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Telehealth Video Consults Affect Health IT Infrastructure

Telehealth vendor collaboration such as American Well and Philips help organizations improve their health IT infrastructure for better remote care.

telehealth in health IT infrastructure

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Telehealth is a large concern for health IT infrastructure as organizations need to make sure their digital environment can support the tools needed for successful connections through the public internet.

Using tools that can utilize different network signals and providing patients with access to the same caliber of healthcare remotely depends heavily on an IT infrastructure’s ability to securely support and manage connections. Often this includes adding telehealth specific abilities to existing apps and connected medical devices.

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

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 their healthcare provider.

The companies stressed the need to deliver the “right care at the right time to the right place.” The organizations also hope to make it easier for their tools to be used by more people by collaborating.

Philips will use American Well’s software development kit (SDK) to integrate video visits natively into several of its digital health solutions. American Well’s integrated telehealth visits will be improved via backend integration with Philips’ population health and clinical systems.

Last year, Philips began a 15-year collaboration with Banner Health, using its population health management and connected care research. Philips also utilized Banner’s clinical and operational insights to deliver collaborative integrated solutions to improve patient health.

These partnerships are giving entities insight into how to best utilize telehealth and what telehealth takes from health IT infrastructure from a cost perspective as well as a networking perspective.

The more seamless integration organizations can get, the smoother their telehealth solution will run from an infrastructure perspective.  However, entities need to consider their network infrastructure and what is needed to ensure telehealth programs are being used to their highest capacity to use these tools to their best capacity.

Video conferencing is one of the most data intensive obstacles facing telehealth. When visiting a remote patient, clinicians need a secure connection to share PHI on as well as 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.

Before different tools were available, clinicians visiting remote patients had to use the patient’s home network to connect to the network infrastructure.

“It’s all about reliable connectivity wherever we go without having to ask people for access to their networks,” Senior Analyst of Telemedicine and Video Conferencing at Children’s Mercy John Baker  explained to HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview. “Especially in patient homes, some of the population we serve just don’t have access to internet that’s fast enough or reliable enough to give us the quality we would need to do video reliably. We need to do video to make the business worthwhile.”

Not all areas have the same network coverage, which can make video conferencing difficult or impossible. This is especially apparent in rural areas where people may depend on telemedicine because they do not live in the vicinity of their healthcare provider.

Entities also need to consider cellular connections for areas that don’t have reliable or secure WiFi. Telehealth tools that can connect to the strongest signal, whether it’s WiFi or cellular, can also help significantly increase video quality.

Organizations should be on the lookout for tools that are utilizing technology to make telehealth video conferencing more effective. Improving the backend of applications used for video conferencing can not only make it more secure, but also can help make video quality better.

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