The Power of the Telehealth Connection to Improve Remote Patient Care

Telehealth: Delivering care — and growth — anywhere

The demand for telehealth, or virtual care, has experienced an unprecedented rise in demand, driven largely by the use of virtual visits as an alternative to in-person visits. Over the next several years, though, it will be telehealth’s convenience, efficiency and access to care that will fuel its continued growth.

In fact, the U.S. telehealth market is predicted to grow sevenfold by 2025.1  There is also a growing consensus in the medical community that telehealth will remain a useful complement to in-person visits in the long term.

There are still hurdles to overcome.

Patients are still acclimating to this new way of delivering care, and more education is needed. Healthcare organizations are experiencing a learning curve, both in implementing telehealth services and in staying informed on the expanding scope of what telehealth can do. Then there’s the question of connectivity: to the internet and also to reliable wireless service. Access to internet service through a cellular network is the lifeblood of a telehealth program. With fast, reliable access, you can quickly connect to patients for real-time video visits and to store and share data. With anything less, you can’t.

“It’s all about reliable connectivity wherever we go without having to ask people for access to their networks. Especially in patient homes, some of the population we serve just doesn’t have access to internet that’s fast enough or reliable enough to give us the quality we would need to do video reliably. We need to do video to make the business worthwhile.

— John Baker, Senior Analyst of Telemedicine and Video Conferencing at Children’s Mercy3″

The Growing Role of Telehealth

Though it varies somewhat from organization to organization, the core definition of telehealth has remained more or less constant: Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare, health education, and health information services via remote technologies.4 Telehealth connects providers to patients, data and other providers remotely using internet access, and can include:

    • Smartphones, tablets, computers
    • Video
    • Messaging
    • Photos
    • Email
    • Audio
    • Web-connected devices

What is constantly evolving is how telehealth is being used to help patients and grow business for healthcare organizations (HCOs). While video visits to replace scheduled in-person appointments are driving much of the current growth, telehealth adoption is expanding in other areas, as well.

Telehealth is transforming the way many HCOs deliver care. But all of telehealth’s potential relies on a network that offers dependable broadband access. Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare, health education, and health information services via remote technologies.

TELEHEALTH BENEFITS

    • More efficient, effective care delivery for HCOs
    • More convenient, comprehensive care for patients
    • Fewer ED admissions and hospital readmissions
    • Better patient outcomes

TELEHEALTH APPLICATIONS

    • Urgent care. Patients can connect to providers who can remotely diagnose and treat allergies, earaches, colds, rashes, pinkeye and other minor conditions.5
    • Primary care. Clinicians can conduct routine visits with patients who are unable or unwilling to come into a clinic.6
    • Emergent care. Tele-emergency services give smaller hospitals with limited staff 24/7, two-way video access to emergency medicine specialists.7
    • Specialized care. Patients and their primary care providers can have online consultations with specialists, and patients can receive follow-up care in their own homes.8
    • Chronic care. Patients with diabetes, COPD, cancer and other chronic diseases can benefit from regular remote check-ins with a nurse or other provider.9
    • Stroke care. Tele-stroke programs give local clinicians remote access to neurologists, who can better diagnose strokes and prescribe clot-busting drugs within the golden hour.
    • Remote monitoring. Small, wireless monitors can record vital signs and store and share that data, with no follow-up visit required.10
    • Continuing education. Staff can earn CTE credits at home or in the clinic, without having to travel to classes and seminars.11

Connectivity Is the Key to Telehealth

Telehealth requires connectivity. Remote medical care and patient data need internet access and a wireless network, which is why the choice of network is critical to telehealth success. Here are some examples:

    • Cellular-enabled tablets allow patients with chronic diseases to check in regularly and remotely through a reliable network, much like using a cellphone. Even if a patient doesn’t have Wi-Fi in their home, they can use the cellular-enabled tablet to access a wireless app that can share vital signs and visit with providers using the video chat capability.
    • And unlike Wi-Fit-tethered tablets that rely on a router for internet, cellular-enabled tablets can help home health nurses verify and document in-home patient visits using a reliable cellular network.
    • Smaller hospitals, hospice care organizations, and rural health centers can all use these tablets to remotely deliver specialized care such as cardiology, dermatology, and behavioral health to patients who may not otherwise have access.

Each of those cases relies on a cellular-enabled tablet and network that connects patients to at-home care — wherever home may be.

Get Connected Telehealth solutions bring patients closer to their care.

    • Software. There are many telehealth software offerings designed for HCOs of all sizes. Their functions can include video visits, patient portal and EHR integration, patient education, remote monitoring management, and much more.12
    • Hardware. Specialized equipment to support telehealth includes mobile or wall-mounted telehealth stations, integrated devices like stethoscopes and otoscopes, and cellular-enabled computers, tablets and smartphones.13
    • Network. A cellular network connects the software and hardware to providers and patients, so visits and information exchange can take place. The reliability of a telehealth solution depends on the reliability of its network.
    • Cellular-enabled tablets and mobile hotspots to take telehealth solutions where patients live.
    • Mobile forms and electronic visit verification (EVV) to let staff document patient visit information.
    • Mobile device management (MDM) to remotely locate, lock and delete data from lost devices, supporting HIPAA compliance.

