WEDI highlights challenges in integrating telehealth data into EHRs

More than a third of adults used telehealth services in 2021, and now providers face the hard work of integrating results from standalone platforms.

There is heightened awareness of the need to better integrate data from telehealth encounters into providers’ health records systems, but multiple challenges make that difficult to accomplish.

The difficulty is especially significant for health organizations in rural areas, which have limited technological capabilities and resources to integrate data from standalone platforms, according to a recent white paper from WEDI.

The need to achieve integration from standalone platforms is a growing problem for many healthcare organizations. While some integrated records systems enable clinicians to order telehealth consultations or conduct them out of EHR systems in clinicians’ workflow, it’s more complex when patients receive care from outside entities, such as through a phone-based app service.

Use of standalone telehealth platforms complicates integration with EHRs.

The extent of use of telehealth systems rose during the pandemic, and a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that 37 percent of adults in 2021 used telemedicine – defined as care delivered to patients via video or telephone. The results, based on data from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey, found that more than four out of every 10 adults older than 65 used telemedicine during the year.

The need for integration

The report, from the WEDI Telehealth Workgroup, says this increased utilization, driven by the pandemic and public health emergency response, brought the need for integration to the surface.

Benefits to improved telehealth integration into the EHR include:

  • Having a complete medical record in one system
  • Documenting all patient services in one location
  • Gathering data in one location for quality, public health and other tracking purposes
  • Having a patient’s complete record in one system for administrative needs

Integration is complicated when a provider's telehealth system and EHR are not integrated or when patients use standalone telehealth applications, such as Teladoc, MDLive, MEMD and Amwell.

The lack of integration can increase provider workload, impact quality and patient safety, result in unstructured data being included in the EHR, and impede coordination of care.

Those in rural areas are more likely to struggle because of challenges in achieving patient engagement, shortcomings in technology and the cost of achieving integration.

Other information on the WEDI report and telehealth data integration can be found in the white paper.

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