Telemedicine – Old Technology Gets a New Life

Telemedicine – Old Technology Gets a New Life

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When you work in technology it's easy to focus on the “new”. The latest system updates, new applications, hardware upgrades, new security threats, and new responses. We are always working to keep up with the latest thing. However, sometimes the next big opportunity for innovation is an under-utilized existing technology.

Telemedicine has been around for decades. It is prevalent in rural areas where medical facilities and personnel, specifically specialists, are sparse. There are some rural counties in the southeast that do not have a single cardiologist in residence or critical access hospital. For these areas, telemedicine has been a lifeline. But, for suburban and urban areas, telemedicine was never able to find a footing.

For a long time, insurance companies would not cover telemedicine appointments, which hindered local brick and mortar medical offices that rely on insurance-based revenue, from actively adopting the technology. As expected, doctors who were unable to generate revenue through telemedicine appointments had a lower adoption rate for telemedicine technology, especially in urban and suburban areas where physical appointments were still the norm.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, clinics, and doctor offices everywhere turned to telemedicine to help triage patient traffic, which is critical in the effort to suppress exposure to COVID-19.

In the last few years, insurance companies have begun developing telemedicine services for subscribers. For example, United Healthcare is currently partnering with telemedicine companies to provide a free virtual healthcare service for members, including members covered under Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, independent virtual services are popping up on websites and mobile apps, such as MDLIVE, SteadyMD, and NURX. These companies are positioning themselves to be viable alternatives to traditional office visits and are therefore creating competition for local primary care providers, or any medical provider whose specialty could be moved to a virtual platform.

While COVID-19 instigated many service-delivery changes to many industries, in healthcare it exposed an inconvenient truth. Most working adults do not want to spend an afternoon sitting in a doctor’s office and waiting room for something simple, routine, and non-invasive when telemedicine is available.

Obviously, there are limitations to telemedicine and virtual medical services. You cannot receive a vaccination, imaging/radiology, or biopsy via telemedicine. However, the ease of use and affordability certainly means that more patients will be exploring telemedicine options for basic and non-invasive medical services.

Finding a way to capture this market demand will become vitally important for local medical providers going forward. Thankfully, telemedicine technology is accessible and affordable to implement. Both Microsoft Teams and IntelliSystems’ Elevate are HIPAA compliant platforms. These programs allow for secure calling, messaging, video conferencing, and cloud storage. Many offices are already implementing these tools for internal staff collaboration. However, the technology can also be used for secure virtual patient appointments.

Microsoft Teams offers a built-in booking app specifically for medical practices that will allow physicians and patients to schedule appointments, follow-ups, and send reminders. Teams’ video conferencing tool includes consent opt-in notices, customizable backgrounds, a virtual lobby, and cloud recording. The Call2Teams integration enables calling and conference in Teams from nearly any telecom system, including on-premise and VoIP systems.

The constantly evolving spread of data security threats and network attacks combined with the complexity of HIPAA regulations means healthcare providers need as many security and compliance tools as possible. The advancement of collaboration tools with built-in HIPAA compliance, like Microsoft Teams and IntelliSystems Elevate, means physicians can be more agile and progressive in how they approach patient care. Never before has it been simpler to meet the demand of patients while satisfying technical and administrative safeguard requirements.

Contact our IntelliSystems to learn more about telemedicine technology. We have in-house Certified HIPAA Security Professional who can assist you in researching and planning telehealth technology in your medical practice.