by Sarah Mason
The statistics are overwhelming that there needs to be change, but venturing into bringing healthcare more “tech”, virtual delivery and digital records, has met resistance from end users. However, polls show 62% of Americans prefer telehealth versus in person healthcare appointments. The problems that are solved by bringing in more technology are real, but the technology to support care can be challenging for users and to maintain.
The concept of the virtual clinic visit requires a patient, the end user, to visit a website or download an app to access data entry for what is similar to a service ticket initiating care. From there, routing based on data to connect with a provider matching the request, the visit, and a decided outcome from the interaction. This is a chain that completes an episode of care that becomes very technology intensive and has different forms.
Telehealth is another term used for virtual care. Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. It allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions
Virtual Care, or telehealth, can be divided into three categories.
Asynchronous telehealth, also known as “store-and-forward,” is often used for patient intake or follow-up care. For example, a patient sends a photo of a sore pink eye that is later reviewed by a primary care physician who recommends treatment.
Synchronous care is the most common form of real-time, virtual, direct-to-patient appointment. This is live where the patient interacts with a provider, usually via phone or video, in real-time.
Remote Patient Monitoring —
Remote patient monitoring is a form of telehealth that allows providers to monitor and manage their patients’ chronic conditions by receiving regular updates on symptoms and home based testing, such as monitoring blood pressure using a device and sending results weekly to a primary care doctor to assess.
One issue is access to technology to support telehealth. Virtual Care requires access to internet, broadband, and/or modern phones. Reliability of service to allow for communication can limit access for an end user. Then, there is being able to support the quantity of users with availability and reliability concerns for technology that supports telehealth. An outage goes from inconvenience to urgent if it prevents the ability for care. With very little governance for telehealth, there are ethics, privacy, and pricing concerns.