When the epidemic is finally over, telehealth and telemedicine will need to address the issue of interoperability. As telehealth and telemedicine companies adopt sophisticated technologies and integrate them into the healthcare system, telehealth interoperability stays a cornerstone to simplifying clinical workflow. It is a significant leap towards standardized care as it allows for secure access to accurate information at the right time. The backbone of interoperability is the flow of patient and other important information through data integrations and software without errors during the transmission process.
Interoperability supports exchanging information across platforms, centralizing information, and supporting organizational initiatives to promote easy access to health information for both patients and providers. Furthermore, telemedicine companies’ efforts need to be prepared to train their clinicians. Training nurses, physicians, and billing clerks, among others, is a critical step in establishing an integrated telemedicine network. In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA), a team of Stanford researchers discussed managing disease by using telemedicine. The researchers emphasized that telemedicine companies need to increase technology interoperability and usability to improve telemedicine efficiency and quality, along with providing appropriate training to providers.
The Importance of Training & Telehealth Interoperability in the Current Scenario
The research team noted that virtual and in-person services are unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels in the post-pandemic period. They suggest that policymakers and informaticists should take action now to create care models that work effectively in the current environment. An optimal model, according to the research team, includes:
- Support for multidisciplinary consultations across all care teams.
- Improvement of the clinician and patient experience, including comprehensive provider training.
- Measuring quality, value, and patient-reported outcomes through telehealth interoperability.
In addition to highlighting the importance of identifying and implementing best-practice solutions, the researchers also stated that the surge of telemedicine could adversely affect vulnerable populations. The researchers also wrote that it is necessary to develop policies and infrastructure to narrow the digital divide to make telemedicine more equitable to those who do not have ready access to computers and the Internet. For example, according to the 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, only 69.3% of rural communities and 64.6% of tribal territories have an appropriate high-speed broadband connection. This limitation directly impacts patients’ ability to engage in telehealth services, including consultation and remote monitoring. The researchers also predicted that future developments in artificial intelligence would enable doctors to match the right patient with the proper treatment. Therefore, to achieve a more cohesive level of care, future care should utilize a hybrid model with the use of telehealth interoperability that integrates virtual and in-person visits.
The Next Big Trend
The Stanford researchers pointed out that data on outcomes is equally critical because telehealth use is still relatively misunderstood. Full acceptance will require yet another round of robust evidence, including clinical studies, to continue to be needed to support telemedicine if it evolves into a permanent, full-fledged part of healthcare delivery. The Stanford team is not the only one who holds this view. Many proposed telemedicine bills in Congress also demand more research into their use. For example, the CONNECT for Health Act, which has the support of half of the United States Senate, mandated a study into how telemedicine has contributed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act, introduced in January 2021, includes a similar provision. Many stakeholders are eagerly watching the unprecedented growth of telehealth and telemedicine. Keeping an eye on telemedicine and telehealth interoperability is strongly suggested.
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