Choosing a Telehealth Platform

Choosing a Telehealth Platform

Choosing a telehealth platform requires careful consideration.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the first telehealth platform, the Teledactyl, was imagined in 1925 by Hugh Gernsback. While the Teledactyl was never used for telemedicine, the COVID-19 public health emergency resulted in the widespread use of other platforms for telehealth.

Many organizations have found telehealth to be a good fit for their providers and clients, prompting facilities to secure platforms for the long-term administration of telehealth services. However, not all mediums used are appropriate for growing and maintaining a telehealth caseload while adhering to patient privacy and insurance payment guidelines.

Choosing a telehealth platform requires careful consideration. With all the options available, therapists may be unsure about how to choose a telehealth platform that aligns with service provision needs. Here are some points to consider.

Recommended course: Troubleshooting Telehealth Issues: Overcome Challenges in Pediatric Telehealth Sessions

A HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform

As with any purchase, you’ll need to determine what features are necessities. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires the protection of a client’s personal health information (PHI). A HIPAA-compliant platform with a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is necessary for protecting the privacy of your clients during therapy sessions and the documentation storage process.

The BAA is an agreement between your organization and the vendor that will come into contact with your client's PHI. HIPAA requires signing the BAA before sharing any PHI with the platform vendor. A platform can have multiple versions, with only one adhering to HIPAA standards, so you’ll need to ensure you access the version needed for your clinic.

Telehealth services can be administered in various ways. One asynchronous method involves email, video, or even text. This means that the provider and the client aren’t interacting in real-time. The Department of Health and Human Services provides guidance on audio-only telehealth services.

However, service payment entities have their specific requirements for the administration of services for payment eligibility. You’ll need to ensure you’re using a live video and audio feed if required by your client’s health insurance company and state policy.

How often will therapists use the telehealth platform?

Since platforms can vary in price point, you’ll want to consider how many healthcare providers will use the platform and how often they’ll use it to deliver services. A free trial use can be a cost-effective way to try out the features on a platform. However, if the free trial is limited to 30 days, variables such as the time of year can skew the accuracy of how much your clinic may utilize the system.

Who will be using the platform?

A platform that caters to multiple disciplines will allow for broader use. However, you’ll still want to consider the unique needs of each discipline user group as well as the unique needs of their clients. A platform allowing individualization of services based on discipline will support evidence-based practice techniques.

How will the platform enhance client experiences?

Whether the telehealth platform is used by someone new to telehealth or a seasoned telehealth provider, feature usability and availability can affect provider productivity, cognitive load, and frequency of use. Present features, or lack thereof, can also affect client outcomes and session attendance. Several features can positively add to the user experience and facilitate a successful client session.

Platform assessments

A platform that houses multi-disciplinary assessments, exercise programs, and/or treatment activities that are appropriate for telehealth can reduce session planning time for clinicians. Using resources created for digital distribution and consumption can also elevate the quality of those resources. However, when utilizing a platform’s library of assessments, you’ll still need to reference best practice guidelines for telehealth administration to maintain the validity of the evaluation.

Point of service documentation

Access to point-of-service documentation can increase the accuracy and timeliness of documentation completion. This is especially helpful when sessions occur back-to-back. The ability to retrieve previous session data easily during a session is a benefit for ensuring the upcoming session supports current goals and patient skills.

Integration with other applications

Using a platform that can integrate with other electronic systems may enable you to streamline your clinic processes. You may have other electronic systems, such as a secure appointment reminder system or a billing system, that would benefit from a two-way communication with the therapy platform that you’ve chosen. Integration with these systems can reduce revenue loss from client cancellations and increase billing timeliness.

Tech support

Live tech support can help increase session quality by troubleshooting technical difficulties and decreasing session cancellations. Platform-embedded video tutorials and/or articles about the system’s functions can support clinician autonomy, empowering clinicians to troubleshoot independently and utilize the platform's functions.

Telehealth in a post-pandemic world

The use of telehealth continues to be relevant in a post-pandemic society. As technology and telehealth knowledge evolve, changes will be needed to provide telehealth services using best practices. As a result, a reassessment of clinic needs and platform functions will be required to ensure the highest level of care is being provided.

This article was written by Jami Cooley

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