whether or not insurers in the area you operate usually cover telehealth or not. If no, if you move services over to telehealth you may actually lose patients, as this care won’t be covered and they will have to find another provider.
Building a telehealth system that meets your organization’s needs is only half the battle. Once you have it, you’ll need to figure out exactly which of your services and processes you will migrate to telehealth and how you will do this.
This entails buying new equipment, training staff, and creating a communications campaign to address potential patient concerns about remote care — older adults especially may be sceptical of computers and will need to be reassured that they will get the same quality of care as they would in person.
Budget will also have to be allocated for the ongoing costs that cloud computing, cloud storage, and software development staff will create.
Getting Started in Telehealth
At the beginning, starting a telehealth program can be overwhelming. But its not something you have to do on your own.
At Proxet, we have deep experience in custom software development solutions, AI triage assistants, and other telehealth solutions for enterprise. If you are looking for a technical partner to help you get your telehealth program up and running, please get in touch.
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