IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
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News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
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How to build a strong business worthy password 

How to build a strong business worthy password  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

DO’s

- Use a passphrase instead of a password

o Using a sentence or phrase instead of just one word can be much easier for you and harder for others to guess e.g. allgoodcowsliketoeatgreengrass or if you want it shorter you can substitute it for, agcltegg

- Use abbreviations or purposely misspelled words

o Love to laugh > Luv2Laf

- Replace some letters with symbols or numbers eg. $ for S, 3 for E

o BEST BOSS > B3STB0$$

- Use punctuation! , -

- If you really have a bad memory maybe use:

o A list of password reminders instead of using the password itself e.g. your favorite place may help you remember tr0p1CALPAR1dice

o Passphrases as they can be much easier to remember rather than an acronym of some sort

o LastPass, KeePass, RoboForm, and password keep all passwords accessible and secure with one password

- a hard time figuring out a password? maybe the best option for you is:

o to use a random password generator! The generator will collect letters, numbers, and symbols for a completely randomized password, the catch with this one though is you may have to write this down somewhere for safe keeping as you may find it hard to remember. There are many free services online you can just search ‘password generator’

 

 

DON’Ts

- Consecutive numbers or letters e.g. abcde, qwerty, 1234,

- Including personal information such as a name or birth date

- Reuse the exact same password for everything

o Even the slightest change within the same password can count as a different password

- Use repeating characters e.g. aaaaa, ttt222, 666

- Make all the characters numbers, uppercase or lowercase letters

- Tell others what your password is

- Keep your password the same forever

- Use words found in the dictionary 

o These words can be much easier to guess and spell

 

Date posted: 2018-03-23 | posted by: ozdoc

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How to Create A Medical Practice Business Strategy

How to Create A Medical Practice Business Strategy | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

When doctors begin a practice, a great first step is to create a medical practice business strategy.

 

A Medical Practice Business Strategy is a formal process. It helps to identify your mission, values, goals, projects, timing, barriers, opportunities, and strategies.

 

A well-structured strategic business planning process can help your practice in both the short and the long term. Having a clear strategic plan for your business means providing clear direction for your team. It also helps prevent wasted activities that may actually work against each other.

 

It also offers an opportunity for medical practice owners, medical practice team members to collaborate in choosing the future direction of the practice.

 

The 5 Key Parts of Medical Practice Business Strategy

To begin the process of starting a medical practice business plan, set aside several hours as a team, and break the medical practice business strategy into 5 key areas:

1) Medical Practice Mission Statement

Your mission statement is the overall purpose and driver for all behavior. It should be clear, concise and motivating for all team members. Ideally, it should reflect the practice’s direction for the next 5-10 years.

2) Medical Practice Values Statement

Values are a little more intangible at times, but still very important. Consider what’s important to your medical practice, and how you deliver care. They way you interact with patients and each other are all going to reflect the values you espouse.

3) SWOT Analysis

Take the time to think through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that are specific to your practice in your location. Given your practice mission and values, in what areas do you excel? Where are you weaker? Based on this, what opportunities and threats to do you see to your practice in the next 5-10 years?

 4) Medical Practice Goals

What are the practice’s specific goals? Financial goals are important, but also think about things like staffing, marketing, IT needs, operations, etc? If this is a new practice, this is the time to think in terms of creating an ideal practice. If this is an established solo or group practice, then perhaps it is a revision of what has been set in the past.

5) Medical Practice Projects

Within each goal will likely be several projects that need to be completed. Of course, any new projects come with a price tag. As these projects will likely be in addition to the day to day operations, have you estimated the time cost of each project? Do your team members have the skills and ability to accomplish the projects on your list?


Should you do it yourself, or hire a professional?

In any medical practice, there are likely to be differences of opinion, and someone outside the organization with no personal stake in the outcome can often help to be a guide for the discussion. An experienced external facilitator or medical practice consultant can also bring to the table lessons learned from other medical practice business strategy planning sessions.

It is very easy to skip this process when starting a medical practice. However without a medical practice business strategy, you also are likely to miss opportunities and make some expensive mistakes as you grow your practice.

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Design Of A Mobile Health Clinic

Design Of A Mobile Health Clinic | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

A mobile clinic allows the health provider or health business to deliver its services from multiple locations. Simply put, you go to the patient, they don’t come to you.
The concept of mobile and virtual health clinics has grown rapidly and both are now key business models for health businesses in Australia.

Mobile health clinics have certainly grown in both numbers and services offered, as you now have clinicians and health practitioners flying into towns to hold a clinic or even doing a roadshow-like journey through rural and remote areas.

Mobile health clinics are also increasing in metropolitan areas where health practitioners or health businesses are going into the corporate, government and educational sectors to offer their services to the staff of those organisations.

Simply put, doctors, allied health professionals and community workers are now becoming more mobile and as such, are having a bigger reach.

Most health practitioners agree that the biggest challenge in a mobile health clinic is to be mobile. In order words, the ability to access all the necessary clinical and business tools and offer the same service as an in-house health clinic is the greatest challenge.

Below are some tips on how to design a mobile health clinic (from an IT perspective)

Know what tools you need to complete your tasks in a mobile environment, this includes:

  • The clinical software applications you currently use (MD, BP, Genie, Pathology)
  • The billing applications you currently use (BP Management, eClaims)
  • The communication/messaging applications you currently use (Argus, Healthlink)
  • The administrative tools you currently use (Outlook, calendar)

Ask your current eHealth IT consultant to perform some research on

  • Cloud solutions specific to the health industry
  • Remote desktop solutions
  • Remote access solutions

At REND Tech, our Cloud for Health solution allows mobile, virtual and FIFO businesses to access their complete clinical IT environment from anywhere (home, office, mobile office), at any time and using their preferred device (iPads, tablets, laptops).

Before agreeing on a solution/vendor, ensure that

  • You have thoroughly tested the solution and it meets your requirements
  • Your data and applications are hosted in Australia
  • Your data, applications and complete IT environment are backed up daily
  • You are happy with the security levels provided
  • There is ongoing IT support and maintenance to ensure that your solution is always available.
  • You have tested the solution using wireless, networked and 3G/4G connections

By following the steps above, you should be well and truly on your way to having an excellent IT foundation for your mobile health clinic.

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5 Steps to Becoming a More Effective Clinic Manager 

5 Steps to Becoming a More Effective Clinic Manager  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it
1) Choose a practice management system

Using a practice management package like e-clinic makes managing a clinic significantly easier. A good practice management package will allow you to store patients’ personal data, book appointments and keep a record of appointments and their outcomes, record clinical information, manage invoicing, keep track of stock levels, contact patients via email, text or letter, and target patients with appropriate marketing campaigns. An effective practice management system should lead to a reduction in your workload and a decrease in your stress levels. Having a good computer system in place should also improve the accuracy and reliability of your data. Although the quality of your data is very much dependant on the person who enters it, there should be less scope for human error.

2) Train staff well

Training offer businesses the opportunity to expand the knowledge of employees, but some employers see training as expensive and doubt how cost-effective it is. Employers can also be concerned about staff members missing out on work time while completing training. However, despite some perceived drawbacks, training and development provides both the business as a whole and the individuals with skills, knowledge and other benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment.

There are many benefits to training your team. Firstly, an employee is likely to feel loyalty to your practice if they feel that you care enough to spend money on their personal and professional growth. Providing training is also likely to improve the morale of staff at your clinic; this is because a culture that encourages learning and fosters education creates a positive, motivated, and committed workforce. Also, employees who have received job-specific training are more likely to be productive and confident. However, it is important that employees receive ongoing training and support: technology is changing all the time and therefore it is vital that employees keep up to date with changes. At e-clinic, we offer regular training courses to refresh knowledge, learn advanced skills. or train up new starters.

 3) Delegate to others

Delegation is assigning responsibility and authority to someone in order to complete a clearly defined and agreed upon task, while you retain ultimate responsibility for its success. Delegation will improve the efficiency of your clinic as well as the development of your team.

Delegation improves the efficiency of a clinic as it allows work to be transferred to other employees whose skillset is a good match for the work in hand. The role of a clinic manager involves planning and strategizing the next steps for your practice and your team. Delegating work to other employees allows you as a manager to lessen your workload. You can then focus your time on planning the next move for the team and growing the business.

