While telehealth has existed in some format for several decades, only recently has it experienced exponential growth. What once served as a way for people in rural areas to receive health care is now a proven technique to get quick and accurate care to people in remote locations. Telehealth services are now used to address a variety of medical issues in all ages groups and demographics and communities across the country. Dermatologists, internal medicine practitioners, and even psychiatrists use this technology to treat their patients when they cannot be seen in their clinics.
What Is Telehealth Software?
Telehealth software allows clinicians to reach their patients wherever they are and provide outstanding care over the telephone, online, or via some other technologically based communication channel. It also allows the patient to reach his or her provider regardless of their location.
Telehealth is sometimes referred to as telemedicine and both are similar in that they provide remote health care to patients of all ages and with all types of medical diagnoses. However, unlike telemedicine, telehealth also provides a wide range of other patient resources, such as clinician messaging, health education, and the ability to easily schedule or cancel appointments.
By using all types of technology, including mobile apps, telephone calls, Web-based video conferences, and much more, telehealth software allows clinicians to connect with their patients in real-time to provide care at any hour of the day.
Many health conditions can be adequately evaluated and treated with telehealth, and patients can also follow up with their practitioners with questions and concerns.
Telehealth software provides a wide range of benefits for clinicians and patients in all types of specialties. Not only can patients receive medical care without having to present to a clinic, but also they are less likely to cancel appointments or miss follow up visits with clinicians via telehealth than they would be when limited to traditional in-person appointments alone.
Between April 2019 and April 2020, telehealth increased by over 8,000% as reported by U.S. News and World Report.
It is expected to continue growing in future years. To deal with this surge, clinicians must have access to telehealth software that will provide a smooth experience for the patient while also enabling the clinician to conduct adequate assessments and provide appropriate treatment options. Thankfully, as telehealth grows, telehealth software options also continue to expand, providing plenty of solutions for real-time encounters and quality care.
What Qualifies as Telemedicine Software?
While there are plenty of communication software solutions available today, not all of them qualify as appropriate options for telehealth or telemedicine. Instead, to fit into this category, the software solution must include three distinct criteria.
- The software should provide sufficient data encryption to protect vital patient data. Specifically, the software must be HIPAA-compliant. Data must be encrypted whether the software is providing messaging, video chat, or any other type of communication model.
- The software must provide care by using some type of telecommunication. This could include a simple telephone call, a real-time video chat, electronic faxing, broadcast messaging, online appointment reminders, video streaming, or other patient care modalities.
- The software must follow the law of the state in which it is being used. Each state has slightly different laws regarding healthcare privacy as well as who can provide telehealth services and how they must be used. Some software systems can be adjusted to reflect the requirements of these laws, making them especially smart solutions for healthcare organizations operating in multiple states.
Telehealth Organizations Require Different Types of Software
To provide the most well-rounded care that will satisfy patients, create a smooth healthcare experience, and satisfy various state and organizational requirements, healthcare organizations will need to invest in a variety of telehealth software types. The following list provides an overview of some of the most important software needs.
1. EHRs and EMRs
Both the electronic health record (EHR) and the electronic medical record (EMR) are compilations of a patient’s long-term health care and can include past medical history, previous surgeries and procedures, results of diagnostic studies, correspondence from other providers, and much more. Unlike a paper chart, an EHR has all documentation readily available, which can be accessed from anywhere the software is installed.
The EHR includes information from a range of health care professionals. Clinical specialists, case managers, therapists, and other collaborating providers can access the files to find the most up-to-date information. In addition, the EHR will also be integrated with other software, including appointment scheduling and patient billing software.
EHR software must be able to provide the following:
- Real-time patient records
- Ability to provide information to all integrated health care providers
- Patient access to one’s own records
2. Disease Management
According to the National Health Council, chronic diseases affect over 40% of Americans today. Disease management software helps clinicians evaluate and treat these diseases effectively and is particularly helpful for patients dealing with multiple conditions concurrently. This software should connect with the EHR to pull applicable information and provide the most effective long-term solutions. Disease management tools will help clinicians and patients manage regular follow-up appointments, review applicable laboratory tests, and plan for future treatments when necessary.
