As healthcare organizations are assessing how to best leverage telehealth for the delivery of care in the long run, the question turns quickly to assessing the various technology solutions that an organization may find itself using.
From simple video chat solutions such as Zoom or teams to more telehealth-designated software solutions such as Doxy.me, VSee, or Mend; or hardware solutions such as carts from Avizia (now Amwell), Intouch (now Teladoc), or AMD: Many organizations have amassed a plethora of different telehealth technologies and the question arises: Which technology is the best to use for telehealth? Shouldn’t we limit ourselves to just one telehealth technology or at least one vendor?
So, which technology is best?
That question can best be answered along the lines of my most favorite of advisors — the Cheshire cat: “Well, that depends a great deal on where you want to get to.”
Yes, it truly does “depend”, since there are literally hundreds of different telehealth services that are requiring a dozen or more different technology solutions.
But before I go there, let us explore where the desire for a single (or limited number of) telehealth technology solution(s) comes from.
History of Single Technology/Vendor Strategies
To understand where most healthcare IT leaders are coming from we need to go back 20, 30 years when healthcare IT was not as well managed and not as well staffed as it is today. In those days, with the onslaught of new technologies, in larger health systems oftentimes different solutions were acquired by different departments that in essence were doing pretty much the same thing.
As health systems over time consolidated technical support in a single IT team, any technology support requests ended up with IT, which now found itself supporting multiple applications doing the same thing and having to maintain different licenses, contracts and communication channels with the various vendors.
In addition, most applications do not exist in isolation – they consume data from other applications and create data that is used or stored by yet another set of applications. With multiple applications doing similar things, all of those interfaces and integrations had to be configured and maintained, which became a costly endeavor.
Those days were for most IT departments the birthplace of a Technology Standard that sets forth which vendors and solutions anyone in the organization should be using, so as to keep licensing fees and technical support cost effective.
So let’s explore whether and how telehealth may be different.
The wide, vast world of Telehealth Services
At Ingenium, we define Telehealth as “Delivering Care at a Distance” and under that definition there are a number of different clinical telehealth services:
- Patient Portals – the ability for patients to self-schedule appointments, securely exchange messages with the care team or access clinical notes, lab results or immunization records
- TeleEducation – the ability to view, for example, information about pre-surgical or post-surgical care or post-diagnostic information.
- Store & Forward Telemedicine – sending images, radiology reports or other information for asynchronous review and interpretation.
- Remote Physiological Monitoring – the continuous and periodic collection and transmission of vital signs for the purpose of chronic disease management or post-discharge care.
- Interactive Patient Care – the live, synchronous communication with patients (a.k.a., virtual care), typically over an audio/video connection (though a lot of it is done telephonically these days) either without or with remote examination.
Obviously each of these different services requires a different type of technology solution. But even within each service category, for example “Interactive Patient Care” there are numerous different variations of “interactive patient care” as the following chart illustrates: