Not so long ago, telemedicine vendors had proprietary standards to connect point-to-point devices via the Internet to conduct a telehealth session. Now, there are open connectivity standards that eliminate additional steps to launch a session, making use of telemedicine simpler.

There remain significant differences among vendors in the architecture of telemedicine systems, says Steve McGraw, CEO at telemedicine vendor Reach Health, but proprietary standards for network connections are going away fast. “We worry about writing code now,” he adds. “Standards lets us write software that replicates the physician session rather than worrying about connectivity.”

That’s one of five major telemedicine technology trends that McGraw sees becoming more prominent in 2016. Here are the others:

Rise of the Software Platform: Healthcare organizations increasingly want an enterprisewide telemedicine platform that supports sessions covering multiple types of medical conditions such as neurology, pediatrics, behavioral health and emergency care, among others. The advantages to providers, McGraw says, are one vendor to deal with, one security architecture, one consistent user interface, training curriculum and apps to measure and report metrics regardless of the medical condition being treated. Whereas vendors often in the past focused on one disease, those days are gone as the shift to enterprise platforms evolves in 2016. No vendor today can serve all the disciplines but that also will evolve.

Also See: Bill Seeks to Expand Medicare Reimbursement for Telehealth

Richer Clinical Apps for Physicians: Telemedicine vendors need to recreate the bedside experience for physicians and patients, and that means supporting individual physician preferences for how they conduct a session. Consequently, the technology is becoming more adaptable with flexibility on how information is displayed to physicians and used, while still being in compliance with an organization’s standard clinical protocols.

Built-in EHR Integration: Clinicians participating in a telemedicine system often use different EHRs, so integration of electronic records with telemedicine is becoming an expectation. “During a telemedicine consultation the relevant patient information should be presented seamlessly to both the clinician at the point of care and also to the remote specialist, even when they each use a different EHR,” according to REACH Health.

Data Analytics: Over the years, data gathered during a telemedicine session has typically been manually collected. But that won’t cut it in the age of analytics. Hospitals want to know how quickly a patient with stroke symptoms gets appropriate medications upon arrival, McGraw says. Hospitals also will want to use automatically gathered telemedicine data so they can analyze how many patients stayed at the hospital and for how long, and follow up with patients to see how they are doing following release. In other words, telemedicine data becomes outcomes data. “With increasing focus on patient engagement and improved outcomes, providers are consistently seeking telemedicine solutions that do much more than simply enable consultations, but truly enhance clinical effectiveness and overall program management,” McGraw says.

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