As a clinic manager and team leader, you possess important abilities and transferable skills that can and should be passed on to team members. An effective way of doing this is to give them the confidence and permission to develop their skills and then delegate tasks to them so that they can use these new skills. As an added bonus, delegating gives you as a clinic manager the opportunity to develop your own coaching and mentoring skills.

4) Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

We’ve discussed delegation, but it’s very important for a clinic manager to remember that they should know how to complete every job role in the office with a certain degree of efficiency and expertise. Members of a team look to the clinic manager for leadership and guidance, so they need to know that their manager will be able to help them if they require assistance. If there are certain tasks that the manager isn’t trained in, there’s no harm in asking an employee to teach them – this fosters a good team spirit and a supportive environment.

5) Create processes for everything

Have you ever had to listen to yourself repeating the same instructions to colleagues? Or struggling to remember how to complete a task you last tackled a month ago? Remember feeling frustrated by the time and effort wasted? It doesn’t have to be this way, and creating processes for every task you undertake in the clinic is the way to solve it.

To summarise: a process is a set of instructions for carrying out a specific task. While you’d expect process creation to take some time, it generally takes an hour or two at first but pays off massively in the long run.

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Protecting Data and Minimising IT Risks for Your Medical Practice 

Protecting Data and Minimising IT Risks for Your Medical Practice  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The digital age has revolutionised the medical and healthcare industry in many ways, with technology and innovation serving as defining factors of success. Information Technology (IT) has made the medical practice less stressful by streamlining systems using innovative hardware and software resulting in a positive shift in medical operations and management over time.

 

The IT systems used in a medical practice rely on a high level of knowledge and expertise when it comes to the design and development of hardware and software. To operate these systems, internal staff must undergo extensive training. Alternatively, systems management and support can be outsourced to a reliable specialist company to provide IT solutions exclusively designed to suit the needs of modern healthcare providers.

 

Medical IT service providers optimise medical processes, protect data and minimise IT risks by utilising cutting-edge hardware and software solutions. Another reason more hospitals are switching to outsourcing companies is that they reduce overall operating costs. Medical IT service providers also take care of multiple departments, which in turn allows hospitals and medical practitioners to focus on serving their patients first and foremost.

 

The investment in IT solutions for medical practice has surged over the years. More and more hospitals and healthcare providers are switching to an easier and practical IT solution that offers database integrity, network security, backup reliability and support. Ozdoc have been known to provide the highest quality outsourced information technology and systems management services to the healthcare industry, since their establishment in 1992.

 

Ozdoc provide quality IT solutions for medical practices, drawing on innovation and extensive expertise within the healthcare industry. Ozdoc are the most trusted medical IT support services provider due to their trusted network of highly trained IT technicians and support professionals. They keep hardware and software systems up to date, ensure backup procedures are in place and provide support and training to staff whenever they need it.

 

Ozdoc have transformed medical practices by introducing advanced systems design as well as exclusive innovations in IT for medical practices. With their decades of experience in delivering functional and technical IT solutions for medical practices, Ozdoc ensure the demands of health practitioners as well as the expectations of their patients are met. The professional staff at Ozdoc design, implement and support custom IT solutions that meet the unique needs of hospitals and individual healthcare providers.

 

Ozdoc build an IT infrastructure that provides healthcare providers with rapid access to patient-specific information as well as a robust e-connectivity infrastructure that integrates databases ensuring smooth monitoring and tracking of patient files.

 

From project planning to installation, setup and maintenance, Ozdoc work with healthcare providers every step of the way. They ensure full protection of data by continually monitoring the main server and critical infrastructure to make sure it functions efficiently. Ozdoc ensure there are no data breaches and that no cyber-criminal activity can infiltrate or disrupt operations. Ozdoc IT solutions add efficiency and remove stress with their cutting edge, exclusive IT for medical practice solutions. With Ozdoc's advanced technology, healthcare providers can maintain a healthy, growing patient base, providing each patient with quality care as well as a comprehensive range of services.

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Make Technology Work For You This Year 

Make Technology Work For You This Year  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

I hope December has been good so far for you and your business. Not sure about you but I’m looking forward to a five day break at the end of the year where I’ll be driving to Brisbane and stopping at a few places on the way.

 

2013 has been a year of implementation and profits. Health businesses that implemented new age solutions and treated their clinic like a business have demonstrated growth, profitability and great success in patient services.

 

I personally believe that this is the only industry where you can comfortably say you’re in a multimillion dollar business that actually helps people. Congratulations to those who found success in 2013 and for those who faced a few challenges, don’t worry. We’ll help you reach that extra level in 2014.

 

This week’s blog is a little different, I’ve taken a chunk from our Business Growth Footprint program and will give it to you for free. The Business Growth Footprint highlights critical aspects of health businesses that focus on risk management and revenue growth. Here I have focussed on the technology part and will share more management and business growth strategies in the future.

 

Neglecting the technology of your clinic is a little bit like neglecting a toothache. Before you know it you’ll end up with a root canal and be a couple of thousands of dollars out of pocket (happened to my friend ? ).

 

On a serious note, practice managers and health business owners have three main frustrations that ultimately turn to three different fears when it comes to neglecting business systems.

Staff downtime, staff frustration and time wasted finding someone to fix the resulting issues usually turn into staff dissatisfaction, job dissatisfaction and loss of income.

 

I’ll help you avoid turning those frustrations into fears by giving you a few easy tips that I know will work very well in your business.

 

Move on from Windows XP

Problem: I can’t stress how important this is. Avoid going to work one morning and not being able to launch Medical Director or Best Practice. Imagine calling for support and being told “We can’t help you”. Your doctors are now ready to see patients but they can’t access any data. This is a typical windows XP scenario.

Solution: I’m going to list out the steps you need to take to handle this:

  • Find someone (or you can do it) who’ll be able to migrate your clinical information and business data from the XP computer to the new one.
  • Contact your clinical vendor for more details.
  • Purchase a Windows 7 computer with at least 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard drive, i5 processor and at least three years warranty.
  • Backup your data and arrange for the migration to be completed outside business hours.
  • Ensure that printers, scanners, PKI certificates, pathology software, business software and emails are all migrated as well.
  • Record the new machine serial number and warranty details in your asset register.

 Systemise your practice

Problem: This is for practice managers and business owners. How frustrating is it trying to do your job but you keep being distracted with other aspects that are not as important? Don’t you wish that your business and team were working in an efficient and productive way?

Solution: Create an online process portal. Your staff will be able to use this portal to access all the relevant steps on how to complete a process. An example would be training a new staff member. Here is what your process page should look like:

  • Write down the title of the process
  • Write down why this process is important
  • Write down who is responsible for this process
  • Write down when this process needs to be used
  • Write down the steps to complete this process
  • If possible create a video showing how to complete this process

Increase your online footprint

Problem: Other clinics in the area are expanding and are seeing more patients. You are also unable to recruit suitable GPs or health professionals to your clinic.

Solution: The reality of this new era in the digital and social world is that having an online footprint (website, social media pages) is the best way to build your business’s reputation and increase exposure.

Websites also help take some of the workload from the front desk staff and allow them to deal with priority tasks.

Create a simple website with the following pages:

  • Profile of the health professionals
  • Profile of the different services
  • Useful information for the patients
  • Contact us page
  • About us page
  • Create a business Facebook page and ask your staff, relatives to share it. This is the number one method for building a quick online footprint
  • Assign one of your staff or health professionals to write a quick tip every week and post it on your website. Educating your patients builds trust.
  • tip every week and post it on your website. Educating your patients
  • builds great trust.

I’ve seen more and more new health businesses pop up in Australia and take on a perceptive online approach. Provide an online website and use it to educate patients whilst at the same time build business creditability. Some may think a websites or social media pages aren’t relevant but research shows that new patients will always check online before using the services of a health business.

Audit your IT platform

Problem: Your complete technology infrastructure has failed as it doesn’t meet the software requirements for 2014. Backups have failed and you’ve lost your clinical data. Doctors are now so P****d off you are about to have a nervous breakdown.

Solution: Start 2014 with an audit of your IT in your business. Have a professional assess your server, computers, network, backups, clinical data size (very very important), security policies, risk management policies and disaster recovery policies. The audit will give you specific knowledge on areas of improvement that you can address before it turns into a disaster. Remember, prevention is better than the cure and this is especially true when it comes to technology.

