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How Telehealth, RPM Interoperability with EHR Systems Boosts Care

When surveyed, providers noted that interoperability of telehealth solutions with EHR systems promotes better care and rapport with the patient.

Telehealth interoperability with EHR systems is key for delivering high quality care, according to guidance published by the Michigan State Medical Society.

COVID-19 accelerated efforts to connect patients and providers virtually. Now, providers are looking to single-source telehealth solutions that integrate with EHR systems to maintain telehealth visits on a large scale.

The article, authored by Sue Boisvert, BSN, MHSA, patient safety risk manager II at The Doctors Company, noted several benefits to telehealth interoperability with EHR systems, including patient engagement.

When surveyed, providers have reported that easy access to the EHR during a telehealth visit facilitates better care and rapport with the patient, Boisvert noted.

Interoperable single-source telehealth solutions provide clinicians with patient relationship management tools such as scheduling and a private ‘waiting room.’ Additionally, Boisvert said that single-source telehealth solutions allow providers to share screens with the patient while providing patient education or going over diagnostic results.

The provider can also easily create a visit summary and send it to the patient with any orders for diagnostic tests or referrals through single-source interoperable telehealth solutions, the article pointed out.

What’s more, remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a valuable tool in conjunction with telemedicine, as it allows provider to collect information for managing virtual care, Boisvert noted.

“RPM works well for patients with chronic disease, those being managed immediately after hospital discharge, and patients in a hospital-at-home environment,” she explained.

Integrating RPM devices into telehealth and EHR systems is not only helpful for care management; it is also a requirement to receive Medicare reimbursement, Boisvert wrote.

When considering telehealth or RPM integration into the EHR, Boisvert said healthcare organizations should determine whether to record and maintain the recordings of telehealth visits.

“The EHR platform may not be capable of managing large video files, and a physician practice that does not already provide imaging services probably will not have access to a picture archive and communication system (PACS),” she pointed out. “The video file problem is not insurmountable, but it adds data storage and another security endpoint to manage.”

Boisvert noted that practices that are unable to currently integrate telehealth solutions into the EHR may achieve integration using an interface.

“Organizations at this decision-making stage will want to evaluate the risks and benefits of all available options carefully,” she emphasized. “Using a consultant or a structured decision-making process such as failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) adds diligence to the process.”

In the meantime, healthcare organizations must ensure that workflows support telehealth documentation.

Providers can create a telehealth template in the EHR and document care after the visit, Boisvert noted. Other options for EHR documentation of telehealth visits include leveraging speech recognition software for dictation, or using a scribe during the visit.

Boisvert suggested that regardless of whether telehealth systems are fully interoperable with EHR systems, allocating a block of time for telehealth visits could allow for a smoother patient and clinician experience.

“Some providers may prefer not to practice telehealth, and some providers may choose to specialize in it,” she concluded. “Flexibility is key.”

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