How to prepare your IT department for telemedicine

Jun 10, 2015 / Planning for telemedicine /

 

You've read all about the benefits telemedicine can offer not just to your patients, but also to your practitioners and your clinic as a whole. You've done your research and have decided to take the leap, bringing telemedicine technology and services into your clinic - congratulations!

While this is an exciting time for you and your clinicians, it's important that you work closely with the other side of your telemedicine operations - your IT department - to ensure as smooth a transition and adoption process as possible. Here are a few things to make sure you cover with your IT department before you go live with your telemedicine solutions.

Get your infrastructure ready

One of the great things about modern telemedicine technology is the flexibility it allows - aside from the software and hardware, all a clinic needs is an Internet connection. Well, almost. It's essential to ensure that your Internet speed is capable of handling the rigors that may be placed on it by telemedicine technology such as videoconferencing. According to the American Telemedicine Association, any operation that offers one- or two-way videoconferencing should have a broadband connection capable of supporting speeds of 500 kbps both downlink and uplink. With many modern telemedicine encounter management software products used today, the amount of bandwidth taken can be adjusted or allocated between video and data sources accordingly.

The ATA recommends using the most reliable means available of connecting to the Internet. So for many applications such as a clinic, this means your IT department should hardwire your telemedicine equipment directly to your modem rather than relying on a WiFi connection and a router. Satellite and WiFi connection are used frequently for telemedicine applications, but users can experience noticeable differences in the communication speed, image quality and intermittence of signals.

Have a hardware plan in advance

Do you know if your telemedicine equipment will be arriving preassembled, or will you need to construct it upon receiving it? If the latter, are you and your IT department comfortable with doing so reliably and safely?

It seems like a minor point, but if you're a first-time adopter of telemedicine, try and find equipment solutions that are fairly low-maintenance in terms of requirements on your end. This means either shopping for equipment that is available out of the box as a telemedicine system, or trying to find an end-to-end solution provider that can take care of all your requirements. Trying to source multiple pieces of equipment from multiple vendors can make getting support or maintenance a nightmare. Try and find a "one-stop shop" to make the process as simple as possible.

Interoperability with existing software or hardware

Interoperability is a term used widely these days, and everyone claims it. The truth is, it would be impossible to deliver interoperability that would satisfy everyone's needs, but the best case scenario at this point in time is to use telemedicine products and technologies that can be easily integrated with your existing workflow and follow standards-based guidelines for transferring or transmitting data - such as HL7 integration.

Don't forget privacy

One of the sticking points that telemedicine has faced in recent years is that of privacy in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It's a requirement that any Internet connections used to discuss sensitive patient information should have encryption using secure socket layer (SSL) and system-user identifiers such as logins and passwords.

Similarly, any cloud-based servers used to store patient data should be encrypted as well to prevent cybersecurity risks.

For more information and for help designing your own telemedicine program, visit www.amdtelemedicine.com.

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