COVID surges around the country showed that sometimes hospitals and healthcare providers need to get a mobile telehealth solution up and running or expanded quickly — and in times like those, the best telehealth solutions may not require carts or extra telehealth equipment.
Mobile telehealth systems offer a less complex, less time consuming and less costly alternative to dedicated hardware networks for organizations aiming to develop a stronger telehealth presence and harness virtual technology to enhance the efficiency, safety and quality of care.
Besides virtual visits, mobile technology which can run on the devices on hand provides opportunities to support remote patient monitoring, bolster communication and collaboration among clinicians and specialties, replace lost revenue due to fewer in-person visits, and explore new patient-centered revenue streams such as subscription concierge services.
Following are six factors to look for when evaluating an effective mobile telehealth solution.
Evaluating Telehealth Mobile Solutions
A long-term telehealth solution flexible enough to support future expansion
A mobile solution may be quicker to stand up than the alternatives, but don’t lose sight of your organization’s larger, long-term view. Consider a multi-faceted solution flexible enough to accommodate a variety of inpatient and outpatient services and which can expand as your organization’s goals, priorities and services change.
Putting technological band-aids on a variety of different problems as they arise can create the same kind of fragmentation that virtual technology seeks to prevent.
In addition, approach the evaluation and implementation of a mobile telemedicine solution with an expanded view of telehealth’s possibilities. Telehealth is more than virtual office visits in ambulatory environments. Mobile platforms can also be used in a variety of inpatient settings to support remote consults between clinicians within and across facilities. It can also facilitate safely distanced communication with patients in infectious environments and much more.
A telehealth solution that is purpose built for healthcare
Work with a telehealth solution provider who understands the complex and unique workflows, processes and procedures of a clinical environment.
When the pandemic began, many organizations scrambled to cobble together systems using a variety of platforms that were not designed specifically for healthcare. Many of these makeshift telehealth systems raised concerns about privacy and caused other glitches, not only because they were rolled out quickly, but also because they were never intended to be used in healthcare. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Look for a telehealth platform with clinical leaders who work closely with software developers, firmware engineers, and point-of-care device selection.
A user-friendly interface which doesn’t require patients to download an app.
Telehealth software or mobile applications that aren’t simple won’t be used. They’ll be resented, and that resentment could end up interfering with care.
Asking patients to set up an account and fill out forms online to download an app only adds unnecessary clutter, time and frustration to a process that should be streamlined, uncomplicated and even pleasant. Ideally, you want to be able to send patients a direct link on their mobile devices that allows them to connect to their doctor or nurse with a single click. Patients, including those who are less computer savvy, may avoid an appointment altogether rather than face the hindrance of trying to make a connection.
Clinicians also appreciate, and work more effectively and efficiently with, a simple, intuitive interface with high quality video and audio that reliably connects them with their patients and colleagues in remote locations.
Clinician involvement in implementation and workflow development
It’s a fundamental truth of health information technology that any system must be designed with input from and consideration for the needs of the end users. The same holds true for the best telehealth solutions for healthcare.
In what departments will you be using the technology now and in the future? How does the technology need to be adjusted to fit the specific needs and workflows of different departments and locations? Are the telehealth devices at the patient’s bedside going to be used by patients, by staff or both? Should the patient to be able to call to request a video visit or staff attention? Auto-answer a video call? [Spoiler alert — yes to all!]
HIPAA-compliant security features
Though healthcare providers are not subject to penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules that occur in the delivery of telehealth services during the pandemic, cybercriminals have been working to take advantage of the vulnerability in the current environment, which means healthcare organizations must protect their systems and their patients from these rising threats; hence, the need for a vendor whose offerings have HIPAA-compliant cybersecurity features baked in.
A partner that is a cultural match for your organization
Is your health system more independent or do you prefer a closer, more collaborative, long-term partnership? Some organizations prefer to take a product and run with it, handling testing, implementation and training primarily on their own. Others prefer a vendor that’s joined at the hip with them and prepared to be deeply involved every step of the way.
Know your organization’s and your potential partner’s culture and expectations for the relationship in deciding whether you’re a good fit for each other. A mismatch can cause discomfort and jeopardize an implementation.
The rapid expansion of telehealth services kickstarted by the pandemic has forever changed the face of clinical care and patient expectations for how that care should be delivered. Healthcare providers would be wise to weigh the potential benefits of incorporating mobile telemedicine solutions into their larger telehealth expansion plans.
To see how Caregility expanded telehealth for two organizations, please see our Resources page.