With advancements in healthcare changing the dynamics of how medicine is looked at in the United States, it has been the past twenty years, which have truly brought significant changes to the field. One such example has been made by the informatics community in developing a systematic approach to health IT through Telemedicine initiatives.
Closely associated with Telehealth, Telemedicine is a term that is often used to encompass a broader application of technologies for distance education, consumer outreach, and other applications where electronic communications and information technologies are used to support healthcare services. A part of these includes but are not limited to video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, and nursing call centers.
However, one thing that is often misunderstood in the field is the actual definition of what Telemedicine really is. For starters, it does not represent a separate medical specialty. Rather, it is a tool that can be used by health providers to extend the traditional practice of medicine outside the walls of the typical medical practice. Additionally, telemedicine offers a means to help transform healthcare itself by encouraging greater consumer involvement in decision making and providing new approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
In this sense, there are two ways to go about Telemedicine and the technology it comprises. Firstly, there’s an option for a standalone telemedicine solution, which you can integrate with your EHR and usually works in giving additional options that the EHR software may not already have; or secondly, an EHR that has its own telemedicine solution as well, which is often built-in to the cost of the software.
While for many, the latter seems to be the more viable option, both the choices have points one should consider before making a selection.
Standalone Telemedicine Solution
Standalone Telemedicine solution usually offers vital operational and clinical benefits that might mean the difference between a healthy practice and one that goes under.
However, the trick is in choosing the right one.
Usually, it is small practices and solo providers that go for a standalone solution, since they have to think carefully about what virtual care option they purchase, considering that they generally lack the resources to experiment and the overhead to survive a failed project. Ideally, they should not look to replicate the programs in operation at large hospitals and health systems; rather, they should look at their own patient populations, pick a service that can be easily moved online – such as non-acute primary care, follow-up visits or chronic care management, for which the solution can work. Additionally, a standalone service also offers ‘out of the box’ packages that can easily be deployed. Others also work with the provider to create a branded service that meets specific needs.
However, one of the biggest drawback to these standalone platforms is that they may not integrate well with the EHR, forcing providers to either adopt a new medical records platform or maintain side-by-side platforms. In this sense, it can be more of a loss for practice than a gain.
EHR integrated Telemedicine Solution
In contrast to standalone solutions, many providers and practices want to choose a telemedicine platform that’s already integrated with an EHR. In a larger sense, it gives them a framework from which to work and ensures that medical records are not duplicated. It also helps in keeping the staff at ease when they don’t have to acquire yet another skillset to run a standalone platform.
Additionally, integrated Telemedicine solutions – which are included in major EHR platforms such as AdvancedMD, also provide an easy solution for accessing patient files rather than using two separate software which may or may not work together. For example, while standalone software does claim a seamless process, it can cause trouble if the EHR is relatively older and does not compute the Telemedicine software’s commands.
However, that said, integrated solutions can also cause issues as it restricts the provider in mapping out the virtual visit platform. For example, since many legacy EHRs developed before the advent of telemedicine, the functions may be limited and at times inefficient.
All in all, the larger argument that remains about whether there’s a need for telemedicine in today’s practices can still be solved by the fact that this software does provide ease to the health providers. Where telemedicine doesn’t replace face-to-face encounters with physicians, it can augment the doctor/patient relationship in more than one way. Telemedicine visits help figure out whether urgent requests to see a physician when the office is closed should be warranted. Whether it’s mental health visits required for follow-up and/or prescription refills, the telemedicine consultation can work as a preamble.
Thus, for many, selecting either of the two telemedicine options available is still better than not having an EHR with telemedicine platforms at all. Henceforth, the following options are those which are mostly considered by practices in the US.
PrognoCIS, which is a cloud-based ICD-10 compliant and MU certified EMR solution helps medical facilities and practitioners to manage patient medical recording. The software comprises integrated modules for EHR, Practice Management, Patient Portal and Revenue Cycle Management.
For their Telemedicine EHR solutions, the company has designed to extend the functions and connectivity of your practice’s EHR software using integrated mobile applications. Text, email, and video are used together to make patient engagement easily accessible and, providing convenient working conditions to see more patients at lower costs.
eClinicalWorks, which is an integrated electronic health record (EHR) and practice management solution, provides technology through every step of the patient care delivery process. Some of its features include patient engagement, televisits, care coordination, population health, and financial analytics.
For its Healow televisits, the platform claims you can deliver the same quality care online as you do in the office. Patients’ clinical data is fully integrated, and workflows are unaffected, with access to all the same powerful tools, like lab interfacing and electronic prescribing. Additionally, bandwidth management provides a stable and secure connection, optimized to prevent skip, lag, or loss of audio quality.
AdvancedMD, which is an integrated medical software suite for independent practices, features practice management, electronic health records, patient engagement, telemedicine, rooming, reputation management, financial analytics and business intelligence reporting that all work together to automate practice workflow.
Within its system, the AdvancedTelemedicine option integrates with AdvancedEHR so you get all virtual healthcare features without needing more software. The telemedicine platform is claimed as the most convenient, cost-effective solution for your housebound, elderly or rural patients. The product also offers virtual two-way conferencing technology, that helps you consult with patients who have difficulty traveling or are located far from your practice locations.
CareCloud Charts, which is an integrated electronic health recording (EHR) solution, offers collective benefits of EMR, practice management, and medical billing services. The solution helps physicians to streamline clinical operations and ensure paperless workflow.
The company’s telemedicine solution allows physicians to connect with patients for routine appointments over video visit – and receive full reimbursement through private payers. CareCloud Telemedicine is integrated into CareCloud Central – which is the practice management system the company provides. It also claims that users can receive full support for patients and physicians, plus billing and reimbursement tools.
Kareo, which is a web-based medical billing and practice management solution used by medical practitioners and physicians across the United States, is usually used by small practices and billing companies. It helps practices schedule patients, confirm insurance, manage delinquent accounts and the collections process, store patient documents, and develop customized reports.
Kareo boasts automated eligibility checks, reimbursement-specialist support team, and an ‘award-winning billing engine’. It also claims that it has one of the best drive revenue, which helps in practice efficiency and patient satisfaction as it integrates into Kareo’s integrated EHR and practice management system.
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