Your health organization wants to ‘do telemedicine’: What’s involved?
September 30, 2016
As healthcare organizations see the benefits of telemedicine, usage is surging to an all-time high. Your hospital or clinic may also want to invest in a program, but you’re unsettled by the superabundant supply of telemedicine technology and equipment options available. No worries, here are six key elements for you to consider when researching your telemedicine equipment options:
- Medical devices for specialties. The specific medical devices you need may vary depending on the specialties you plan to service with telemedicine. The good news is you don’t need to have all the answers right away, because many equipment providers have scalable and modular telemedicine systems. This means you can purchase just what you need to get started and then add additional devices later on as your program expands into additional specialties.
- Communication platform and video conferencing needs. How you plan to manage the patient-to-remote encounter is a key factor. Since you are communicating a patient’s critical diagnostic data, the optimal choice is to do it securely and in real-time. After all, the beauty of telemedicine is the functionality to have a live interaction between a patient and a remote specialist.
- Using a web-based encounter management portal to communicate and share live medical images from the patient side with the remote provider is truly the best way to offer telemedicine services. This makes it as close to an in-person visit as possible.
- For video conferencing, first evaluate any technology investments your organization might have already made to see if these can be leveraged for your current application. Many times they integrate seamlessly with encounter management platforms. If no initial investments have been made for video conferencing and might want to consider software-based video conferencing for a small initial investment.
- Packaging design and mobility. Telemedicine carts, cases, wall mounts and other equipment are all just various ways to package the telemedicine hardware and software. Although there is a difference in how aesthetically pleasing they are (or are not), the main thing to keep in mind is whether this packaging will fulfill your intended use, not just now but also in the future.
- Ideally you want a telemedicine cart or case that is modular and can be easily configured for additional medical specialties so it can evolve with your program.
- Bandwidth and Internet connection recommendations. You may not need to invest in a significant infrastructure overhaul to make telemedicine a reality for your clinic. Of course your specific needs will vary depending on factors such as location and size of your organization, but the most important consideration is not how much bandwidth you need, but rather how reliable and consistent your bandwidth is.
- If possible, purchase a business-grade service so you experience a more consistent bandwidth capability to ensure your real-time data is not interrupted or compromised in any way.
- Training. The next step is to provide your doctors, nurses and technologists with the skills they need to best make use of your new telemedicine technology in daily operations.
- Fortunately, clinical telemedicine equipment training isn’t a complicated need to meet, especially if your staff has any familiarity with basic medical devices and modern communication technology.
- Support. Finally, the increased reliance on network connectivity and Internet technology at your office means that you’ll need to ensure that you have adequate IT staff support. This is likely more of a concern for smaller practices that may not have an in-house IT department. Find out if your vendor provides installation services, as well as what technical support options are available if you don’t have an IT staff of your own. For additional information on how to move forward with your clinical telemedicine program, download the ebook How to Ensure Sustainability for Your Telemedicine Program at amdtelemedicine.com/cht-ebook.html.
Steven Normandin is the president of AMD Global Telemedicine, Inc. For more information, please see www.amdtelemedicine.com.