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Bridging the Gap Between eHealth Vision and Current Realities 

Bridging the Gap Between eHealth Vision and Current Realities  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The rise of health-related technology solutions is correctly perceived by healthcare professionals as a revolution that will ultimately drive improvement in patient care and increase practice efficiency. This efficiency improvement allows providers to take on more patients and increase profits. It seems like a win-win situation for patients and providers but unfortunately there are barriers to the adoption of telehealth, telemedicine and mHealth (mobile health) that will take some time to overcome.

What are the adoption barriers in Australia? Why does eHealth offer great potential for Australians? How can we roll out eHealth solutions that benefit healthcare providers and their patients?

Go Digital

Perhaps the most visible “challenge” of technology in healthcare was the attempted introduction of personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR), now rebranded as myHealth Record, in 2012. Despite costing $1 billion, adoption rates by Australians were around 20 per cent, with even healthcare providers unsure how to implement the system in their practices. In 2016, policymakers have decided to introduce an opt-out system where all Australians will have an account automatically, unless they deliberately cancel it. This may increase perceived adoption rates but actual usage is another matter entirely as clinicians have yet to see value in it. Targeted training and national promotional campaigns are expected to reverse this trend.

With the correct security policies in place, changing from paper-based data to a digital format is not only advised, it is essential, especially in a technological age where collaboration is possible between healthcare profession, their colleagues, specialists and patients. When patient care is the focus, relying on couriers or fax machines to share documents is far less effective than many other solutions available today, such as video conferencing, remote diagnostics and health monitoring devices, for example.

Early adoption

Hanging on for dear life to obsolete paper-based methods is a mistake when you consider that even government legislation is driving a conversion to digital. It is the early adopters that will succeed, surpassing the efforts of their competitors in keeping pace as legislative requirements evolve. Early adopters are open to change, can easily adapt their processes to meet changing needs and, yes, will also be more efficient. Whether it is the use of practice management software to simplify administration and store medical records or the sharing of data for consultation with specialists in another region, those who rely on paper-based processes are at a disadvantage. Early adopters and the forward-thinking entrepreneurs that provide working solutions to the healthcare industry all encourage Australians to embrace new technology that will provide tangible benefits to all, not only by improving efficiency and level of care but also streamlining processes and increasing practice profits.

Technology

Perceiving future trends, an increasing number eHealth firms that bridge the gap between ideas and products is turning vision to reality, providing a wide range of solutions that solve tangible issues in a country where patients are often located a long distance from healthcare providers. These include but are not limited to:

  • Data availability – The use of cloud-based solutions allows any browser-based device to access on-premise data from anywhere. The use of permission-based access ensures all data is safe and can only be viewed by your healthcare professional
  • Integration of practice management data with medical record storage (including X-rays and images) and compliance with industry and legislative requirements
  • Remote home-based health monitoring for patients with ongoing conditions
  • Video communication with colleagues, patients and specialists for quick diagnostics
  • Patients can monitor themselves using mobile apps or specific hardware that uploads data to your healthcare provider in real-time
  • Secure storage and backup of all data that far exceeds paper-based file storage that is easily compromised or destroyed
  • The use of mobile clinics – a fully equipped mobile clinic can perform as well as its on-premise counterpart if the correct technology is implemented

The use of these solutions can result in reduced clinic visits without impacting on care levels, allowing clinicians to prioritise clinic time for those who need it. It is only a matter of time before all clinics adopt technology to eliminate the problems associated with the long distances between clinics and their patients. Some will go on the road with mobile clinics and perform their tasks in exactly the same way as from the main clinic. Others may prefer long-distance video consults. It really doesn’t matter what process is used as long as patient care levels are maintained, data is secure and all processes comply with industry best practices.

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Homecare Technologies Extend the Reach of Healthcare

Homecare Technologies Extend the Reach of Healthcare | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Fitness bands may well have been among the first widespread consumer-driven instance of personal health monitoring, but advances in technology have since changed healthcare forever. Clinics, hospitals and healthcare providers throughout Australia are adopting clinical and practice management solutions that reflect advances in technology and related legislation and standards that ensure data privacy and security.

 

The progression from paper-based record keeping to today’s digital medical records and e-health initiatives lead to improved efficiency, proactive healthcare solutions and of course, increased the ability to save lives by using data analysis to predict at risk groups.

 

As investors and tech entrepreneurs continue to make their presence felt in healthcare, future healthcare applications are only limited by the imagination. Healthcare providers are now embracing technology to provide added healthcare solutions to those most at risk, namely the elderly and those with disabilities or acute conditions such as diabetes.

 

Homecare Technology Overview

The elderly, those with disabilities or acute conditions can avail of a wide variety of health monitoring solutions (generally in the form of wearable devices) that collect data by monitoring vital signs and send it over the Internet to their healthcare provider. This data allows a diagnosis to be made, whether that involves a request for additional tests, a change in medication or a precautionary hospital stay for extensive monitoring.

 

The range of wearable devices is already quite extensive, with the healthcare provider selecting one that is suitable for the condition involved.

 

Who among us is willing to give up our independence? The same is certainly true of the elderly but by using wearable devices, many can stay in their own home, with a home carer where necessary. Medical alerts are possible with these devices and obviously, can also save lives when vital signs reach dangerous levels, immediately alerting healthcare providers.

 

Collaborating to Improve Quality of Life

In the elderly and those with disabilities, improving quality of life is a key aim and again, the use of the Internet and connected devices can certainly help. Video conferencing allows direct consults with medical professionals. Those living alone can contact their family and friends in real-time and ward off any feelings of isolation.

 

By using these collaborative methods, patients can reduce risks of mental illness and depression. By actively monitoring the health of those at risk, governments can reduce the costs of hospital admissions by using the data received to implement an enhanced triage process.

 

Home carers also benefit as they no longer worry about their patients between visits. They can check on them at any time using cloud solutions linked to onsite cameras in the patient’s home, for example. They are also confident that if vital signs change, they will receive an alert that prompts action.

 

Technology Benefits

It is certainly true that the modern healthcare provider has benefitted from technology. Routine admin tasks are automated, staff training is easier thanks to computer-based materials and with electronic medical records, wait times are reduced as a patient’s medical history is readily available. With ubiquitous high-speed broadband and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, medical professionals can work from anywhere. They can consult with specialist in other locations, share medical data to aid diagnosis and even use remote video to teach surgical techniques.

 

In conclusion, when home carers, patients and healthcare providers are all connected, it makes sense to assume that a better quality of healthcare will result. With the combination of technology, internet and a growing list of online services available, we, as a society, are better positioned to ensure that our sick and elderly live longer and enjoy a better quality of life to boot.

 

Can we really afford to ignore these benefits? I would encourage all of us to be innovators in this area rather than cling to outdated processes and technology. What do you think?

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Tips, Hacks, and Hope for a Better EHR System 

Tips, Hacks, and Hope for a Better EHR System  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

All conversations about physician burnout eventually come around to the topic of EHR systems. The ongoing struggle with EHR systems is a chronic complaint, and physicians can feel that they are held hostage to their software. "If you're using a particular system, you have to go along with the flow," says Ron Sterling, president of Sterling Solutions, a healthcare information technology consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md., "even if that's not that way you would have done it yourself." However, there are ways to make the arrangement a little more comfortable. And there is reason to hope that things may soon improve.

 

Personalize

"My system had the option of voice recognition software, and that saves a ton of time," says Peter Basch, MD, a general internal medicine physician in Washington, DC, and medical director of EHR and IT policy at Medstar Health. Even if voice recognition costs a little more at the outset, it generally saves money in the long run because it increases efficiency. If you've tried voice recognition before and weren't pleased, it may be worth a second look. "These programs have become much better, in the past few years" says Janis Orlowski, chief Health Care Officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

 

You can also improve your relationship with your software by getting personal. "Medical language is a constricted vocabulary," says Basch. "Depending on your specialty or your practice, you tend to say the same things over and over." Basch recommends taking the time to personalize your software with macros and templates. "It takes a little time up front, but saves a huge amount of time in the long run," he says.

