Telehealth: Bringing Quality Care to You

By AJ Peterson, vice president of Interoperability, Netsmart; part of the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™ initiative

HIMSS Interoperability Showcase

The HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, part of the HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition, demonstrates interoperability – the ability for different technology systems to communicate – in real-time with actual products in the marketplace. The following guest post shares the impact seamless data exchange can have on patients, providers and caregivers.

We hear the word telehealth a lot these days, but what does it really mean?

Telehealth is a mobile, web-based platform that supports virtual clinical services. It is meant to bridge the gap in access to care for individuals who may not be able to easily access it; for example, someone in a rural area, someone without access to reliable transportation or an individual experiencing a crisis in an emergency department (ED).

Not only does telehealth expand access to care for a large number of people, it can also reduce costly reactive care, like an inpatient stay or ED visit, by allowing providers to intervene early. In 2015, the cost of treating an individual who had overdosed in intensive care averaged $92,400 per patient. The availability of telehealth that serves individuals where they are can mean the difference between costly care and delayed treatment, and reaching recovery.

Across the U.S., there is a shortage of certified psychiatrists, compounded by the high costs of retaining a full-time psychiatrist on staff. Most community acute care organizations cannot afford that resource, but with telehealth, they have access to a vast network of psychiatrists and other provider specialists to triage, stabilize and recommend care for an individual.

Telehealth enables real-time triage and assessment while also leveraging electronic referrals to create smooth transitions of care back into community-based providers. These tools and integrated information allow organizations to provide the most appropriate care at the most appropriate cost setting to achieve the most optimal outcome.

If your organization is considering telehealth as an offering, here are four things you should consider.

1. Manage Risk: While most insurance is covering telehealth, know that not all services are reimbursable. However, because we know that being proactive in mitigating potential high costs of care drives better outcomes, your organization will need to understand how comfortable you are with that risk.

2. Provider Network: Each state has a different license requirement, so make sure that you understand which state your provider network is licensed in and what additional credentials, if any, are required to provide telehealth services. For example, just because a clinician has a license to provide telehealth services in Kansas, doesn’t necessarily mean that it applies to Missouri.

3. Wireless Connection: Make sure that you have strong and reliable wireless coverage in order to avoid disruptions of care. If you don’t have access to a reliable connection, the 21st Century Cures Act provides funding opportunities for communities to deploy this technology.

4. Standards Based Technologies: Ensure that health IT that you procure is compliant with recommended industry standards that support interoperability and security to ensure that your telehealth technology investment will work for you and provide a long-term interoperable solution for your organization.

Telehealth is a powerful tool to eliminate barriers and access to care for individuals who may not have easy access. It brings vital services to individuals that truly need them while providing an opportunity for early intervention that can reduce costs of care, but more importantly, the use of telehealth promises improved care delivery and better health outcomes.

Health Professional Shortage Areas: Mental Health, by County, 2017 - Washington

Health Professional Shortage Areas: Mental Health, by County, 2017 - Tennessee

As show in the maps above, there are an alarming number of counties suffering from provider shortages in both Washington and Tennessee. This creates a provider desert in regard to patient access to care. The virtual network of telehealth eliminates geography boundaries for providers. Source: Health Resources & Services Administration

Sponsored content. The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.


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