America’s healthcare organizations and professionals are the front-line heroes of the battle against COVID-19. We’re so grateful for everything that you’re doing, and we know that you’re facing unprecedented demands in every area of your practice. Thank you for the amazing work you’re doing each and every day.
One area where we can help lighten the load is by supporting your efforts to get telemedicine solutions up and running. For many organizations, implementing telemedicine—or scaling up existing offerings—has become an essential part of offering ongoing care and helping reduce the burden for critical healthcare staff.
During these challenging and busy times, your IT team may need additional support to help implement the cloud computing and other healthcare-focused IT tools your organization needs to deliver ongoing patient care. Here’s a closer look at how to navigate the rapidly unfolding changes, and how we can help support you during the weeks and months ahead.
Shifting to Cloud-based Solutions
The coronavirus pandemic has completely reshaped the healthcare landscape. In 2019, Healthcare IT News reported that 53% of healthcare respondents in one survey identified cloud computing as a strategic priority, but only 7% of organizations had a fully developed digital strategy in place.
As a recent article in the Washington Post quipped, “The doctor isn’t quite ready to Skype you.” Many early adopters already had telehealth solutions in place to provide healthcare services at a distance. For other healthcare providers, responding to COVID-19 has demanded evaluating and rolling out telehealth solutions in real time. Even organizations that had some solutions in place are addressing in-the-moment needs to increase network bandwidth, add cloud computing capacity, and train their practitioners on how to be successful in a remote environment.
Healthcare organizations are finding several benefits and applications with telemedicine. One is providing care to suspected coronavirus cases, many of whom have been advised to self-isolate. In other cases, remote visits provide a platform for doctors, nurses, and other practitioners to meet with patients and provide ongoing care when an office or hospital visit isn’t practical or warranted.
According to Kaiser Health News, there’s been a surge in demand for telehealth services due to coronavirus social distancing: “Private technology companies such as Teladoc, Doctor On Demand, Amwell, and large health care systems can provide a doctor directly to someone who contacts them. Other patients may seek a telemedicine appointment with their regular physician, who can use computer applications through smartphones and computers. All types of primary and specialty care and mental health services can be provided via telemedicine.”
In the past, many insurers paid only partial rates on telemedicine visits but have shifted and increased payouts so virtual visits are on par with in-person visits. Medicare also approved sweeping changes to allow all covered individuals to use telemedicine. Demand has spiked as a result. STAT News reports that visits at the Cleveland Clinic alone increased fifteenfold for telehealth visits, for example.
Upgrading Telemedicine Solutions During a Crisis
Upgrading infrastructure to keep up with demand in telemedicine visits is essential. As STAT News notes, there are initial challenges and “they include training doctors to deliver virtual care, working out reimbursement snafus, and trying to integrate telehealth services into fractured electronic health record systems. There are also technology setup challenges for new users, as well as a shortage of bandwidth as the Internet groans under the strain of increasing use.”
We know that healthcare systems and IT providers are working around the clock to implement the underlying infrastructure, deploy cloud-computing support, update processes, and train staff on how to meet demand. While taking these steps in the midst of a crisis puts additional strain on the system, incremental improvements are helping healthcare providers meet healthcare needs while keeping patients and critical front-line healthcare workers safe. And many industry experts believe this could be the beginning of a profound shift in the way medical care is delivered, with an increasing demand for digital-based healthcare. In other words, these IT investments could be laying the foundation for critical future growth.
Cloud computing is helping doctors, nurses, and other providers access patient data security, conduct voice and video appointments, and update centralized electronic health records (EHRs) that become increasingly critical as patients see multiple providers. With cloud-based solutions, healthcare organizations are able to power provider mobility and choose platforms with easy-to-use interfaces for first-time patients and busy healthcare providers. Industry-best SaaS platforms, hospital-developed platforms, and public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions are all providing the compute and storage solutions necessary to securely store data and ensure application uptime.
One of the top considerations in making the move to a cloud computing solution is security. And few industries are as heavily regulated as healthcare, which must ensure that solutions are HIPAA-compliant.
In fact, Healthcare IT News recently reported that “Recent Black Book research shows that 31% of health system CIOs depend entirely on data breach insurance policies because they are either unknowledgeable about all the functional cyber security options to fully protect their system or simply did not budget funds for such security improvements in 2019.”
There are a number of solutions healthcare organizations can turn to, from managed data center solutions with built-it security components to real-time network monitoring that helps fend off cyber security attacks. A knowledgeable partner can help conduct an audit of your IT environment and your fast-evolving needs, assess your risks, and then develop a customized plan to help you stay in compliance with HIPAA and deliver the secure, cloud-based telemedicine solutions that are so in demand. The right IT partner can also help you determine which providers meet industry security standards (such as HITRUST certification) or conduct ongoing audits to stay in compliance with evolving HIPAA standards.
As a healthcare provider, you’re facing one of the most challenging healthcare periods in history. The right technology can help you deliver the care needed, while maintaining the exceptional levels of patient care and information security your field demands.Practices, hospitals, and healthcare organizations don’t have to go it alone. The experts at Connection can help reduce the workload on your team and help you quickly and efficiently get the solutions that you need in place to support your critical mission. We’ll work with you to design, deploy, and support technology solutions that drive patient care so you can focus on what you do best—helping others. Call us today at 1.800.800.0014 to discuss your needs and let us know what we can do to help support your vital mission.