 

Power in Numbers

Of course, some of the problems must be addressed by vendors. "Many EHRs are put together without thinking of the user," says Basch. He describes such systems as being like a scalpel, but with the physician holding the blade end— "painful and not very efficient," he says. "EHRs are cluttered with redundant information," Orlowski points out. "Why are we including past surgeries, allergies, and so on every time? EHR's need to be smarter about displaying data," she says. You can no doubt add your own list of inefficiencies. But how to get software companies to listen?

 

"Vendors do listen to customer complaints," says Sterling. "But they wait for a general consensus before making changes." The best way to get the ear of your vendor is approach them as a group. If many doctors—particularly ones from the same specialty—have similar complaints, they're more likely to get results an individual grumbler here and there. Sterling also says that your chances of success are greater the more specific you can be. Rather than saying "I don't like the way this system handles orders," say something like, "I don't like that I have to cancel an order for a patient who is refusing care. I'd like to be able to leave the order as a recommended medication."

 

If your EHR is contributing to your burnout, it might be worth the time effort to try to improve your relationship with the software.

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How are college curriculums including telemedicine? 

How are college curriculums including telemedicine?  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

As the use of telemedicine continues to increase in the health care workplace, it's important for medical schools to educate students on telehealth technologies before they are placed in the working world. Adding telemedicine to basic curriculum will give potential doctors, nurses and other health care professionals the skills and knowledge they need to make it in the every-changing industry.

Here are a few examples of universities that are staying ahead of the game, educating their students on telemedicine technologies and best practices:

NYIT College of Medicine

According to Becker's Hospital Review, the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathetic Medicine on the campus of Arkansas State University is adding telemedicine education to the first-year curriculum. Darren Sommer, DO, telemedicine assistant professor told Region 8 News that teaching students telehealth practices early on will prepare them properly for their future in the health care industry.

"If we continue to introduce medical students into the practice of medicine but don't include telemedicine, when they finally get into practice and they're acting as attending physicians they will not be prepared to deliver telemedicine services and they will be foreign to that," he said, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

College of Medicine at Chicago

Students who attend the College of Medicine at Chicago at the University of Illinois participate in the Telemedicine in Practice Curriculum, a five-module program that was designed to help students become more familiar with telehealth technologies. In this program, students will learn from multimedia lessons, interactive learning activities, simulated patient encounters and real-time patient care via telemedicine.

Texas Women's University and Old Dominion University

Both universities have introduced telemedicine programs into their curriculum to initiate delivering care in rural settings and underserved populations. By using AMD Global Telemedicine's clinical telemedicine programs, Texas Women's University and Old Dominion University are helping students prepare for the future of health care by teaching them how telemedicine provides efficient, coordinated care. Students are being trained on how to use the equipment, but they're also learning how the technology can leverage patient care and quality.

"AMD's clinical telemedicine system is the perfect complement to the curriculum we offer in the area of telehealth," said Dr. Mari Tietze, associate professor at Texas Woman's University. "Our telehealth electives are open to nursing, occupational health, physical therapy, nutrition, and health system management/business students. It is a great platform for them to understand how teams can collaborate and manage patients remotely."

Telehealth technology is the future of health care, so it's vital for universities to follow telemedicine curriculum practices. Learn more about some of the telemedicine systems AMD Global Telemedicine has to offer.

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9 Healthcare Cyber Security Tips to Help Protect Your Data

9 Healthcare Cyber Security Tips to Help Protect Your Data | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

As a forward-thinking individual who wants the most for your medical practice, you already have recognized the importance of using cloud-based healthcare software. The cloud uses multiple redundant facilities to store data to keep it safe in the event of a catastrophic breakdown in any one server center. Its information technology staff is focused on keeping the data safe and secure as well, and is devoted to making sure your patients’ records are available 24/7/365, even when cyber attacks plague institutions that are connected to the Internet.

 

Anyone who has been paying just cursory attention to the news will undoubtedly be aware that healthcare organizations are becoming a huge target for criminal computer hackers. You also know about the potential negative effects that a data breach will have on a practice, including loss of time and money and eroding the trust patients have placed in your organization.

 

Hospitals, doctor offices, and clinics have been exposed to cyber security threats that can cause grave repercussions. A common method of attack is to install ransomware. Once a medical organization’s system has been compromised, often because an employee clicked a link in a sketchy email, all the patient files are held hostage until ransom is paid. Computer viruses can arrive via email, text messages, and websites that are set up just for the purpose of attacking naive and unsophisticated end users.

 

So while the IT department of your cloud services provider will be handling security on their end, you still have to contend with potential security issues in your own office and make sure that your staff knows what to do to protect patient information.

With that in mind, here are 9 tips that will help improve healthcare cyber security in your organization and reduce the chance of attacks.

1. Ensure Staff is Properly Trained on Healthcare Cyber Security Protocols

In most situations, the weakest cyber security link in your medical practice will be the user. Ensuring that your staff knows all proper measures to take (and enforcing these measures) makes the organization as a whole more secure.

You may need to bring in a consultant who can first address the knowledge level of your team and then provide some training to get everyone caught up on the latest security protocols.

2. Don’t Put Off Software Updates

You are busy, and you do not like the idea of taking your computer system offline to conduct basic software updates. However, neglecting to get the latest version of your now outdated software leaves your devices much more vulnerable to attack. Any security patches that come with the update will be unavailable to you.

Criminal hackers take advantage of people’s complacency and can sneak into antiquated systems more easily than systems that have the latest protection.

3. Control Access to Protected Patient Data

You’ve undoubtedly seen news accounts of patients whose private information was stolen by hackers. These sensitive details are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability or HIPAA act. If you fail to keep this data secure, the results can be disastrous. Criminals hackers use confidential patient details to commit identity theft, take funds from bank accounts, and otherwise cause a great deal of havoc.

Have your security team carefully control access to patient records, only allowing authorized individuals to access the details. You can audit the system to verify who accessed what and when. It’s important to remove access from employees who have been terminated, to keep them from getting into the system and causing problems in their bid for revenge. Healthcare software like electronic health record applications make information access much easier to control.

4. Don’t Use the Same Password for Everything

Using easily guessed passwords or the same password for all platforms significantly increases vulnerabilities. Human nature will motivate your employees to use just one simple password to access their information, but this is a big mistake.

It can be tempting to set up one password to check your email, access your bank, and favorite online store as well as the see patient records, but convenience and ease of logging in instead of following patient security requirements have no place in a modern office’s computer systems.

All a criminal needs to do is discover one working password, and then apply it to all the other accounts that the victim uses. The convenience of one password leads to a catastrophic theft of data. Criminals can cause even more mischief if they get into the system and actually change information in patient files.

An easy solution is to force employees to generate new passwords on a periodic basis. That way, even if a criminal does manage to grab one particular login credential, access will soon be cut off as soon as you do the next update.

5. Store Passwords in a Secure Place

Instruct your team to never include passwords in a shared document or email. They should use a proven password storing system instead. Keep in mind that one common reason people have for skirting password security protocols has to do with their limited memory.

Instead of writing a password on a sticky note and hiding it in a desk drawer, it will be more effective if each user devises a password based on a phrase. For example, a member of your team could use a phrase such as “Every morning I check email while the coffee brews” and use the first letter of each word to make the password “emIcewtcb” with one uppercase letter. Including numbers and other characters helps make the password even more secure.

6. Perform Risk Assessments on a Regular Basis

Not knowing where your vulnerabilities are makes it much harder to protect yourself against attack. You won’t have a clear understanding of your organization’s security issues if you fail to conduct risk assessments on a regular basis.

Complacency is your enemy here. Your own IT team can perform the risk assessment, or you can work with more objective individuals by hiring an outside firm to take care of this task. 

7. Maintain a Layered Defense System

Have layered security protocols in place, so even if an attacker breaks through one layer, they still won’t be able to access the protected data, and your practice might be able to identify the attack before it’s too late. Just as you have multiple locking doors to protect your property, building and equipment, you should have many layers of defense against electronic intrusions. That way, even if a weakness appears in one aspect of your defense system, there will be redundant coverage.

So, in addition to using strong passwords and forcing workers to change them periodically, you can use physical security in the form of locked doors, security guards, and surveillance equipment. Antivirus software, a robust firewall, and whitelisting of approved applications all contribute to the overall security of your institution.

