MedCity Influencers

Providers are increasingly adopting cloud-based telehealth systems

Cloud-based platforms for telehealth eliminate the heavy burden of maintaining a locally installed native system while delivering all the benefits and security of cloud computing.

hand touching visual screen

Healthcare innovation and virtualization continue to drive the expansion and strengthening of service line offerings for hospitals and health systems. As medical consumers and providers grow more accustomed to technology advancements in their personal lives, they are asking and expecting the healthcare marketplace to keep pace. For patients, this includes on-demand access to care when and where they need it, cost efficiency and the security of their protected health information (PHI). For healthcare providers, it includes seamless integration into EMRs and workflows for better clinical outcomes, healthcare IT scalability across the enterprise, and the highest levels of HIPAA and HITECH compliance to protect patient data.

As the U.S. population continues to grow and age, having a digital health strategy is becoming more vital than ever for hospitals and health systems. Implementing next-generation healthcare technology such as cloud-based telehealth and digital exam rooms is taking precedence as providers seek to manage the influx of patients, their PHI, and their expectations for a more consumer-friendly healthcare experience. Dr. Alan Pitt, professor of Neuroradiology at Barrow Neurological Institute, summarized in a LinkedIn post earlier this year:

Sponsored Post

Physician Targeting Using Real-time Data: How PurpleLab’s Alerts Can Help

By leveraging real-time data that offers unprecedented insights into physician behavior and patient outcomes, companies can gain a competitive advantage with prescribers. PurpleLab®, a healthcare analytics platform with one of the largest medical and pharmaceutical claims databases in the United States, recently announced the launch of Alerts which translates complex information into actionable insights, empowering companies to identify the right physicians to target, determine the most effective marketing strategies and ultimately improve patient care.

“Issues related to patient access and satisfaction (think: less acute, community-based care) are top-of-mind for many administrators. However, with 80 percent of the dollars going to 20 percent of the population, managing the continuum for the chronically ill is imperative to provide better care at a lower cost.”

The cloud is key

The telehealth marketplace is expanding as more and more service providers break into the market or grow their virtual care offerings. With endless options to choose from, how can providers confirm they are getting the best value for their implementations, patients, and care teams?

To answer that question, providers must think ahead to where telehealth is going, and how the technology can be scaled across a healthcare organization. Only through cloud-based telehealth software can seamless scalability be realized. KPMG Director Neha Sachdeva said earlier this year

“The race is on to connect the dots all across patient care … the vendors are scaling to make what they have work across an entire enterprise,” so that healthcare providers can deploy “…one turnkey telehealth program that covers patient care from the moment they seek treatment, [to] in the hospital while getting treatment, and during recovery.”

However, trying to bolt together legacy systems is rarely easy and even more rarely recognizes the projected value of integration. Rather, the goal of building an enterprise virtual care platform is achieved through the system architecture of the telehealth platform, which allows for providers to launch multiple service lines that can be delivered across the three dimensions of virtual care:

  • Full-stack: All the components needed to support a digital health service line in a fully integrated suite of capabilities that mirror the functions of a physical clinic.
  • Enterprise class: The platform must be able to support multiple service lines across a health system, with each line serving unique patients by unique or shared teams of providers. 
  • Care continuum support: As virtual services expand, care must be able to be delivered deeper across the care continuum, and be utilized by physicians, mid-level providers, and a multitude of care extenders. Multiple clinical use cases can be supported from single episode care to management of complex chronic patients.

With this three-dimensional approach to virtual care, diverse services can be offered and supported by a single platform. To ensure the platform can meet the demand for virtual services, it is important to assess the scalability and redundancy of telehealth technology. Without high availability and reliability, the entire virtual care program can be put at risk.

Cloud capabilities give healthcare providers a nimble computing platform to ensure uptime, performance, and care accessibility, according to Brian Eastwood of Chilmark Research.

“Cloud-based healthcare IT makes it easier for healthcare providers to offer services that meet patients where they are, without having to visit a physical location to receive care or check in with a physician. Cloud technology also allows providers to scale existing services and offer new services at a lower cost than those that require an investment in on-premises technology.”

The HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey, which polled healthcare provider organization information technology and leadership professionals, found that the cloud will become a mission-critical tool for all healthcare IT infrastructure initiatives such as virtual care. In 2014, the cloud was primarily seen as a model that could support Health Information Exchange and data storage. In 2016, respondents expanded the range of functions they would leverage the cloud for, including patient empowerment, and they also noted that the cloud is poised to play a prominent role when healthcare organizations deploy telemedicine, remote monitoring tools, and mobile health applications.

Cloud-based platforms also eliminate the heavy burden of maintaining a locally installed native system while delivering all the benefits and security of cloud computing. This form of telehealth can deliver cost-efficient licensing, platform access from anywhere, redundant backup and recovery systems, and automatic software upgrades—in addition to the ability to rapidly scale to meet the needs of organizations of any size.

Next-level security

When it comes to patient data, hospitals and health systems are under tight rules and regulations to keep PHI secure. Cloud-based telehealth software can help deliver the highest level of data center security to meet HIPAA- and HITECH-compliance. Some companies are able to allocate considerable resources to protect and defend the data against intrusion and to provide back-up and disaster recovery that is difficult for a single health care institution to provide on its own.

Today, full-service telehealth software platforms are available with all the features and functions needed to practice any form of medicine suitable for virtual care that can be sourced from the cloud. These new single-suite software platforms are not only bolstering security for patients and providers, but they are also essentially creating a complete digital health system in the cloud.

Increased access to care

With virtual visits set to outpace in-person visits, hospitals and health systems of all sizes need to incorporate virtual strategies to securely engage patients as partners for better healthcare value and improved profitability. While telehealth has been in the healthcare marketplace for some time now, many hospitals and health systems still struggle with understanding service provider differentiators. Providers should be aware that next-generation telehealth with cloud services allows for enhanced accessibility for their care teams. This future-proof technology can be launched in one department to strategically introduce the digital exam room into workflows, while laying the groundwork to extend the telehealth ecosystem to other service lines in the future.

Implementing telehealth and digital exam rooms help healthcare organizations realize a competitive advantage amongst other providers, produce increased value for the organization, and expand patient access to care. As a result of virtual care offerings, patient wait times can be reduced, and non-acute needs can be treated in a more timely and cost-effective manner. Only cloud-based telehealth has the ability to rapidly scale across multiple services lines, provide next-level security and meet the patient demand for increased access to care.

Photo: Getty Images

This post appears through the MedCity Influencers program. Anyone can publish their perspective on business and innovation in healthcare on MedCity News through MedCity Influencers. Click here to find out how.