Utilizing Superior Tools for a Better Foundation in Virtual Care

The other day, I was reading an online article titled, “12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021 Roundup”, by Fred Pennic.  Written earlier in January, Mr. Pennic interviewed industry professionals requesting their predictions for the industry. Many of the comments from the participants were almost prophetic as we close 2021.  Indeed, many of the commenters’ forecasts now seem rather obvious 9 months later.

I did notice (and frankly agree with) many of the comments.

Among the conclusions and predictions these well-respected leaders in healthcare and telemedicine voiced included:

“Telehealth is Here to Stay in 2021.”

“2021 will be the year of patient controlled-health.”

“Virtual care (of all types) will become a lasting form of care.”

“Telehealth visits are going to supersede in-person visits as time goes on.”

And my personal favorite:

“Virtual Healthcare is Here to Stay (House Calls are Back).”

These, and several other comments, are now considered hard and fast facts accepted as the future of healthcare that 2 years ago were a dream or even a distant fantasy in the telecare industry. Telehealth and telemedicine have become the new normal in healthcare.

As I consider the necessary capabilities or tools to provide effective and efficient patient outcomes via telemedicine certain constants remain. Regardless of the discipline, specialty, task, care objective, or participant, three items bubble up to be keys for success.  These include:

  1. An access/entry point tool to input patient data and document the patient’s concerns. This may include anything as simple as a beginning encounter sheet via a data software or an electronic document to directly interface with an EMR or EHR system through a secure connection. In nearly all cases, the well-established medical record solution is used.
  2. High-quality sound or audio capabilities on both sides of the telemed encounter. As an example, the ability to have high quality audio to hear the variance in the patient’s voice or symptoms (such as cough type, i.e., dry, raspy, etc.), greatly enhances the physician’s ability to provide better care and treatment.  Additionally, features such as superior noise cancellation ensure a better hearing environment for the provider.  Minimizing confusion, over talk resulting in a loss of concentration.  Finally in the healthcare setting, highly secure tools, in terms of privacy via headsets or dedicated boom microphones assure both confidentiality to the patient and is less likely to accidentally have a HIPAA “slip”.  Both parties are assured of the best interaction.
  3. High-quality and responsive camera capabilities. While it is often the temptation to use the laptop or the cell phone camera to provide face-to-face interaction, the limitations of these devices far outweigh the convenience or perceived benefit.  I often (imagine?) the patient trying to show the provider a wound or rash on the back of the neck with a laptop or cellphone, at the same time trying to interface with the physician. Devices that provide high-definition output, automatic panning, and active PTZ in a small form factor provide a superior opportunity of care.

Indeed, “House Calls” are here to stay.  The challenge is making sure that the house is built with superior tools resulting in a better foundation and structure capable of addressing any changes that may come.