8. Have a Plan to Prevent (and Recover From) Data Breaches

In the unfortunate event of an attack, your practice needs to know what the next steps are. Having a plan in place will help you move forward after an attack. For example, your IT team should regularly review your healthcare cyber security protection to ensure you are always following the latest protocols.

This also means avoiding the practice of automatically allowing software updates before checking out any possible repercussions. And when you do assess an update, it’s best to try it out on a quarantined test computer to ensure a patch or update won’t negatively affect all the computers in your system.

To be ready for the aftermath of a successful intrusion, key members of your team should develop a plan for getting the system back up and running, confident that the cloud-based backup of your data will be clean and safe to use.

9. Install Better Software

Stress the importance of using software from a company that prioritizes cyber security in their software. They will update the software swiftly whenever a new threat has been identified. The surrounding applications used in your office must also be shored up.

High up on your to-do list, according to a report from Healthcare IT News, is to invest in a next-generation firewall to protect all data and your systems, and deploy the latest in anti-malware detection. Robust encryption is called for, and you might need to outsource some of your security information management.

Key Takeaway:

The fact that your healthcare organization has deployed a cloud-based solution for your medical software indicators that you already pay attention to emerging technology issues. Now it is time to take the necessary steps to shore up the sensitive information that you generate, store, and update for all of your patients.

  • Healthcare cyber security is one of the key issues that you and your staff must take great pains to address in order to stay in business.
  • News reports are filled with examples of criminal hackers that take over the computer systems of medical care providers, often locking information and demanding ransom to unlock the data.
  • Because you maintain patient data in the cloud, it’s essential that your organization follow industry best practices for cyber security.
  • Ongoing training of each of your staff members will help strengthen your cyber defenses.
  • Work with a healthcare software provider that has a demonstrated ability and commitment to updating its application on a regular basis.
  • Plan ahead about how your organization will react in the unfortunate event that your information does wind up getting breached.
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How telemedicine can help keep flu season under control 

How telemedicine can help keep flu season under control  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Flu season is upon us. It's a good time to remember the best protection is to stay ahead of it and keep it from spreading within our communities.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends annual flu vaccination as the best way to protect against the contagious respiratory illness, many people will abstain from receiving the vaccine. This act has a major impact on those exposed to large populations, especially children in school.

When students with the flu or another virus attend classes, they put other kids and teachers in jeopardy for getting sick. By diagnosing these flu symptoms sooner and dismissing children from school at the right stage of the illness, facilities can prevent a flu outbreak early on. Telemedicine can be the tool to ensure this proactive stance happens successfully.

How does telemedicine impact flu season?

Telemedicine enables doctors to treat patients from afar, which can be incredibly beneficial for school systems during the flu season. Not only can facilities connected via telemedicine provide assistance and preventative care for students with early flu symptoms, but they can also treat students in the beginning stages of the virus and reduce exposing contagious students to a larger population, according to mHealth Intelligence.

Telehealth can enable protection for the healthy population and prevent the spread of the virus. This benefit can help schools dismiss children with the flu at the appropriate time and keep healthy students and teachers in class.

Success story: Sevier County Schools & Cherokee Health

For almost a decade, schools in Sevier County, Tennessee, have noticed improved overall health quality and reduced absences due to illness in students. Why? Because the school district has partnered with Cherokee Health Systems to integrate telemedicine health technology into their buildings.

"Sevier County has gone five years without closing a school down due to the flu."

 

By leveraging telemedicine technology, this partnership has completed over 11,000 telemedicine encounter visits that have enabled students to receive immediate diagnosis and treatment for strep throat, flu and other common illness. The telemedicine program with Cherokee Health Systems also helps students and teaching staff track and monitor ongoing issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and nutrition. As a result of the health and wellness initiatives with telemedicine, Sevier County has gone five years without closing a single school down due to seasonal flu outbreak. This is a big win for them, considering they previously had to shut down all the schools due to more than 20% of their population being infected by the flu.

 

By utilizing telemedicine solutions, more schools can detect flu symptoms during early stages of the virus by providing a full assessment and examination with the nurse. Telemedicine allows administrative staff to minimize distractions caused by sickness, such as missed school days, which can ensure education remains the top priority.

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How to do an effective Telemedicine Follow Up with Patients

How to do an effective Telemedicine Follow Up with Patients | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

When doctors consider doing a telemedicine follow up for their patients, they often do it in a haphazard way. There is a lot of confusion about the types of medical conditions that are suitable for a telemedicine follow up. Some doctors don’t even realize this is an option.

Most medical professionals are very used to being hands-on with patients. Indeed, some medical specialties demand it. But with a little forward planning, it can be easy to deliver an effective telemedicine follow up. This saves time and money for the patient. It also opens up another potential revenue stream for doctors.

Here are three important tips for an effective Telemedicine Follow Up:

1) Know what can be diagnosed at a distance

The first step in doing a Telemedicine Follow Up is to decide what can and can’t be done remotely. If a patient needs to be physically seen in the office, then this cannot be replaced with a telemedicine follow up. A full telemedicine diagnosis may require further information, but a follow up can be fairly simple.

In most cases, doctors are using a Telemedicine Follow Up for simple everyday monitor their progress, note any reported symptoms, talk through medications, review lab results, and generally check-in.

2) Decide on specific times for follow ups

One of the traps of telemedicine is that patients suddenly expect 24/7 access. A Telemedicine follow up should not become a burden for the doctor. Rather it is meant to streamline the process.

The best way to make sure this happens is to set specific days or times of day. Explain the process to patients and let them know to request a follow up rather than a consultation. Let them know the fee up front so there is no confusion about it being a free call.


3) Delegate all simple questions to the team

Very often doctors and medical teams will confuse a telemedicine follow up with answering questions. These are not the same things. Simple, repeated questions can typically be answered by the team.

To make your list of patient questions, think about what patients typically phone in about. Do they have quick questions to remedy small concerns? Are there side affects for some medications that may need to be checked? What other things do they call you about after hours?

These types of questions and concerns can often be handled with FAQ lists. Or your team can speak with the patient and answer them on your behalf. However if a patient is repeatedly using questions to avoid coming in, a telemedicine visit may be a better solution. It means the doctor is getting paid for the visit, and the patient is valuing the experience more.

 

Whether you’re working in outpatient or inpatient settings, offering Telemedicine Follow-Ups is a great way to care for patients. Telemedicine Follow up care can help ensure patients keep necessary routines. It can mean reduced readmissions, better care coordination and better overall patient outcomes.

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Getting Patients to and from the Clinic or Pharmacy Just Got Easier with Uber Health and Lyft 

Getting Patients to and from the Clinic or Pharmacy Just Got Easier with Uber Health and Lyft  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

In the ever expanding world of health information technology ridesharing leaders are getting into the game. Uber Health and Lyft are now offering patient transportation, pharmacy pickup and EHR integration.

 

Uber Health allows healthcare providers and caregivers to request rides for their patients. Rides can be scheduled up to 30 days in advance, or can be booked on-demand. Booking requests are made via text message or phone call, so patients are not required to have a smart phone to participate. The service is HIPAA compliant.

 

There are already more than 100 customers using Uber Health, including MedStar Health, Collective Health, LifeBridgeHealth, and Manhattan Women’s Health.

 

Lyft is integrating with Allscripts Sunrise EHR to cut down on missed appointments. The EHR integration will allow prompts from Allscript’s EHR to ask the patient if they need transportation automatically when an appointment is scheduled. Clinicians will then see real time scheduling updates and the ETA of their patients. This niche service has huge potential. According to the Washington Business Journal, missed appointments cost US providers and insurers upwards of $150 billion a year.

 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are also expanding their partnership with Lyft that provides no-cost transportation to enrolees who request a ride to pick up their prescription at Walgreens or CVS. This program is currently in pilot in Pittsburg, with CVS picking up the bill, and Chicago with Walgreens picking up the bill.

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Why every healthcare clinic should have digital displays

Why every healthcare clinic should have digital displays | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Healthcare clinics provide invaluable services to millions of patients every day. Yet with hectic schedules, unexpected emergencies and inevitable wait times, a day at the clinic doesn’t always go as expected.

 

Digital signage helps healthcare clinics improve the patient experience by sharing engaging and entertaining content. With screens in lobbies, waiting rooms and offices, relevant ads and information flows throughout the clinic to inform and entertain patients.

