COVID-19 has changed the face of healthcare, and one of the lasting ways that it has changed is the proliferation of telemedicine. Telemedicine allows for many health care provider/patient interactions to occur remotely, and a major relaxation of federal and state restrictions has made it easier for people to get care and stay safe. But while the easing of regulations has set the stage for a telemedicine boom, many medical offices and institutions are not yet ready. Fortunately, companies like Lineate, who specialize in developing custom technology solutions in healthcare, can help with the security, logistics, and technological issues.
Roadblocks Towards Converting to Telemedicine
According to a 2018 study, telemedicine interactions increased 261% between 2015 and 2017, but even with this growth, 85% of all physicians' practices did not include telemedicine in their business. Some reasons why so many doctor’s offices are not prepared for telemedicine include:
- Not having the time/energy/funds to set up this service
- Concerns over logistics, and security of medical records
- Governmental regulations
- Medical workers or patients feeling uncomfortable giving/receiving medical care without being in the same room
With the CMS urging patients to avoid healthcare facilities whenever possible and a major governmental “restriction lift” that has taken place to allow for expanded telehealth (which we explained in our last article), half of the concerns listed above have become moot, and medical professionals that are not offering telemedicine are missing an opportunity to provide their needed expertise and services. Still, barriers to a successful transition to telemedicine still exist and without the right plan, implementation can still be difficult.
Lack of Time/Energy/Funds
Getting ready to convert to telemedicine can be a headache for medical professionals because they have a lot of other things to do—he main one being looking after the welfare of their patients. They may not have the time, energy, or funds to set up the infrastructure, which includes scheduling and filtering, teleconferencing, monitoring, and outreach.
Every office has a different structure in how technology is set up. Some smaller practices don’t have a dedicated technology staffer, relying instead on what they can pull together. Other, larger institutions have an entire tech team, often pushing multiple technologies that medical workers don’t care to use (oftentimes because the programs are incompatible with previous programs, redundant, or just a pain to use). What all medical providers have in common, though, is moments of frustration when it comes to utilizing a new technology.
Custom technology companies like Lineate help by learning what the specific needs are for a healthcare client, and create a custom system that fits those needs.
For example, if a practice needs help creating a platform for teleconferencing while monitoring home machinery (such as clinical electronic thermometers, ECG, cardiac monitors, pulse oximeters, etc), but does not need help creating a scheduling system, this can be easily created to their specifications.
Of course, if a practice needs to set up the entire telemedicine infrastructure, Lineate can do that too.
Furthermore, custom technology companies can help keep hosting costs down and use predictive analytics to reach folks in need with relevant information (such as the opening of their telemedicine platform) to inform their patients and find new people to help. And these custom technology companies can also work on making existing office technologies work together, consolidating tools, integrating data and technology silos, and simplifying processes.
Concerns Over Logistics and Security
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine regulations, such as the rule that patients must speak to a doctor that they have had previous contact with, has been temporarily relaxed. But questions remain. What services can take place via telemedicine? How is reimbursement handled? And, what safety precautions are put in place so sensitive information, such as medical records and video footage, are safe?
The medical field should expect changes to telemedicine regulations as events develop. This means healthcare professionals must be aware of any changes in CMS and HIPAA regulations, and have a system in place that is agile enough to quickly incorporate these changes.
And then there are concerns over the security of sensitive information. With telemedicine deregulated to a degree where any person can remotely see any doctor in the country, the secure movement of patient records can become a difficult task.
Fortunately, these concerns can also be allayed with the partnership of custom technology companies. With custom organizational platforms, such as DataSwitch, changes regarding licencing, consent, reimbursement, and communication can be easily changed. Furthermore, important messaging can be segmented and relayed to relevant parties (for instance, if there is a rule that only applies to patients on medicare, or those that see Podiatrists, messaging can easily be sent to just those patients).
As for security, custom technology companies can put protections in place where sensitive information can be relayed securely and in compliance with HIPAA and other regulations.
NYC Case Study
Here is an example of how Lineate has helped the healthcare industry (the full case study can be found here):
A premier NYC medical center was losing customers because of poor site experience including subpar search, double-booked appointment times, and more. To help, we built a custom search engine capable of quickly deciphering synonyms, dialects, and typos to deliver relevant results. For example, a patient looking for a doctor specializing in “bruises” would get the same results as a doctor searching for a “hematoma” referral. Lineate also created a system of organizing doctors’ names, specialties, and open hours to ensure patients could, for example, search for nutritionists available next Tuesday at 3 and book the appointment they need. As a result of building a custom search application for their site, the medical center has noted a 12% improvement of their time-on-site metrics, and an impressive 26% increase in overall booked appointments.
How Lineate Can Help
Lineate knows that times are tough, and we are doing what we can to help medical professionals and the people they serve. With over a decade of experience working within the complex eco-system of healthcare, our team can expertly manage the changing ways doctors are communicating with their patients, all while navigating secure patient and insurance data. We are ready to help the healthcare industry transition into the world of telemedicine. Reach out to one of our trained solutions experts today.