Disease management software should provide the following:
- Full integration with EHR software
- Patient data analysis for effective treatment
- Integration with other patient care software options, such as patient experience software
3. Clinical Documentation
Clinical documentation is an important part of high-quality patient experience as all types of clinicians can use the documentation to report patient visits, calls, and much more. It is used along with other parts of the EHR to smooth out workflow and provide an accurate snapshot of the patient’s care plan at each visit. The benefits of this software include improved patient care throughout all specialty areas, improved time management for clinicians, and more effective overall treatment plans.
Clinical documentation software should provide the following:
- Full integration with EHR software
- Auto-generation of certain medical documents and forms
- A focus on patient privacy
- Paperless documentation of regular patient visits
- Ability to be accessed by other clinicians
Medication prescriptions are a huge part of patient care at many appointments. From one-time doses to ongoing medication prescriptions for chronic diseases, many clinicians prescribe one or more drugs at numerous patient visits every day. E-prescribing software limits confusion for clinicians, patients, and pharmacists by doing away with the written paper prescriptions of years past.
This software ensures that the pharmacy immediately receives the prescription and that the patient does not have to worry about losing a written prescription. In addition, the software helps ensure that patients receive the medications they need, decreases the number of medication errors made every year, and keeps a full record of which medications a patient is currently taking or has taken in the past.
E-prescribing software should provide the following:
- Integration with EHR to provide accurate medication prescription data
- The instantaneous transmission of prescriptions to the pharmacy of choice
- Improved communication between clinicians and pharmacists
5. Healthcare LMS
Healthcare learning management systems (LMS) help health care organizations reach educational and compliance goals for all of its staff. It can be used by all types of medical practices for continued education for clinicians as well as for management and communication of system-wide procedural changes. Whether clinicians need to learn about improved medical technology, new equipment, or changes in health care guidelines, LMS will organize all of the data.
LMS is often included with health care compliance software used for certification or corporate learning management software that has been designed specifically for health care organizations.
This software must provide the following:
- Compliance with regulatory organizations, such as the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM)
- Online medical course creation and administration options
- Individual clinician education tracking
6. Medical Transcription
While medical transcription once relied on trained individuals to interpret what a clinician spoke into a recording, the software now uses artificial intelligence, speech recognition, and other forms of technology to complete this process automatically. Medical transcription software changes speech into text and can store completed dictations.
With this software, transcription errors are greatly reduced, and less time is wasted. This allows clinicians to spend more time with their patients and decreases the chance that they will burn out from too high of a workload. Medical transcription software can be used by physicians as well as by nurses and other providers giving direct patient care. It relies on separate digital recorders or existing computer hardware, such as integrated microphones.
Medical transcription software should provide the following:
- Speech-to-text conversion
- Ability to be used for charting, clinical documentation, and more
- A medical terminology database
7. Patient Experience
While the primary focus for any health care organization is providing high-quality, effective health solutions to patients, patient experience also has a huge role to play in the organization’s overall success. With software, organizations can see how they are faring in real-time so that they can make changes where needed and give front-line workers the help they need to improve patient satisfaction. There are many different types of software used to improve patient experiences these days. Here are just a few examples.
Interactive Patient Care Systems (IPC)
With this software, clinicians can engage with and educate their patients no matter where they are. By using tablets, Web-based or app-based patient portals, and even in-room television channels, clinicians can provide educational resources that will improve the quality of care while patients are in the hospital and improve wellness following discharge.
Patient Case Management Software
This software coordinates all of the care that a patient receives throughout a health care organization. By keeping patient scheduling, charting, and billing in one place, case managers can create better care plans in and out of the hospital.
Patient Engagement Software
This software helps patients take a more active role in their health care, which has been shown to improve the overall patient experience. Using patient engagement software, health care organizations can provide high-quality customer service, including quick communication and simple access to health care data.
Patient Intake Software
This software helps clinicians and front office staff record pertinent patient information as soon as the patient walks through the door. It can speed patient registration, improve productivity, and ensure that all necessary information for billing is in the correct place.
Patient Relationship Management (PRM) Software
This software focuses on building trusting relationships between patients and staff whether the patient is in the health care facility or at home. It can help improve marketing, patient referrals, and patient outreach.
Patient Scheduling Software
This software allows patients to schedule appointments online while letting medical personnel confirm appointments with clinicians. This improves appointment adherence and decreases patient wait times.
The modern health care practice must have the correct software to provide the highest quality of telehealth services to its patients. By choosing telehealth software that is fully integrated throughout all departments, clinicians will have the information they need at their fingertips, and patients will feel empowered to take a more active role in their own health care.