5 ways digital displays help patients and staff members

1. Make wait-times more bearable

In clinics, patients often perceive wait times as longer than they really are. Streaming the news, social media feeds and other media feeds entertain visitors to reduce perceived waiting times.

2. Educate patients with infotainment

A trip to the doctor’s can be stressful, especially with health concerns on patients’ minds. Digital screens are used by clinics to educate visitors with informative content to encourage patients to monitor their own symptoms and prepare questions for their upcoming visit.

3. Keep customers up to date

With digital signage, healthcare facilities easily update patients on what’s new at the office, including recent hires, additional services, opening hours and upcoming office closures.

4. Improve caregiver services with updated information

Digital displays inform employees of room schedules and changes, internal information and facility updates, all in real-time. Alerts can also be displayed on the screen to quickly react to emergencies.

5. Help patients and visitors find their way

It can be difficult to navigate a large medical facility like a hospital, especially in stressful situations. With numerous floors and countless hallways, interactive wayfinding kiosks and screens help patients and visitors find their way.

The added benefit of added revenue from digital signage

Not only can digital signage improve the patients and visitors experience, but it gives healthcare facilities the ability to make additional revenue. With a fairly long dwell time, clinic screens are well suited for brands and advertisers to promote their products.

Waiting room audiences also often have similar needs and interest — everyone waiting for the dentist will have oral hygiene on their mind. This means advertisements can be targeted to the right audience, benefiting brands with better ROI and patients with more relevant information.

Ready to add digital signage to your healthcare clinics? Here’s how:

1. Install your screens

Start by deploying a digital signage network. Individual clinics may not necessarily need this step, as they only have one screen to manage. However, clinic owners with multiple locations should have every screen connected through a digital signage network.

2. Schedule your content

Determine what content you want playing on your screens. Consider how long patients are in front of the screen, what content they will be interested in and what kinds of brand messaging would benefit them.

3. Create your content

From staff bios, wellness tips, promotions and informative messaging, creating your own content can give your clinic an edge and bolster communication with patients and visitors. 

4. Sell your ad space

Ad space can either be sold directly to the advertiser through one-on-one conversations or through automated programmatic purchasing. While direct sales are the traditional way to sell digital out-of-home advertising space, more buyers are looking to buy screen time through automated bidding systems.

5. Subscribe to a service

No time to create and manage your own content? Join a network that will install your screens and deliver effective, targeted and educational content to your patients.

 

Ready to get started with digital signage in your healthcare clinic?

From improvements in patient care to added revenue, a digital signage network enables you to do more with your screens.

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Recording clinical data in e-clinic

Recording clinical data in e-clinic | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

There are many ways to securely and accurately record clinical data in e-clinic, and the method you choose is largely a matter of personal preference. We look at all the options below, including Word templates, PDF forms and hard-coded clinical questionnaires.

1) Appointment notes

Some practitioners simply choose to make free format notes which are linked to the appointment record. e-clinic also lets you to set up your own appointment notes templates, allowing you to order your notes into sections and complete text for each section. An outcome can be recorded for every appointment. Appointment notes are logged with the date, time and practitioner and can be securely locked. You can also makes notes on phone calls and other events.

2) Attaching files and photographs

A practitioner may also typically attach files or photographs to the patient record during the appointment. These may be facial photographs, x-rays, scanned documents or blood tests. You can also attach video or audio files.

3) Annotating images

e-clinic allows you to annotate an image or chart to show things like areas of pain or injection sites. We have some standard images but most practitioners prefer to load their own, which may reflect the paper charts and forms they were previously using.

4) Word templates

Many people prefer to record clinical notes into Word. You can create your own template for any treatment and then copy and paste ‘bookmarks’ into the template. These pull through information from the patient’s file like name, age, date of appointment, date of birth and so on, as soon as the template is opened. You can also add items like checkboxes. Once the template is opened and the patient information pulled through, you can then add your own notes during or after the consultation or treatment. You would then simply save the Word document with there patient record.

5) PDF forms stored as data

A sophisticated way to record clinical data in e-clinic is with a custom PDF form. If you already have skills in creating PDF forms using Adobe Acrobat, you may want to create your own, but we normally find that clients prefer us to do this as bespoke development. A paper form can be transformed into a PDF with drop-downs, checkboxes and free text areas. The form is called up and completed during consultation or treatment, then stored against the patient record. The most impressive aspect is that, unlike with Word template, input is stored as data fields, meaning it can be reported on or exported at a later date.

6) Hard-coded clinical forms

Any medical or clinical form can be hardcoded into e-clinic by our development team. A form created in this way can include drop-downs, checkboxes and free text and fields are stored as data.

7) Consent forms

A basic consent form can be created in e-clinic and signed on an iPad by the patient. Consent forms created in this way would simply consist of text, which the patient reads and then signs. If you want a more complex consent form which encompasses checkboxes for example, it would be better to create it as a Word template or ask us to create a hard-coded form.

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How to Prepare Your IT Department for Telemedicine 

How to Prepare Your IT Department for Telemedicine  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

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.

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Servers In Medical Centres

Servers In Medical Centres | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Servers in medical centres are a common aspect if IT support & maintenance. Here’s a tip for Healthcare IT Support.

 

Some use a PC which is configured to act as a server, other healthcare organisations would have implemented a professional business grade server to store their medical applications and finally, some use cloud based server which are essentially virtual servers.

 

At some stage in the business’s lifecycle, the network or IT environment begins to slow down, become slightly unreliable and you hear more and more frustrations from the staff.

 

The typical knee jerk reaction will always be to reinvest into a new server and replace the old one. This can be an expensive, complex and frustrating exercise if its not completed by a dedicated healthcare IT professional.

 

In this blog we wanted to share something a little different; some strategies which will make your network more reliable, increase the lifecycle of your server and finally, help you save your money.

Our hot tips are:

 

Monthly Server Maintenance
By far the easiest and most important task. The monthly server maintenance can be implemented by your IT provider (or if you are interested, email us and we will give you the steps on how to do it).

The monthly maintenance includes installing all the new server operating system updates, the clinical software updates, updating your antivirus and third party software.

 

Other tasks include checking your disk space and removing any temporary files, rebooting the server and finally, deleting any unnecessary files in the downloads or documents folder.

This activity will ensure that your server is up to date and the reboot will run all the required servers correctly.

 

Upgrade Your Firmware Every 6 Months
We highly recommend you engage an IT professional for this activity. According to the world’s leading technology vendors, over 90% of hardware reliability issues are due to the lack of updating the machine’s firmware.

 

Firmware is a software product which managed the hardware of your server and it effects the way it behaves. By upgrading the firmware of your server, you are installing the latest updates, fixes and patches which directly relate to your server.

 

Some benefits of firmware updates include a faster server, less over heating, less server lockups and most importantly, a longer lifecycle.

 

Add More RAM & Hard Disk Space
When you purchased your server it would’ve had little load on it. Your staff numbers were limited and back then it didn’t have to support new updates.

 

As your clinic grows and the network requirements become more, your server will begin to feel the load. Its memory is now at full capacity and its working as hard as possible.

 

By upgrading the RAM and hard disk space (if you are not sure how to do it, contact your IT provider OR US), you are essentially giving your server more resources to handle the extra load.

This upgrade usually costs about 15% the price of a new server and in turn, saving you more money and giving your network more firepower.

 

Manage Your Backups Correctly
Running a backup is one of the most memory heavy tasks a server can do. A backup can take up all the memory and CPU power. Our strategy is to always ensure that the backup of your server and clinical data is running outside business hours. This way you won’t feel the network on the server.

 

Implement The Right Configurations
A very open term I know however configuring the server in the right way does play a big part on how it behaves when processing data and ensuring that your clinic staff can access their medical applications.

 

A simple example would be implementing an Active Directory role (technical I know however this is important). If your server is setup as an active directory then it can manage and facilitate how the users access the data in a more efficient way.

 

Another recommendation would be to setup your server as DHCP and DNS. This way when you access your clinical applications (Medical Director, Genie, Best Practice etc..) then the network computers can quickly find the server and locate the clinical database.

 

Check The Firewall Settings
Most of the connection issues (speed, reliability) relate to 3 core aspects, the quality of the connection between the computer and the server, the way the server is configured and finally, the way the firewall is configured.

