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Integration: The Essential Ingredient of a Sustainable Telehealth Strategy

In the early months of the COVID pandemic, medical facilities and their clinicians moved swiftly to adopt telehealth services. But those speedy transitions came at a cost, since many telehealth applications do not effectively integrate with systems already in place.

As a result, the use and management of many different solutions has given rise to what eVisit co-founder Miles Romney calls “tech tool fatigue” for providers. Shayan Vyas, now a Senior Vice President at Teladoc Health, acknowledged that integration was an oversight when his former organization, Nemours Children’s Health System, first adopted telehealth.

“While we were quick to realize the power and significance of telehealth, the lack of electronic health record (EHR) integration remained a missing component of the care delivery model,” Vyas told Becker’s Hospital Review. A few years later, Nemours sought and achieved that very integration.

As healthcare organizations discover that “cheaper,” one-trick pony tools cost more time (and lost revenue) in the end, they are turning their attention to the same level of integration that Nemours achieved. Here are three reasons why:

1. Telehealth integration improves the provider experience

The effective integration of telehealth technology into the clinical workflow has long been a concern for physicians. It was identified as a roadblock to technology adoption as early as 2016, when the American Medical Association first benchmarked the integration of digital health tools into clinical practice.

With patient care their priority, few clinicians find time to learn the nuances of multiple technology platforms, let alone leverage them to their full potential. Thus, from its inception, Caregility’s platform has enabled clinicians to launch a video visit or care team conference from a familiar interface: the system they’re already using to review a patient’s medical record or document an encounter.

Similarly, shortly after launching its telehealth platform in 2014, Nemours worked to integrate that system with its EHR. After the integration, the system “brought appropriate information right into the visit, enhancing the provider workflow while simultaneously making it easier for physicians to deliver better care,” Vyas noted. The introduction of a streamlined platform corresponded with increased adoption among the system’s physicians.

2. Integration improves patient experience and outcomes

An integrated telehealth platform provides the patient with a seamless experience. On the front end, a telehealth platform that’s integrated with an EHR platform, its scheduling program and its patient portal ensures that nearly all patient communication — from scheduling appointments to receiving appointment reminders to attending the telehealth encounter itself — can be accessed from one place. The simplicity of a “one-stop shop” helps patients to make and keep appointments, as well as communicate regularly with their care teams via the platform.

Integration can also improve the quality of patient care. When physicians use stand-alone telehealth applications, they may be unable to use other applications in the same browser window or even on the same device. This presents two problems.

First, dueling applications lead to a disjointed patient experience. The doctor may be distracted — searching through open browser windows for the patient’s EHR or shuffling through papers on their desk for lab results — instead of focusing on what the patient is saying.

Second, critical information may be incorrectly entered into the patient’s health record or lost altogether as the provider works to move notes between systems. An integrated telehealth platform can help drive efficiency and positive outcomes, while reducing the likelihood of data entry errors that could in turn lead to medical errors.

3. Integration expedites the billing process

Physicians cannot get paid if they do not correctly bill insurance companies (or, in some cases, patients directly) for their services. When documentation for telehealth visits must be manually entered into the EHR, that delays reimbursement and introduces potential errors.

“From a reporting and analytics perspective, anything that is documented outside a health system’s EHR system is difficult to track,” Vyas told Becker’s. “Being able to collect data within the EHR for long-term telehealth outcomes will make payment and billing easier for healthcare organizations, payers, and providers.”

What telehealth integrations should you consider?

Integrating a healthcare organization’s telehealth platform with its EHR is a critical move — but it’s not the only integration providers should investigate. Other technologies that can be valuable complements to a telehealth platform include language interpretation services, clinical decision support, digital health devices, patient engagement platforms, and remote patient monitoring.

Caregility’s award-winning, enterprise-grade virtual care platform offers a responsive, self-healing, purpose-built, end-to-end telehealth solution for any use case—that integrates with and adds value to EHRs, advanced analytics, practice management workflows, medical devices, and more, for a truly holistic view of the patient. To learn more about how Caregility could help your healthcare organization streamline its telehealth strategy, contact us today.

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