Telemedicine is here to stay, and many healthcare providers are transitioning from temporary telemedicine measures to full telehealth systems that form permanent parts of their practices. The right tools can ensure that both providers and patients are getting the most out of a fully realized telehealth implementation.
What Makes a Good Telehealth Tool?
Telehealth adoption has been trending upward for years, and as a result, there are hundreds of different technology tools for practitioners to consider. Here, we go over some of the top tools available today. To be suitable for telehealth, a tool needs to be secure, reliable, cost-efficient (or even revenue-generating), and easy to use for both providers and patients. We will review some tools in each of several general categories to consider when adopting new technology, as examples and starting points for getting telehealth up and running in your own practice.
See our guide to Implementing Telemedicine in 2020 for more advice on updating your practice to support telemedicine and telehealth. Note that, though telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably, we refer to the remote delivery of clinical services as telemedicine, which is part of a broader telehealth ecosystem that also includes non-clinical services.
The Most Important Telemedicine Hardware
The devices used to connect with, assess, and monitor patients form the foundation for an effective set of telemedicine tools. Hardware you already have on hand may be enough, but consider the following areas:
- Endpoints. In many cases, the computers, smartphones, and tablets that your practice and your patients already own are the only hardware needed to implement telemedicine. If you are not prepared to spend on specialized endpoints, make sure the software tools you choose are compatible with a wide variety of devices—many of the recommendations here are web-based and only require a browser, which almost any modern device can handle.
- Network hardware. In simpler implementations, existing network infrastructure may be enough—for example, the router and modem provided by an Internet service provider. As long as the practitioner and patient can achieve 15Mbps download and 5Mbps upload, videoconferencing should function just fine. Larger organizations switching to telemedicine may need updates to their network architecture to handle additional video traffic and increased security, such as Cisco’s DNA for Healthcare solutions.
- Webcams. Videoconferencing is usually the most important type of telehealth software, making a camera and mic the most important hardware. Many laptops have a built-in camera and mic that are good enough, but if your laptops are getting on in years, or your practice uses desktop computers, then a separate webcam may be necessary. Most webcams now also come with a built-in microphone, so separate mics are largely a thing of the past. Telehealth Specialists recommends the Logitech C930e as having great video and sound quality for teletherapy. In a pinch, you can even use a smartphone as a webcam, as most of them have cameras as good or better than standalone webcams.
- Remote patient monitoring hardware. Smartwatches, blood pressure cuffs, ECG devices, thermometers, digital stethoscopes, scales, and other medical devices are now small and inexpensive enough for participants to bring home, if they don’t already have a consumer version available. Many remote patient monitoring platforms (see below) provide portals to monitor patient health information from afar, and some handle sending required monitoring hardware to patients as well.
- Workstations and workspaces. Healthcare practitioners need a physical space to conduct remote sessions from. Often, it is an existing office, but additional hardware may be required, such as standing desks for doctors who are used to being on their feet. Telemedicine carts may also be a benefit in practices where multiple providers share devices to see patients from—for example, AMD Global Telemedicine sells several all-in-one hardware and software systems.
The Top Software and Services for Telemedicine
If your practice already has basic hardware infrastructure and established workflows that are amenable to telemedicine, then you may only need to supplement your practice with individual software tools that you can pick and choose as needed. Here are some types of tools to consider.
Videoconferencing Software for Telemedicine
Videoconferencing is often the starting point for telemedicine, and in some practices, it is all that is necessary to reach patients.
- GoToMeeting. Although LogMeIn’s GoToMeeting does not offer a version specifically for healthcare, its core offering meets many of the requirements that practitioners are looking for, such as strong security and compatibility with a wide variety of patient devices.
- Webex for Healthcare. Cisco has introduced a healthcare-specific version of its videoconferencing technology. In addition to high-quality video, the tool includes strong security, centralized management, and document sharing with annotation.
- Zoom for Healthcare. Zoom has exploded in popularity among businesses and consumers looking for reliable videoconferencing, but the company also offers a version specifically for healthcare providers with additional features. It is compliant with healthcare regulations, integrates with EMRs, allows for enhanced collaboration with other practitioners, and integrates with medical devices.
Remote Patient Assessment and Monitoring Software for Telemedicine
Telemedicine is not just videoconferencing. An increasing number of tools can be used to assess and monitor patients outside of traditional healthcare settings.
- CBS Health. Hey, that’s us! CBS Health, from Cambridge Brain Sciences, is a secure and powerful cognitive assessment platform built for healthcare practitioners. A wide variety of practices use CBS Health to track brain health over time as a primary or secondary outcome in wellness or treatment plans. As a web-based tool, assessments are easily sent remotely, fitting perfectly into a telemedicine plan.
- 100Plus. A remote patient monitoring platform with a unique business model of offering continuous health monitoring with no upfront cost to providers or patients. A provider portal opens a window into patient information such as blood pressure, weight, and blood glucose.
- Binah.ai. Unlike the other platforms on this list, Binah.ai does not use traditional tools like blood pressure cuffs and wrist sensors to measure biometric data—instead, the software uses only a smartphone camera and artificial intelligence algorithms. The company claims to be able to track heart rate, oxygen saturation, and even mental stress. Early adopters may want to check out this unique approach; if proven accurate, it would be ideal for implementing telemedicine without the need to ship additional equipment to patients.