 

Depending on which firewall solution you have in place, it needs to be configured correctly so that it allows undisturbed access to the clinical applications from the clinic’s computer.

 

If the firewall is not configured correctly then you will notice that the network will be slow, so will the server and finally, so will the clinical applications.

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Cloud Computing Supports Telemedicine Growth

Cloud Computing Supports Telemedicine Growth | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Today’s healthcare professionals enjoy convenient access to a multitude of tools that would have amazed previous generations. Unfortunately, lack of awareness or access to technical experts means that many practices are unable or unwilling to take advantage of the latest technological advances, advances that increase efficiency, security and productivity. Others are intimidated by the technical jargon often associated with eHealth. All that is needed to eliminate all these issues is a partnership with a provider that specialises in the health industry, rather than deal with IT companies that are themselves unwilling to recommend healthcare-specific solutions that they are unfamiliar with

Providers of healthcare solutions are familiar with the inner workings of practices and clinics and can easily review existing processes and recommend solutions that will integrate technology in the best possible manner. They will also support any new technological solutions, leaving medical professionals more time for patient care, which will ultimately provide substantial benefits that aid early diagnosis and prolong lives.

 

Providers without healthcare knowledge will recommend solutions that they are familiar with, ones that are normally selected by traditional commercial enterprises. Such solutions are generally unsuitable for healthcare clinics and practices and often require expensive customisation, assuming that they can even be customised sufficiently to meet existing regulations.
Smaller clinics and practices do not have an on-site IT team and often eliminate IT requirements by automating server maintenance, data backups and archiving using a cloud solution. In such a scenario, it is the provider that is responsible for all of these activities.

 

Telemedicine allows easier collaboration and involves the use of mobile or other internet-enabled devices. Advantages include instant videoconferencing, remote consults, immediate access to electronic health records and the elimination of geographical issues, where patients are unable to visit the practice or clinic in person. These collaborative features are used between medical teams in multiple locations, between mobile clinics and their headquarters and of course can be used by any medical professional on the move.

 

When cloud services are used, connectivity is possible from anywhere a broadband signal is present, whether to a PC or portable device. This is ideal for patients in remote are rural areas and eliminates the time and expense necessary to consult with a specialist in the traditional manner. With videoconferencing, for example, no travel is required yet an excellent service is provided by the healthcare professional involved. Even follow-ups are possible online. Security concerns are also eliminated as a travelling professional accesses data remotely and never stores it on their own personal devices.

 

There are additional cloud benefits for healthcare professionals and these include:
• Scalability – you pay for the amount of space you use and it can be increased on demand
• Automatic updates – the provider’s IT team install security patches promptly
• Disaster recovery – automated regular backups take place and are restored when active data is lost
• Redundancy – multiple broadband connections are available. When one fails, another takes over
• Flexibility – if additional bandwidth is needed, it is readily available. This is not possible with traditional networks
• Works from anywhere – an internet-ready device, a 3G or broadband connection and you are good to go
• Collaboration – depending on requirements, there are specific software applications available to aid collaboration between team members and patients
• Document management – a single document repository allows secure and controlled access to confidential information
• Security – the use of the cloud ensures data is never stored in portable devices, given that thousands are lost or stolen every year
• Green-tech – the carbon footprint for each practice or clinic is substantially reduced, with cloud servers using less power per client due to virtualisation technology
• Cost savings – every clinic and practice uses the latest in hardware and software technology but without the initial investment. Ongoing IT maintenance costs are also dramatically reduced

When it comes to telemedicine, in addition to data management and document control features, there are software applications available that maximise patient turnover per clinic, improve patient care and even improve follow-up treatment and remote monitoring processes.

 

With benefits of this magnitude and with evolving regulations to embrace technological advances in eHealth, clinics need to install a telemedicine solution sooner rather than later or give competitive advantage to those that adopt now. This is especially true if patients and colleagues are in other geographical areas. In fact, government services are already active for eligible aged-care homes and to patients of Aboriginal Medical Services throughout Australia.

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2018 predictions for healthcare facility design

2018 predictions for healthcare facility design | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

E4H Environments for Health Architecture, an architecture firm focused exclusively on healthcare, recently released seven predictions for healthcare facility design trends in 2018.

“From Emergency Departments to micro-hospitals, to the amenities in and locations of hospitals, the year ahead will see continued changes in how healthcare providers are designing and equipping their facilities to meet both patient and market needs,” said Jason Carney, AIA, E4H Partner, in a release. “Add in the pressures of rapidly evolving regulations and payment models, and healthcare design has never been more dynamic than it is now.”

Following are seven top design trends in healthcare for 2018, as envisioned by E4H partners from across the country:

 

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH DRIVES EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT RECONFIGURATIONS

Reflecting both the national opioid-abuse crisis and rising awareness of mental health conditions, hospitals are recognizing an intense need to accommodate cognitively impaired patients more effectively and more sensitively. Hospital leaders are seeking a careful balance in separating patients who pose a risk to themselves and others from the general Emergency Department (ED) population, while ensuring all patients are treated with compassion and dignity. At facilities such as Connecticut’s Waterbury Hospital and Newport Hospital in Rhode Island, areas within the ED are being designed for people and families who are experiencing or approaching a crisis requiring behavioral-health or addiction-management intervention. Because patients with cognitive impairment and behavioral issues often require longer stays in the ED than the general population, an emerging best design practice is adding features for them such as bathroom showers, places to securely store belongings, and access to decompression space.

 

VIRTUAL REALITY BECOMES A CRITICAL PLANNING TOOL FOR HOSPITAL DESIGN

In 2018, more healthcare clients will benefit from virtual reality (VR) technology as they partner with architects to imagine and design complex spaces like operating rooms. VR technology is becoming smaller and more mobile, enabling architects to take VR equipment directly to end users in order to harvest their insight interactively and obtain immediate design feedback. The ability to use VR goggles and headsets to visualize space in three dimensions and coordinate both the room design and placement of equipment is improving facility efficiency and safety. VR headset technology breaks through the traditional limitations of a screen to put people “in” the design to experience, evaluate, and comment on everything from casework configurations to outlet quantities and furniture arrangements.

 

MICROHOSPITALS

According to US News & World Report, microhospitals are now operational in 19 states across the U.S., providing services similar to larger hospitals (ED, pharmacy, lab, radiology, and surgery) in a smaller envelope. This model offers greater accessibility and convenience for residents and is a cost-effective market growth strategy for providers. These mini-hospitals are roughly 15,000 to 50,000 square feet, open 24/7, and maintain between five and 15 inpatient beds for observation and short stay use. Recent changes to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services policy regarding reimbursement schedules for satellite facilities, authorizing microhospitals with dedicated emergency departments as eligible for both 340B discounted drug pricing and the Outpatient Prospective Payment System, will make microhospitals an increasingly popular option. E4H Architecture has designed 28 micro-hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio.

 

MAKE SPACE FOR TELEHEALTH

Both for patients at home and those in medical facilities, telehealth is an increasingly integral mode of healthcare delivery. Healthcare consulting firm Sg2 projects that in the next two years, the volume of virtual healthcare patients will rise 7 percent and in-home healthcare services will rise 13 percent. Installation of sophisticated patient monitors with robust communications platforms is enabling patients to consult seamlessly with physicians and care team professionals. Increasingly, telehealth is being utilized for specialty services like radiology, psychiatry, and dermatology as a way to obtain a specialist’s opinion without the inconvenience of an additional office or hospital visit. Healthcare facilities should start thinking now about how to best incorporate telehealth services into their master plan. Telehealth affects facility design in several ways, including how treatment rooms are configured to accommodate remote consultation and providing infrastructure for the technological equipment. Lighting, privacy, and aesthetics of rooms used for confidential telehealth consultations are all important concerns that need to be addressed by architects and designers. Telehealth technology is also transforming lobbies, common spaces, and admissions areas. Increasingly these areas are being designed to include accessible areas for kiosks or tablets from which patients can register, view their records, or videoconference with a provider.

