Five Tech Factors for Inpatient TelehealthBy: Ron Gaboury
When Caregility launched in 2019 we had no idea just how quickly telehealth and hybrid care would prove to be essential aspects of healthcare delivery. What we found during and since the COVID-19 pandemic is that, above and beyond connecting providers with patients at home, telehealth is also a lifeline for clinicians working within acute care settings. Provider-to-provider telemedicine kept isolated care teams connected during the pandemic and it continues to help healthcare organizations bridge care gaps today.
For many health systems, provider-to-provider telemedicine sprouted in high-acuity units like the ICU, where virtual specialists were brought in to help support care for critically ill patients. Today that hybrid care model is being replicated in additional hospital units where clinical teams are understaffed and looking for clinical reinforcement. As workforce shortages persist, provider-to-provider telemedicine allows hospitals to add specialist and nursing capacity quickly, reducing recruitment burdens and costs associated with staff relocation.
Virtual nursing, virtual patient observation, and other provider-to-provider telehealth programs connecting internal and third-party specialists, nurses, and technicians are cropping up in hospitals across the U.S. As inpatient virtual care programs multiply, technology needs are shifting from siloed use cases to enterprise-wide enablement.
As you evaluate your health system’s telemedicine strategy moving forward, here are five technology factors to keep in mind.
Single Platform – Look for a centralized telehealth platform that is adaptable enough to support a variety of clinical use cases to avoid investment redundancies. Begin by launching one virtual workflow and then expand virtual care programs out organically over time to keep changes manageable.
Device Fleet – Identify the key telehealth endpoint features needed for various care acuity settings: Will you use mobile carts, tablets, or wall-mounted systems? Do you need cameras that zoom in enough for virtual clinicians to read a syringe or wristband, or is a camera that gives a broad view of the room and its participants acceptable? Look for solutions that centralize and simplify fleet management.
Connected Health Integrations – EHR-integrated telehealth keeps internal clinicians in their native environment and brings clinical data into the virtual visit for remote clinicians. Consider what additional peripheral resources you want to include, such as digital stethoscopes, remote patient monitoring devices, clinical decision support tools, and language interpreter services.
Network Assessment – Early on in the process, conduct an assessment of your IT infrastructure to ensure that your network is optimized for always-on virtual care environments. Be mindful of the ways wi-fi and security protocol can disrupt virtual care and plan accordingly to guard against downtime.
Ease of Use – Look for a platform that allows care team members to easily bring other clinicians into calls. Device-agnostic platforms that offer a consistent user experience across desktop and mobile devices promote adoption. This can be particularly valuable in hybrid staffing models that require collaboration between on-site and remote clinical staff.