- Care Innovations Health Harmony. A platform designed for simple planning and deployment of remote care management. Care Innovations provides both consumer-friendly technology for patients and additional services for clinicians to gather health data that provides actionable insights.
- Coachcare. A virtual health and remote patient monitoring platform, Coachcare provides devices that can monitor patients at home, and is focused on increasing revenue and lowering the cost of care with features that facilitate reimbursement from insurance.
- iUGO Care by Reliq Health Technologies. An end-to-end solution for patients managing chronic conditions while keeping clinicians in the loop. iUGO Care facilitates sharing real-time biometric information to identify at-risk patients to deliver proactive care.
- Vivify Pathways. Built to make disease management and post-acute care programs more effective, Pathways pulls data from patients wherever they are through mobile devices or remote monitoring kits.
- Consumer health platforms. Many patients now monitor their own health using wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit. If an all-in-one remote patient monitoring platform is overkill, these devices often connect to their own health platforms, and may have the ability to export data about activity, heart health, menstrual cycles, mindfulness, and more to be shared with healthcare practitioners.
On-Demand Virtual Healthcare Portals
If you are looking for new patients, or to instantly connect with patients who need help, on-demand virtual healthcare portals connect patients with a directory of healthcare providers in a variety of specialties. Providers who sign up for these services receive a portion of the payments that patients make for instant access to healthcare. Here are just a few examples.
- iCliniq. Described as a “virtual hospital,” iCliniq facilitates online chats between patients and doctors for second opinions, medical advice, or preliminary diagnoses.
- MDLive. Experienced board-certified clinicians can connect with patients using MDLive, which involves a variety of specialties, but is especially known for mental healthcare. Healthcare providers can set their own hours, and are offered competitive compensation.
- Teladoc. With services offered in general care, dermatology, mental health, diet, and more, Teladoc services a wide variety of patients’ needs by connecting them with relevant healthcare professionals.
Insider has a list of many other patient portals for telemedicine for patients and practitioners to consider.
The Top Integrated Telehealth Platforms
If you are starting from scratch, or need a more complex telehealth implementation, then you may require an integrated system that incorporates telemedicine features. Here are some ideas for broader healthcare systems that support virtual care.
Telehealth-Friendly EMRs, EHRs, and Practice Management Tools
These healthcare platforms may not focus on telehealth, but they include integrations or add-ons that make them telehealth-friendly.
- AthenaHealth. Offering a full health technology ecosystem, including EHRs and coordination with other practitioners, AthenaHealth also includes telehealth features building on their existing communication channels, including telehealth-specific billing workflows and automated patient outreach.
- Clinko. A complete practice management application with a robust connected app ecosystem. The company has recently focused on telehealth as well, with the usual communication features built in to the platform.
- Epic. A collection of software and services for healthcare, such as a patient portal, EMR, dedicated modules for a wide variety of specialties. Epic users can include telehealth as an option with features such as integration with Zoom for Healthcare.
- Microsoft Teams. Though not focused solely on healthcare, Microsoft has been adding features to assist health providers in its Teams product. Videoconferencing, chat, and scheduling can make it easy to collaborate with colleagues or connect directly with patients.
- SimplePractice. Focused on dietitians and nutritionists, SimplePractice combines an EHR system, practice management, and telehealth features like video calls and screen sharing.
- WiCis Health. A flexible platform for EHR workflows, monitoring health data from various devices, billing, analytics, and more. Mental health and elderly care are particular focal points, with telehealth features designed to “bring the hospital to your patient.”
All-in-One Telehealth Platforms
These platforms focus on telemedicine and telehealth, and go beyond videoconferencing by including or integrating with additional features that facilitate running a virtual practice.
- Adracare. Offering virtual healthcare for clinics, Adracare contains a full suite of telehealth features, and integrates with other healthcare tools to merge with existing workflows.
- Continuous Care for Health. A rich suite of features that cover practice management, consultations, follow-up, and typical telemedicine features like videoconferencing, all designed for running a virtual practice.
- Doxy.me. A web-based telehealth platform that includes videoconferencing, chat, a waiting room, custom branding, analytics, and other features useful for implementing telehealth in a clinic.
- eVisit. An integrated platform for supporting everything around a patient’s virtual visit, from scheduling to intake to discharge.
- Healee. A flexible telehealth platform for private practices, hospitals, and healthcare companies. Healee even contains an AI-guided assistant to help gather information from patients and save time in a consultation.
- Healthie. A HIPAA-compliant combination of practice management and telehealth services. Focused on diet, health coaching, and massage therapists, Healthie has telemedicine features like videoconferencing built in, but also includes scheduling, EHR, billing, and other features for an all-in-one telehealth solution.
- OnCall. A comprehensive telehealth platform for engaging, automating, and tracking progress. Features include the usual conferencing options, but also practice management features like online booking and payment processing, as well as interactive intake and assessment forms. Larger healthcare organizations can even take advantage of integration with EMRs, white labelling, and custom reporting.
Did we miss any of the top tools within any of these categories? Let us know.
If you’re working with patients on their cognitive health, use CBS Health to gain validated measures of cognitive function, spanning four key domains, such as short-term memory, reasoning, concentration and verbal ability, that are key to quality of life. Plus, CBS Health was built from the ground up to be telehealth-friendly. Click here to learn more and request a demo.