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If the recent worldwide pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that no matter what’s going on, people will always have a need for healthcare services. To continue to provide patients with access to high-quality care, many healthcare providers recently added telehealth services to their practice.
Thinking it’s time to add telehealth services to your practice? It can be extremely beneficial, but you have to make sure you are using the right software. Using the wrong telehealth software for practice can cause a lot of frustration, anger, and confusion which impacts the quality of healthcare you provide for your patients.
Picking telehealth software for your practice is not an easy task as there are dozens of available programs. On the surface, all the programs look the same, but they are not. Learning more about telehealth can help you determine which software to choose for your practice.
Is There a Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine?
Before you can choose a software program for your practice, you have to understand the difference between telehealth and telemedicine. The two terms are often used interchangeably. However, they are used to describe two different types of services.
Telehealth is the term applied to healthcare services administered using some form of electronic communication or telecommunication. Some examples of how telehealth services can be provided include e-mail, phone conferences, Zoom video conferencing, and image and file sharing.
All aspects of the healthcare industry can be supported with the use of telehealth services. These services can help improve communication between administrators, provide more comprehensive staff training and education, improve patient education, and offer long-distance clinical health care to patients.
Telemedicine can be thought of as a type of sub-category of telehealth. Telemedicine is the term used for clinical services offered by a healthcare provider. Some examples of telemedicine include asking or answering patient questions, providing explanations of test results, prescription renewal, and conducting appointments.
Benefits of Offering Telehealth Services
Some benefits your practice could see by implementing telehealth services include:
- Increased patient satisfaction by providing easy access to healthcare services
- Reduced healthcare costs, which can benefit your practice, your patients and even the insurance companies
- Boosted revenue – Offering telehealth services can help you reduce no-shows, attract new patients to your practice and even provide you a way to turn after-hour work into billable work
- Improved quality of care to patients – Patients can have quick, easy access to healthcare providers, which allows them to receive care in a timely manner. Patients can reach out to their healthcare provider or staff with questions, schedule follow-up appointments or report early warning signs at any time, day or night.
- Reduced overhead costs – healthcare providers can choose to practice remotely when offering telehealth services. This can help reduce some of the overhead costs that come with running a medical practice.
How to Choose the Best Telehealth Software
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the best telehealth software program because every practice is different. Some practices may only want to offer limited telehealth services, such as messaging and video conferencing, while others may want to go “all-in” with telehealth services and offer everything they can to patients and staff.
Assessing your practice can help you determine what type of telehealth software is needed. Look at the following things when conducting your practice assessment:
#1 The patient needs –
Do patients want to schedule appointments, renew prescriptions, communicate with doctors via messaging, access healthcare information and educational materials, and take part in video appointments?
#2 Patient accessibility –
What type of access do your patients have to the Internet? What devices do they commonly use? Do they have access to a reliable Internet connection on which they can access telehealth services?
#3 Education and training –
What type of training and education will patients and staff need in order to learn how to effectively use the software program?
#4 How many users will need to access the software –
Determine how many staff members will need to have access as well as how many patients will need to have access to the platform.
#5 Integration with other doctors and hospitals –
Is the software compatible with the software that other doctors in your network use? Is it compatible with the hospital system and testing facilities you use?
#6 Cost –
How much are you willing to invest in telehealth software?
Factors to Consider When Choosing Telehealth Software
Before selecting a software program, take time to think about how telehealth services will impact each and every area of your practice. Some things to consider include:
Supported DevicesVerify the software program not only supports the devices your patients and staff use but any additional devices you need to provide care. For example, if you need access to live bio analytics from heart monitors, ultrasounds or other monitoring devices, you will want to make sure the software offers this feature.
BandwidthA high-quality, fast, consistent Internet connection is needed when offering telehealth services. Make sure your practice’s current Internet network is capable of handling the increased demand that will be placed on it with telehealth services. You may need to consider upgrading or expanding your Internet network and connection in order to offer telehealth services.
SecurityMake sure all state and federal laws are followed in regard to patient privacy. Verify the software offers the necessary encryption for video, messaging and media sharing and is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) compliant. Also, make sure there is protection against unauthorized users gaining access to the platform. A multi-factor authorization process can help prevent unauthorized access.
SupportProblems can arise at any time when using telehealth software. Make sure the vendor you choose will be there to help guide you through any problems, whether it be launching the software at your practice or troubleshooting a technical problem.
Ease of UseMake sure the platform you choose to use for your practice is easy-to-use for your patients and staff. Verify that the software is relatively free from bugs and can easily be used without any application crashes or other technical issues.
Offered ServicesEach telehealth software program offers different services. Make sure the software you choose has the features your practice wants and needs. For example, if you want to allow patients to make and schedule appointments, communicate via messaging with doctors or provide video messaging, you will want to make sure the software offers these features. If the features are not offered by the software, you can see if the software is able to be integrated with other programming that may allow you to offer these services.
Efficient Telehealth Software has These Features
The needs of your practice will determine what features you look for in telehealth software. However, good, efficient telehealth software will have the following features:
- HIPAA compliance
- Easy-to-use patient platform
- Support for slower Internet speeds – This allows you to provide telehealth services to all patients regardless of Internet access
- Appointment scheduling
- Full patient support – Tech support to help guide patients through any technical issues they may experience
- Full provider support – Tech support should be available to help you and your staff with any issues you encounter with the software
- Ability to integrate or use existing EHR (electronic health record) system
- Audio-visual capable
- Ability to offer alerts and reminders
- Full compliance with any additional state and federal regulations
Offering telehealth services will not only improve the quality of care you provide for your patients but can help increase your practice’s revenue. However, it has to be done right. Conducting a practice assessment to determine your practice’s needs will help you determine which telehealth software to use.