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EHR Integration, Analytics Lead Hospitals to Enterprise Telehealth

Healthcare organizations implementing enterprise telehealth solutions are looking at EHR integration and analytics to further improve patient care.

Enterprise telehealth is supported through EHR integration, analytics

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Telehealth and telemedicine for many hospitals is moving from a departmental approach to a more centralized method that allows hospitals to capitalize on EHR integration and analytics-driven decision making.

A new report from REACH Health found that 39 percent of healthcare organizations have moved towards an “enterprise approach” to telehealth, which is when telemedicine initiatives are universally managed across services lines and/or settings of care.

Another 25 percent are in the process of transitioning from a siloed telehealth approach to an enterprise system.  The remaining 36 percent have individual programs owned by each department.  

A federated, enterprise telehealth approach can help to increase operational efficiency and improve ROI while allowing organizations to integrate telehealth more deeply into the care process, said the report.

“We saw a high degree of value placed on platform features related to data and analytics, EHR integration and support for off-the-shelf endpoints such as laptops and tablets. These features and capabilities tend to have a greater impact on the organization as a whole more than individual departments because they are integral to maximizing the value of investments in equipment and software,” said Steve McGraw, President and CEO of REACH Health.

READ MORE: Examining the Rocky Road to Telehealth Parity

McGraw also noted that telehealth features with platforms that encouraged departmental unification were more sought after than platforms that had specialized features department-to-department.

“Conversely, features that tend to have more of an impact on individual departments, such as support for proprietary devices, are less frequently noted as critical or valuable,” he said.

The report revealed a number of additional key insights into how hospitals are leveraging telemedicine to meet their strategic objectives.  

Telemedicine platforms with data capture ability are highly sought-after

Three of the top six most-desired platform features were related to clinical documentation, the ability to send documentation to/from the EHR, and the ability to analyze consult data. Patient engagement tools were also among the top six features cited by healthcare organizations as a “valuable or critical” feature.

  • 94 percent of all orgs sought integrated audio and video for live patient engagement
  • 84 percent wanted telemedicine features with the ability to produce clinical documentation from each consultation
  • 83 percent wanted support for standard devices, such as laptops and tablets as clinical endpoints
  • Another 83 percent looked for telehealth functions that could send clinical documentation to/from the EHR
  • 79 percent of orgs wanted telemedicine that allows clinicians to communicate through HIPAA compliant messaging
  • 79 percent wanted platforms with the function to analyze telemedicine consult data to assess and improve performance

READ MORE: Rural Telehealth Use Rises, But Challenges for PCPs Remain

Improving patient satisfaction and increasing revenue are the most important objectives for telemedicine programs

Organizations are heavily focused on improving patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, and bolstering revenues. The report revealed that organizations tend to build their telemedicine programs with a “patient first, ROI second” mentality

Top priorities included:

  • Improving patient outcomes (89 percent)
  • Increasing patient satisfaction and engagement (86 percent)
  • Improving patient convenience is a high priority in their telemedicine program (82 percent)
  • Providing care access to rural or remote patients is a top priority in how their organization uses telemedicine (81 percent)
  • Improving their revenue is a major goal in telemedicine programs (55 percent)
  • Capturing market share from competitors by offering telemedicine to patients (53 percent)

On average, more than half of healthcare organizations were successful with high priority patient-centered objectives

Telemedicine programs ranked as a top priority within an organization's general operations are 56 percent more likely to be highly successful than those ranked as a low priority, the study found.

READ MORE: HEART Act Targets Medicare Limits on Rural Telehealth, RPM

In general, the majority of healthcare orgs were highly successfully and met top or critical goals using telemedicine:

  • 65 percent of orgs were very successful in providing telemedicine services to rural/remote patients
  • 56 percent saw strong success in providing patients 24/7 access to specialists
  • 55 percent were very successful in improving patient convenience
  • 52 percent found significant success in improving patient outcomes

However, only 21 percent of organizations were highly successful in improving revenues and only 13 percent succeed in capturing competitive telemedicine markets. A large portion of organizations did report moderate success in these categories.

Reimbursement was cited as a major challenge within many telehealth programs

Telehealth reimbursement presents major barriers across several parts of the care continuum. Participants reported that federal and private reimbursement were the most significant challenges in telehealth programs.

  • 39 percent of orgs said Medicare reimbursement was a major challenge in their telehealth program
  • 38 percent reported that inadequate telehealth parity laws were troublesome barriers
  • 36 percent said Medicaid reimbursement presented a significant obstacle
  • 34 percent of orgs said private payer reimbursement acted as a barrier

“Analysis of this information exposed numerous findings such as the challenges that have been most widely mitigated and those that continue to pose obstacles, as well as identifying telemedicine program attributes that are highly correlated to success,” the survey authors concluded.

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