The core goal of any telehealth tool or initiative is to break down traditional barriers associated with geography to enable access to premier healthcare services rapidly. When we think of geography, we tend to think of wide ranges, sometimes even as wide as countries or continents. However, breaking down geography can even include the drive or subway ride between a provider and their office.
That drive may have more of an impact on your physician than you think. Physicians today are dealing with an insurmountable amount of new challenges ranging from high volumes of patients, an aging population, changing regulations, and more. It’s only natural that they would begin to feel overwhelmed and according to a 2018 report from the Physicians Foundation, 78% of those surveyed felt burnt out. Physician burnout can have serious consequences for both the well-being of the provider and the patients that they treat. Teleradiology and mobile applications can alleviate some of this burn-out.
A physician that is able to access studies from home can save time that may have previously been lost commuting through traffic back to the office. Cloud-based applications can offer image viewing and sharing on-the-go. In a recent interview with ITN magazine, Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists, one of the largest orthopedic groups in the state, shared how all physicians at the practice have access to the Ambra Health mobile app. The Ambra application provides a secure method of access, even on private devices, enabling physicians with increased control over their own schedules.
It’s not only physicians that can suffer from healthcare burn out. A patient in a rural region that seeks specialized care may have to drive hours to visit the provider of their choice. This may involve time off from work and time away from family or other commitments. As our baby boomer population continues to grow, family members of older relatives may face strong burnout and fatigue with an enormous lack of caretakers, nurses, and physicians able to treat this population.
An NPR poll of rural Americans found that 25% had used a telehealth service in the past few years. These ranged from mobile communications to skype, to texting with a physician, and more. The ability to quickly access advice from a physician or monitor health markers like blood pressure with a mobile application can reduce unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office or Emergency Room, saving time for patients and allowing providers to focus on more critical cases.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently developing a three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program designed to support telehealth and patient monitoring services and tools in both rural and underserved populations.
There is still work to be done to make telehealth applications work well. FreeState Direct is a telehealth organization founded by a group of providers to provide modern communication technology to both rural hospitals and providers. Their goal is to offer patients local access to care that once required a long trip to a major city.
“Telemedicine seems to be the new frontier for innovation, quality, and distribution of healthcare, said Dr. Elisha Yaghmai, MD, MPH&TM, FreeState Direct.
However, challenges arose surrounding the clunky and out-of-date tools currently available on the market. Medical images are often a critical piece of the healthcare puzzle. Dr. Elisha Yaghmai initially planned to use local hospitals’ EMRs to exchange and view medical imaging, however, he quickly discovered that some didn’t have EMRs, some were difficult to use, most were not image-enabled, and many do not have remote log-ins. Dr. Yaghmai turned to the Ambra Health suite to help solve these challenges. The flexibility of cloud architecture makes it easy to bridge the gaps between the technologies that are already in use at organizations. A few widely adopted examples include connecting DICOM devices using a gateway. A gateway allows you to seamlessly move studies between both modalities and viewers within the walls of your facility and beyond. FreeState has installed over 14 image gateways at local hospitals, allowing images to be reviewed from near and far.
The ability to access patient data and imaging from anywhere can save lives, improve long-term outcomes, and allow providers to do their jobs better. While telehealth and mobile applications aren’t designed to take away from the in-office experience, they can certainly add a whole new positive element to healthcare.