What is a telemedicine platform?

A telemedicine platform is the technology infrastructure, services, and support that allows private, secure, HIPAA-compliant, and high-quality virtual medical consultations via videoconference.

Telemedicine platforms are used by hospitals, clinics, physicians, and telemedicine providers as the basis for interacting with patients and other providers.

How does a telemedicine platform enable virtual medical consultations?

Virtual medical consultations are not like typical videoconferences. They must be HIPAA-compliant which means they must be secure and private. They must also provide clear high-quality video and audio of both clinician and patient. High-speed internet is required to ensure no interruptions or degradation of quality.  A telemedicine platform provides the infrastructure and technology required for medical use, unlike mobile phones or regular videoconference technology.

What are the key elements of a telemedicine platform?

The key elements of a telemedicine platform ensure consistent and quality performance of virtual medical consultations and include:

  • Consult Coordination: a telemedicine platform must enable “air traffic control” agents to receive requests, assign and schedule clinicians, assure readiness at the point of care, and troubleshoot any technical issues.
  • Consult Delivery: Compatibility with video communication technology that may include fixed and movable cameras (with remote camera control), stationary and detachable microphones, connections for multiple accessories, and bi-directional screen sharing and annotation capabilities. Examples include telemedicine carts, laptops, and tablets.
  • Consult Satisfaction: A telemedicine platform designed with continuous and robust feedback from clinicians and healthcare organizations is purpose-built to work at the speed of medicine. It also allows for fast training and implementation.
  • Consult Quality: A telemedicine platform should easily capture analytics and performance metrics to help healthcare organizations measure the quality of the care provided, just as for in-person care. Reporting is critical for achieving continual improvement goals.

What are the benefits of a telemedicine platform?

An enterprise telemedicine platform should assist health systems in achieving some of the strategic goals they’ve set for their organizations. While a telemedicine solution should enable an organization to conduct virtual medical consultations, it should go beyond the basics to empower healthcare organizations to optimize organizational and clinical outcomes.

Healthcare executives who have immersed themselves in telemedicine strategy know that success lies beyond some of the obvious components such as clinicians and audio/video capabilities. While carts, cameras, physicians, and EMR integration are important, critical success factors need to include cross-departmental buy-in, implementation, scalability, and, most importantly, measurable outcomes.

How does a telemedicine platform drive clinical quality?

Healthcare organizations that employ a telemedicine platform should be able to trust that the service and technology will enable the highest quality clinical performance.

For this, a telemedicine platform should be backed by tried and perfected workflows and telemedicine best practices that standardize care delivery encounter to encounter and across locations. The platform should also be evaluated on the marketplace leadership and medical expertise of the provider.

Proof points include:

Clinical quality is driven by data insights; an enterprise telemedicine platform should enable healthcare organizations to pursue evidence-based clinical protocols with robust reporting, analytics, and benchmarking.

An enterprise telemedicine platform should help you elevate and standardize clinical performance across your system with aligned workflows.

How does a telemedicine platform help optimize outcomes?

Telemedicine platforms must contemplate a variety of choices in real-time using business principles, healthcare organization requirements, and advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence:

  • Who are the available clinicians?
  • Are they appropriate for the case?
  • Does the clinician have privileges at that location?
  • Does the hospital or clinic prioritize using their own staff before outsourced clinicians?
  • Do these priorities change depending on the time of day?

A telemedicine platform goes beyond mere connectivity to influencing certain variables throughout an organization to improve clinical outcomes. It should also drive operational efficiencies and optimize financial investment.

Why is it important for a telemedicine platform to be scalable?

A telemedicine platform that is scalable means that it can adjust to changes in clinical use cases, physician staffing, and operational and financial priorities. Both the vendor and the healthcare organization should be dynamic enough to adjust to changes in strategy and still drive the outcomes needed.

Telemedicine is not a one-size-fits-all model. A telemedicine platform should meet healthcare organizations where they are on their telemedicine journey and then mature with them over time without requiring operational changes and technology overhauls.

