What are the Top 6 Things a Provider Should Look for in a Telehealth Platform

Telehealth means, according to the American Medical Association, is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support abroad scope of remote health care services: Long-distance clinical care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies can include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging (in which an image is saved, then sent to the other party, rather than live), streaming media and terrestrial or wireless communications, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. 

Yes, there are many other nuances of Telehealth delivery that beyond just these top 6 functions available with telehealth.  The confusing regulations, reimbursement guidelines, and the different rules for Medicare, Medicaid, and Commercial for telehealth are all questions that providers need to understand as well.                                                        

Things to Look at for a Telehealth Platform

1. Is your system secure HIPAA Compliant?

DO not forget that whatever telehealth solution you choose make sure that the company also provides you with a Business Associate Agreement or BAA

2. Does it allow for Real-time Audio/Video

This is best thought of as similar to Facetime or when you speak to someone thru SKYPE.  However, Apple FaceTime and Skype services are not HIPAA Compliant. If it does not also come with a Business Associate Agreement that protects your practice from a Patient Health Information (PHI) violation then DO NOT USE IT FOR TELEHEALTH. We will discuss more in-depth why this is so important.

tablet, screen, monitor
Telehealth functions on Computer, iPad and Smartphone Devices

3. Does it allow for two way messaging that is secure & HIPAA compliant?

This is not to be confused with simple TEXT Messaging. CMS has put out some strict guidance on using Text Messaging (or SMS) when it comes to Privacy.  However, a Secure & HIPAA Compliant Telehealth platform will allow for 2-way messaging between patient and provider that is secure and protects the patients PHI

4. Does it have a Scheduling System where patients can self-schedule?

      • Will the system allow for your patients to log in and schedule appointments themselves and of course allow the practice to schedule appointments?
      • Are appointment reminders sent to both the provider and the patient?
      • Are the Provider and the patient notified of cancelations or any re-scheduling?

5. Does it allow for Secure File Sharing?

      • Can you send a new or returning patient an intake form securely for them to complete prior to their visit?
      • In-turn does the Telehealth platform allow for the patient to not only send back the intake form but also include other medical records or medical records information they have that they want to share with you?

6. Does it work on Computer, iPad, and Smart Phones

    • Any Telehealth Platform nowadays has evolved to the point that it has the ability to work on a computer, iPad and both Apple and Android Smartphones
    • Also, this feature is not just for the patient’s convenience but can the provider also use any of these three platforms as well to a certain degree?

Telehealth Functions Conclusion

The above list is not the minimum required for a provider to start providing Telemedicne today.  Many are using applications like Zoom for example.  However, with the growth of Telehealth adoption by both providers and patients these are going to be the functions you will want as your delivery of services virtually grows and becomes the norm.

Other Drexly Pages You Might Find Useful

References for Telehealth

Rural Development

  • Community Facilities Loan, Guarantee and Grant Programs:

http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/all- programs/community-fac

  • Rural Health Care Program (Telecommunications Program; Healthcare Connect Fund Program; Pilot Program)

http://www.usac.org/rhc/

International Institute of Standards and Technology

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Health Resources and Services Administration

Indian Health Service

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • National Library of Medicine’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications research programs, including those in telemedicine and distance learning. http://www.lhncbc.nlm.nih.gov

National Institutes of Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Computer and Information Science