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Health IT Infrastructure Supports Successful Telemedicine Programs

Successful telemedicine programs depend heavily on health IT infrastructure and how the remote patients and clinicians can access the network.

telemedicine, health IT infrastructure

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Health IT infrastructure is significantly impacted by the growing popularity of telemedicine, with clinicians and patients able to take advantage of innovative tools.

Organizations are deploying telemedicine programs to cut back on costs associated with patients visiting care providers. These programs also help patients in rural areas get access to care without having to travel.

Patient convenience and cutting back costs are two benefits of telemedicine, but setting up a successful telemedicine program from an infrastructure perspective needs a significant amount of attention.

Organizations need to consider how clinicians and patients are securely connecting to the network remotely. Entities also need to know how strong that connection is to support video streaming and other data intensive telemedicine needs.

The telemedicine market is expected to reach almost $64 million by 2022 as more healthcare organizations build telehealth programs, according to a recent Research and Markets report. An increasing population, more people living with chronic disease, and the desire for people to consult with specialists that aren’t in their area also fuel the telemedicine rise.

Telemedicine also assists interoperability efforts by offering a channel for different healthcare providers to communicate on the same platform, the report found.

Telemedicine was also one of the most funded healthcare technologies last year as VC saw the potential value and demand for it.

Telemedicine is about reliable connectivity no matter where the clinician or patient are located. Unreliable connectivity will prevent any telemedicine program from being successful, according to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

“Telemedicine is not like a business conference where you can tolerate some poor quality and metal through it,” Director of Telemedicine at Children’s Mercy Morgan Waller told HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview. “Poor quality connection is a total dealbreaker for us.”

“When we need to be at an access hospital or someone’s home, it’s very difficult to implement different security systems,” Waller continued. “If it’s an access hospital, you need to meet with their IT and there’s troubleshooting - it takes days or even weeks to set up.”

Rural areas can potentially gain the most from telemedicine because patients in those areas can’t easily travel to their care provider. Many rural areas also don’t have reliable connectivity and are in areas with poor wireless and cellular coverage.

Organizations have to compensate for lack of coverage and set up telemedicine programs that can take advantage of whichever signal is the strongest and most reliable in the area.

This may require organizations to have several contracts with different cellular or wireless providers in different areas, which can be especially complex for larger healthcare organizations.

Health IT vendors are currently working to improve connectivity, especially for teleconferencing where patients and clinicians have the most trouble getting a reliable signal.

For example Royal Philips and American Well recently announced their partnership to deliver virtual care solutions to remote patients, via video consults and applications.

Video conferencing is one of the most data intensive obstacles facing telehealth. When visiting a remote patient, clinicians need a secure connection on which to share PHI. Clinicians also need a reliable connection so the video is clear.

Unsecure connections can have large consequences for organizations and low-quality connections can render telehealth services useless.

The partnership will embed American Well’s mobile telehealth services into several Philips’ solutions. By combining their services, the companies aim to provide a better consumer experience that will help patients better manage their health without needing to travel to providers.

Organizations need to consider tools that will ensure clear a reliable remote network access. Simply setting up a web cam on a standard Wi-Fi or cellular connection may not be enough for clinicians to remotely talk to and treat patients. Entities need to make sure they have the correct infrastructure tools to support a successful telemedicine program. 

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