Virtual care became crucial during the pandemic.
What might be unexpected is that patients really liked virtual appointments and want to have the ability to have them moving forward. A survey conducted by Accenture indicated nine of 10 patients reported the quality of care during a virtual appointment was as good or better than before the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 60% said they want to use technology in the future. They found telemedicine to be more convenient and timely than in-person visits.
If telemedicine is here to stay, is your practice’s technology optimized to support long-term use?
What infrastructure is needed to support telemedicine?
You need a set of devices to connect with patients. Some of this hardware you may already have on hand:
- Network Bandwidth. For video conferencing, you want to ensure optimal bandwidth speeds. Additionally, you must also have the right network redundancy in place in the event of an outage.
- Telemedicine relies heavily on video. A quality microphone and camera help reduce issues. Most laptops have built-in cameras that work fine. However, if you have an older laptop or a desktop without a camera, you want to invest in a top brand.
- Remote patient monitoring devices. Many monitoring devices are small and inexpensive enough that patients can bring them home to help monitor their health. These devices could include smartwatches, blood pressure cuffs, ECG devices, or thermometers.
- Workstations and workspaces. You might consider setting up a separate space specifically for telemedicine appointments.
If you decide to keep existing endpoint equipment, make sure to use software that is compatible with a variety of devices.
What is the best platform?
While devices are important, platforms require extra attention and consideration. You first should define what needs the technology will meet. When considering platforms, make sure they meet your needs but also are able to scale if needed. If you have clear expectations of the telehealth program goals, it will help you find a satisfactory platform.
In the healthcare industry, the platform must:
- Be HIPAA compliant (obtain documentation).
- Maintain sufficient connectivity.
- Establish minimum bandwidth needed by platform and location.
- Offer necessary bandwidth at peak times.
- Prompt speeds for upload and download capabilities.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when picking a platform. You want to make sure it is optimized for your devices, meets all your needs, and is healthcare compliant.
What are security concerns?
Another consideration across all infrastructure is security.
Remote work introduces new cyber risks. It is necessary for your organization to be familiar with the different types of risks and approaches to handling them. Consider the following:
- Does a policy exist governing the use of personal devices?
- Is two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication enabled on all connections and/or services?
- Is the company firewall configured properly for allowing in employees but keeping out hackers?
- Have you trained your employees in cyber threats so they can identify phishing scams?
You want to ensure your company’s data is secure no matter the employee’s location.
How do you prepare staff?
The move to telemedicine may have been unexpected, but if you plan to continue using it after the pandemic, staff training and adoption are vital.
If telemedicine becomes a part of your regular practice, it is essential to identify how telemedicine will fit within the current workflow. Some questions to ask include:
- When will the practice offer telemedicine appointments? A certain day? Based on patients’ needs?
- Will there be a room or space specifically for telemedicine appointments? Do you have the proper setup in this space?
- How will staff make this work with the workflow?
Training is key. You need to make sure all staff members who will conduct telemedicine know how to use all tools involved.
It seems that patients appreciate the flexibility of virtual appointments. If you decide to continue to offer telemedicine, you will need to carefully evaluate your devices, platforms, security, and training for your staff.
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