The common use-case for telehealth is a video conference consultation between a doctor and a patient. The patient is either in their home or at a clinic. The patient uses a PC, a phone, or a tablet for the call and generic software such as Skype or Facetime manages the call itself.
This type of consultation is easy. There is no specialized equipment needed and this generic software works like a phone call, or runs in a browser, over the Internet. If this generic software is designed with ease of use in mind it will be simple for non-technical people, such as the elderly, to use.
However, there are many gaps in this kind of consultation.
With a generic solution there is no defined workflow. The doctor must maintain the patient information manually, making sure it is placed into the correct system and associated with the correct patient by hand. Given the number of patients seen by any doctor during a day, and the volume of information, it is a tremendous burden to place on the doctor and a completely unnecessary one, especially when good automated workflow solutions exist.
With a custom solution the software is integrated. There is a well defined workflow that allows the correct information to be gathered and stored at the right times, and placed into the right location. Data, such as images and videos, gathered during the session, will be stored by the software together with rest of the patient information, to be transmitted to an EHR system.
Using a generic solution, when the doctor does capture images and videos there is a privacy risk in how they store that data. On a regular PC or tablet there is no convenient way to securely store data outside of a custom software solution.
A custom solution is required to comply with regulatory standards such as HIPAA that specify how patient privacy is to be managed. Association of images and videos to the correct patient is guaranteed, and the data itself is encrypted to protect it from any potential compromise.
If the purpose of a telehealth consultation is simply an informal discussion then a generic video conference solution makes sense. But as soon as any of the information around the conference needs to be captured, this data also needs to be synchronized to an EHR system.
Only a custom software solution is able to provide a solution that is integrated with an EHR system. In fact a good custom software solution should be integrated with more than one EHR system.
Associated with the collection of actual data is the collection of metadata. If images and videos are captured, the doctor also needs to know when the video conference took place, how long it was, where the patient was, and other information that could help in later diagnoses.
A custom software solution can capture all of this information automatically save it with the patient’s records to be synchronized to the EHR system. A non-custom solution would not capture this information and the doctor would either lose that data or have to manually enter it somewhere.
For wide scale adoption of telehealth, high quality comprehensive custom software solutions must be in place. These software solutions need to be easy to use, providing a thoughtful workflow that is not only intuitive but automatically captures all the relevant data, and they must be completely integrated to well established medical infrastructure such as EHR systems.