5G: The Future of Telehealth

Telehealth has experienced unprecedented growth since 2019, but indications are that this emerging technology is just beginning to fulfill its potential. Here are a few of the most promising ways it will grow and evolve in the years to come, as 5G networks with exceptionally low latency and greater bandwidth become the norm.

    • 5G has groundbreaking potential far beyond faster download speeds, lower latency and enhanced connectivity. Businesses and organizations will continue to unlock its potential, driving new and innovative technologies.
    • Robotic surgery is already a well-established practice. When combined with a low-latency 5G network, though, doctors will be able to perform telesurgery remotely, practically in real time, on patients who are miles away.14
    • Remote wearables like smart watches and small wireless devices worn on the body can constantly monitor a patient’s vital signs and send alerts if those signs exceed the normal range. Wearables can give patients the freedom to go about their lives, plus the security of quickly knowing when to seek medical care.
    • Artificial intelligence will analyze data gathered by remote wearables, compare it to hundreds or thousands of data points from other patients with similar conditions, and spot trends and anomalies, all automatically. Clinicians will be able to instantly access and apply these analyses to make better-informed decisions surrounding diagnosis and treatment.15

As telehealth continues to evolve and support other cutting-edge technologies, access to a powerful, low-latency broadband network will become an even more critical requirement.

“The issue of broadband access has been of recurrent interest among elected officials and telehealth advocates, who say that without reliable internet patients are effectively being left behind.16

Why UScellular™

    • Fast & Reliable Network: Our solution is powered on a fast and reliable, nationwide network that works in the city and beyond.
    • Quick & Easy Setup: Solutions are easy to deploy, allowing you to quickly connect to the network for reliable internet access to support your telehealth needs.
    • Local Support: Our dedicated local team of experts is ready to help connect your telehealth solutions.

For more information on how UScellular can enable your telehealth solution, call 866-616-5587 or visit uscellular.com/business/telehealth

Questions?

The UScellular network works in the city and rural areas, supporting telehealth solutions that can power remote visits with patients where they live. And we’re building a 5G network with a combination of connectivity, speed and capacity that will allow your telehealth solution to do more.

To see how UScellular can help your healthcare organization, call 866-616-5587 or click below to learn more.

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References

  1. Fernandez, Mariana. “Telehealth to Experience Massive Growth with COVID-19 Pandemic, Says Frost & Sullivan.” Frost and Sullivan, 2020. https://ww2.frost.com/news/press- releases/telehealth-to-experience-massive-growth-with-covid-19-pandemic-says-frost-sullivan/
  2. Ibid.
  3. O’Dowd, Elizabeth. “Telehealth Video Consults Affect Health IT Infrastructure.” HIT Infrastructure, 2018. https://hitinfrastructure.com/news/telehealth-video-consults-affect-health-it-infrastructure
  4. NEJM Group. “What is Telehealth?” 2018. https://catalyst.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/CAT.18.0268
  5. Siwicki, Bill. “At Cigna, telehealth reduces patient costs and ER visits, and boosts use of generic Rx.” Healthcare IT News, 2019. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/cigna-telehealth-reduces-patient-costs-and-er-visits-and-boosts-use-generic-rx
  6. Roth, Mandy. “Is Virtual Primary Care the Next Big Disrupter in Telehealth?” Health Leaders, 2020.https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/innovation/virtual-primary-care-next-big-disrupter-telehealth
  7. Dartmouth – Hitchcock. “Telemergency.” https://med.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/connected-care/tele-emergency.html
  8. Rural Health Information Hub. “Telehealth Models for Increasing Access to Specialty Care.”https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/telehealth/2/care-delivery/specialty-care
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Telehealth Interventions to Improve Chronic Disease.” https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/telehealth.htm
  10. Hennick, Calvin. “How Remote Patient Monitoring Programs Are Beneficial.” Health Tech Magazine, 2020. https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2020/04/how-remote-patient-monitoring-programs-are-beneficial
  11. American College of Physicians. “American College of Physicians Launches New Online Telemedicine CME Program.” ACP Newsroom, 2018. https://www.acponline.org/acp-newsroom/american-college-of-physicians-launches-new-online-telemedicine-cme-program
  12. Monica, Kate. “Top 10 Telemedicine Solutions by Hospital Implementations.” mHealthIntelligence, 2017. https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/top-10-telemedicine-solutions-by-hospital-site-implementations
  13. South Central Telehealth Resource Center. “3 Essential Technology Tools in the Telehealth Toolbox.”
  14. Comeau, Zachary. “Research: Telehealth Could Usher In Telesurgery and Remote Surgical Procedures.” MyTechDecisions, 2020. https://mytechdecisions.com/it-infrastructure/research-5g-could-usher-in-telesurgery-and-remote-surgical-procedures/
  15. Freiherr, Greg. “How Telehealth and AI Might Amplify Human Ability.” Imaging Technology News, 2019. https://www.itnonline.com/content/blogs/greg-freiherr-industry-consultant/how-telehealth-and-ai-might-amplify-human-ability
  16. Jercich, Kat. “Telehealth seems here to stay – so how can it be improved?” Healthcare IT News, 2020. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/telehealth-seems-here-stay-so-how-can-it-be-improved