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Telehealth’s future hinges on compliant solutions

By: Deborah Haywood  

Deborah Haywood is the Vice President of Government Solutions at McKesson Medical-Surgical Government Solutions.

Three years ago, it would have been unusual to see employees taking work calls from a cafe, much less checking in with their doctor. Now we don’t think twice.

During the pandemic, many healthcare providers installed temporary tech solutions to address the surge in demand for telehealth services. Now, as patient demand has ebbed along with the pandemic’s urgency, telehealth must be integrated into personal care in a way that adds lasting value. But shoring up diminishing investment in these solutions isn’t the only challenge facing the digital health industry. To support the continued growth of health technology, medical providers and suppliers must also select tech solutions that are compliant with clinical workflows and systems.

Structural barriers complicate greater telehealth adoption, including difficult integration in physician workflows, lack of broadband access among rural populations, and state licensure regulations. Providers can overcome these impediments and make telehealth services work better for their practice and their patients through optimized online patient platforms and integrated remote patient monitoring.

Now that the hyper-urgent need for quick telehealth infrastructure has dissipated, healthcare providers and application developers are trying to find the sweet spot between advancing digital tech solutions and delivering high-quality equitable patient care. These quick fixes must be replaced with a professional-grade digital platform that supports increased telehealth and patient services.

One critical factor to ensure this outcome is the utilization of a user-friendly, online medical platform. Many patients use these platforms to submit prescription refill and appointment requests, review their medical records, and pay their bills. These online platforms have granted patients greater ownership over their health outcomes; yet to be effective, they must integrate within the provider’s workflow and electronic medical records system, or EMR. 

Properly integrating remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions is another critical step in successfully scaling digital healthcare. Through RPM, providers are able to treat patients in more locations and gather data about their health using a range of health monitoring devices. And RPM continues to be a rapidly growing area; the global RPM market is projected to reach a value upwards of $117 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. Consumer demand for these remote health devices also runs parallel to this rapid industry growth. Approximately 30 percent of American adults regularly use a wearable health device as of 2020—a number only expected to grow. Tech companies are rushing to meet this increasing demand, but many fail to understand the industry-specific considerations needed for this technology to be a success in the clinical setting.

Many physicians struggle to find time to finish their clinical tasks for the day, much less review remote biometric patient data. Companies would do well to support physicians by providing solutions that assist with organizing and understanding patient data, especially data collected from these remote devices. And as with the online patient platforms, any RPM device or solution employed must integrate and comply with providers’ EMR systems and FDA requirements. Any patient data captured on non-compliant devices will not be usable by the medical provider.

RPM will be a key component in enabling the future success of telehealth and increasing equitable access to care, especially for disadvantaged or remote populations. Yet compliance hurdles could slow or halt scaling of these critical tech solutions. Medical providers would do well to invest in solutions that are designed to meet these compliance demands from the outset, instead of maintaining ones hastily instituted during the pandemic’s surge.

The future of telehealth remains full of opportunity, but providers and suppliers alike must invest in solutions that work well within the existing medical system—not work against it.