Telehealth technology falls into several categories.
First, there’s the critical communication technology. This is the technology used to connect the endpoints of the Telehealth encounter. There are several options. The classic H.323 connections are probably the best-known technologies, connecting videoconferencing equipment via secure, encrypted, often dedicated connections. Recently, Internet-based systems have stated to take market share. These systems use the commodity Internet to transmit data and are often less expensive than the videoconferencing equipment that was the standard for several years. We suggest that if you are considering the Internet-based solutions, you investigate their ability to comply with HIPAA regulations regarding the security of Protected Health Information (PHI), as the level of HIPAA compatibility is often unclear with some solutions.
Second, Telehealth Technology includes instruments and cameras used to measure and transmit patient information. Whether these be digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, retinal cameras, or other devices, selecting the right equipment is a challenge. We suggest you take a look at the Telehealth Technology Assessment Telehealth Resource Center (TTAC). Our colleagues at TTAC will be happy to help you learn to evaluate equipment to meet your network’s special needs.
Clinical Services - Patient consults can be provided in two modes:
Live Real Time - provides live patient to provider encounters.
Store and Forward - allows specialists to review patient findings at convenient times without depending on the presence of the patient.
Patient and Clinical Education Services - Educational Services can be provided through a Telehealth Network. Networks provide up-to-date and timely continuation education opportunities to healthcare providers and patients.
Video Conferencing Support - Video conferencing allows face-to-face meetings while eliminating employee travel expenses.
NRTRC has recently conducted a poll of our member networks, asking what Telehealth specialties are provided in their states. The list is pretty impressive, and this is probably not wholly complete. But a look at the list will give you a good idea of what’s possible with Telehealth. In fact, there are very few limits to what can be done with technology.
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Emergency Care
- Intensive Care
- Burn Care
- Pediatric Emergency
- Behavioral Health
- Remote care of chronic illness (diabetes, COPD, heart failure, etc.)
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Pre- /Post-surgical care
- Primary care
- Virtual “Walk-in” Clinic
- Ultrasound imaging
- Echo Cardiography stress test
- Neurology (non-stroke)
- Adult Speech Therapy
- Wound Care
- Case Management (hepatitis C)
- Case Management (advanced liver disease)
- Case Management (tumor conferences)
- Case Management (substance abuse and mental health)
- Education (Grand Rounds, didactic education, etc.)
This list is not exhaustive, but it will give a good view of what’s possible with Telehealth and, hopefully, stimulate some ideas about what your network can do for your patients.
Commonly Used Telehealth Platforms