The entire infrastructure used to manage the operations and the access to capable and credentialed clinicians should be able to promote the growth of the telemedicine program. If a telemedicine platform is well designed and robustly supported, the addition of new locations, facilities, departments, specialties, or clinicians should be seamless instead of a significant operational undertaking.

Why should a telemedicine platform be flexible?

No two telemedicine programs are alike. The technology should be flexible enough to support a health care organization’s individual service lines and unique workflows. A flexible telemedicine platform allows an organization to choose how they implement and grow their telemedicine program, so it is important for the telemedicine platform to be highly configurable, and not “cookie-cutter”.

Specialty, site of service, level of acuity, and a host of other factors determine the shape and size of a telemedicine program. A flexible telemedicine platform should be able to integrate within an existing healthcare organization or physician practice without heavy lifting by internal technical resources.

What makes a telemedicine platform innovative?

A telemedicine platform should be backed by a partner who invests heavily in innovation to deliver continual improvements to its partners and involves them in the innovation process. Dedicated client success team members should always be seeking feedback on potential new features and functionality. Clinical leadership should also drive improvements in the platform. Healthcare technology experts should implement changes in agile development practices.

When an organization chooses to implement a telemedicine program, there can be considerable investment in time, money, and resources: staffing, technology, training, and management. Having a partner who continually innovates brings more value to that investment.

To continue to propel telemedicine to the forefront of general medicine, it is the responsibility of technology providers to invest in the future of the industry at large. How? By continually providing next-gen solutions—software and hardware—that empower medical providers to push beyond the limits of how telemedicine is used today.

How should a telemedicine platform integrate with existing technology?

Focusing entirely on hardware in the telemedicine conversation is a mistake. With the high rate of hardware obsolescence, a telemedicine platform tethered to a specific piece of hardware is a risky investment. A telemedicine platform should provide healthcare organizations with the ability to deliver remote care the way they choose. A platform should also offer users the freedom to conduct telemedicine using carts, monitors, tablets, smartphones, or other stationary endpoints without pigeonholing them to a single hardware or brand.

It is also critical that a telemedicine platform integrates with existing technology, and without requiring tremendous expense or time to implement. The use of Fast Healthcare Interoperable Resources (FHIR), one of the most popular protocols for joining disparate systems together, can help healthcare organizations get their technology to “talk” to the telemedicine platform and vice versa. EMR systems such as Epic, Cerner, and Meditech can integrate with telemedicine platforms from many different vendors.

Conclusion

A telemedicine platform is the technology infrastructure, services, and support that allows private, secure, HIPAA-compliant, and high-quality virtual medical consultations via videoconference. Telemedicine platforms are used by hospitals, clinics, physicians, and telemedicine providers as the basis for interacting with patients and other providers. Key elements for a telemedicine platform are: Consult Coordination, Consult Delivery, Consult Satisfaction, and Consult Quality. A telemedicine platform should be flexible, scalable, innovative, and help drive clinical quality.

Additional Resources

What is an enterprise telemedicine platform?

What Are the Essential Components of an Enterprise Telemedicine Platform?

8 Lessons Learned after 650,000 telemedicine consults

8 Lessons Learned After 850,000 Telemedicine Consults

Workflow Benefits of Telemedicine Integration with Hospital EMRs interlocking puzzle pieces

Workflow Benefits of Telemedicine Integration with Hospital EMRs

Consult Coordination Center

Consult Coordination Center: Nerve Center of Acute Telemedicine

People, Process and Product: Building Innovative Telemedicine Technology

Thumbnail image of Guru's Guide to Acute Care Telemedicine

The Guru’s Guide to Acute Care Telemedicine

Learn from the experts on building, scaling, and optimizing a telemedicine program

Clinical Quality Program in Telemedicine

Clinical Quality Management Program in Telemedicine

How Should CEOs Evaluate New Service Lines for Telemedicine?