 

HOSPITALS TAKE A CUE FROM THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY 

The healthcare industry is embracing the trend of removing out-patient services from traditional, larger hospitals and moving them to more consumer-friendly environments. In some cases, this trend has been shown to create operational efficiencies and improve clinical outcomes, such as decreased re-admittance rates. E4H recently worked with a New York hospital to convert a 27-unit physician and nurse dormitory into temporary housing for immunocompromised patients. Procedures like bone-marrow transplants (BMTs) exemplify a unique need for extended care: In the first phase of treatment (surgery and post-op), those undergoing BMTs must be served as hospital inpatients. In the second phase, patients are vulnerable to infection and require monitoring for complications, but typically do not require a full suite of hospital inpatient services. For this second phase, the New York hospital administrators worked with architects to serve this “in-between” population, providing a facility that feels more like a hotel than hospital, with cozier interior design; private, suite-style rooms; and specialized air and water filtration systems to protect immune-suppressed patients. Rather than an inpatient charge nurse, a uniquely skilled concierge service provides front-desk response to at the front desk of the patients’ daily needs.

 

MOVE TO MALLS

As the delivery of healthcare continues to improve, an increasing number of same-day services and procedures may be performed outside hospitals, in community locations chosen for ease of access and improved customer convenience. Established retail locations are and will become even more attractive to developers of microhospitals, outpatient imaging, urgent care and ambulatory surgery centers, and medical office buildings. This approach serves not only convenience-minded patients but also providers interested in growing market share.  Trends that Walmart and Panera consider for their locations–demographics, quality of highway or transit access, parking– all translate to healthcare as well. In Kingston, NY, E4H is helping Health Quest to transform a former Macy’s retail space into a new state-of-the-art outpatient medical services facility. It will enable consumers to access urgent care, ambulatory surgical care, primary care, diagnostic imaging, and oncology services in an easy-to-reach location.

                                              

ACUTE CARE NEEDS CONTINUE TO GROW

In 2018, we will continue to see healthcare services moving from inpatient to outpatient facilities, but hospitals will also see growth in patient-day numbers. As Baby Boomers age, 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next 20 years, and the total demand for inpatient care will only grow. Additionally, as services are pushed to outpatient facilities, remaining inpatients will increasingly be the sickest and most acute, requiring longer stays. Maximizing the efficiency of space and movement of medical staff to serve this inpatient population, including with more private rooms and fewer shared rooms, is critical to healthcare facility design. In the last two years E4H has designed new private, room bed towers at the Heart Hospital at Baylor Plano, Eastern Maine Medical Center, and University of Vermont Medical Center.

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Cloud Backup Solutions 101- A Primer for Healthcare Organisations

Cloud Backup Solutions 101- A Primer for Healthcare Organisations | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Some businesses rely on onsite backups, whether in the form of external hard drives or perhaps tape or storage media such as DVDs or DVD-RAM, all of which are subject to failure. Hard drives typically have a life span of three to five years and even high-grade disc-based media is easily damaged by careless handling or incorrect storage (near a magnetic source, for example).

Legislation and E-health Driving Change

With the introduction of electronic medical records and legislation on data privacy, businesses are legally obligated to secure their clients billing, medical and personally identifiable information (PII). Many companies have a disaster recovery plan that includes an offsite data backup solution. For convenience, this primarily takes place in the cloud, as the process of storing onsite backups in a fireproof safe or manually transporting backups to another location is widely considered obsolete.

Business Continuity?

Whether your business network is on-premise only, already in the cloud or a mix of the two (typically known as hybrid IT), business continuity is the aim and most organisations seek to include a solution that allows staff to continue working, even if the power or broadband service is down. When your business processes are in the cloud, restoring from backups is easy and business continuity is assured. Likely, your clients will not even know that there is a problem with your on-premise network as normal service is uninterrupted. Cloud service providers have several redundancy options in place so cloud services are rarely impacted by hardware failure.

Moving to the Cloud

If your business does not have an automated backup solution in place, it is certainly worth considering, as onsite hardware failure can jeopardise your business’s reputation, even if just a few hour’s data is lost. When a hard drive fails, specialist recovery is possible but is expensive and requires specialist knowledge and equipment. When data protection is the aim, an automated and real-time backup offsite is the only failsafe solution and use of the cloud ensures local disasters (whether hardware, fire or water damage, or extreme weather conditions) have no impact on your business data.

Cloud Provider Selection

All cloud providers are not created equal and like any other industry, service quality varies as does administration access. Ideally, your cloud service provider understands healthcare processes and the importance of immediate access to data in a clinical environment. Professionals in this area will offer a customised solution to fulfil all your backup and restoration requirements. This solution should include but is not limited to:

Onsite analysis of your existing broadband solution—Your broadband may well be adequate for general business use but when backup schedules are involved (even if daily backups are scheduled outside business hours, you cannot afford to miss a backup due to broadband outage. Possible service provider recommendations could include an additional broadband connection, dedicated line or provision of a router that offers a 4G SIM redundancy option.

 

Backup method and process­—The way you backup can determine the success of the solution. The speed of the process is determined by the speed of the broadband connection.

Data Storage—Data must be stored in a location that complies with state laws. For example, selecting a provider with U.S. servers is not compliant.

Remote access—Can the backup be performed remotely if needed? Can the resulting backup be accessed and verified remotely?

Auditing—Once a backup is performed, it needs to be verified as good. Many companies have found that unchecked backups are corrupt, failing when they need them the most.

Exit Clauses—Every customer has a right to change service providers if they wish. Verify that your potential providers offer the facility to migrate your data to a new provider easily and that it is very clear who own the data involved.

 

Disaster Recovery Plan

Auditing and indeed backups themselves are a key part of any disaster recovery plan. To ensure business continuity and comply with governing regulations and industry standards, healthcare organisations are responsible for the storage, backup and security of their data.

 

Fortunately, cloud service providers are held to a higher standard than typical businesses and their infrastructure must incorporate redundancy options, security and backup processes that are very costly for smaller companies to implement.

 

In conclusion, from a cost perspective, it makes sense for healthcare organisations to use the cloud for backup, storage and security. In doing so, business owners can relax, secure in the knowledge that real-time automated backups of all data are carried out in a secure manner. All that is really needed to ensure business continuity in a cloud environment is remote access using an internet-enabled device. AND ensuring the internet is present is easily achieved by adding an on-premise router to the network, with redundant connections to a 4G mobile network. If you haven’t already, can your business afford not to automate data backups in the cloud?

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4 conditions your clinic can tackle through telemedicine 

4 conditions your clinic can tackle through telemedicine  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Living with a debilitating disease can be overwhelming. Not only does it have an impact on overall wellness and longevity, but also the time, effort and money patients spend traveling to see specialists can limit the quality of care they receive. Still, these physician visits are critical to health outcomes, so patients could benefit from an easier way to keep their plan of care on track. That's where telemedicine comes in.

 

Technology is positively impacting the health care industry in various ways, and telehealth is an example of an effective tool for those living with chronic conditions. There is a direct correlation between access to care and quality of care, and telehealth closes the geographic gap to where and when people can get the care they need

4 chronic conditions supported with telemedicine

The ability to increase access to care via telemedicine has proven to be a convenient way to manage chronic disease. Here are four common conditions that telehealth can assist with:

 

  1. High blood pressure - According to Health IT News, someone living with hypertension can utilize telemedicine to connect with a specialist via video conferencing and discuss data from their wearable device

  2. Diabetes - Rural patients managing diabetes often lack access to a specialist. Telemedicine has proven a viable way to manage diabetes and when necessary, provide a high level interaction between patients in rural areas and diabetic specialist in larger urban centers.

  3. Depression - Discussing anxiety or other feelings related to depression with a psychologist can be done via telemedicine, as Mark Rood, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic. It's the same type of conversation that would happen in the office, so telehealth takes away the time and effort spent to meet in person.

  4. Arthritis - Determining one's range of motion doesn't have to happen face to face. With telemedicine, a patient living with arthritis can demonstrate how well he or she is healing and ask for additional recommendations if pain has worsened.

 

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Benefits of telemedicine during pregnancy 

Benefits of telemedicine during pregnancy  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Pregnancy is an amazing experience for mothers, but it can come with a number of challenges. Beyond the sometimes debilitating symptoms of pregnancy, mothers who are expecting must see their doctors multiple times throughout the gestation period. This requirement can be difficult for women who need to see numerous specialists, have busy schedules and have limited means of transportation. Still, expectant mothers are encouraged to attend all pre-term doctor's appointments to receive expert care and necessary monitoring of their unborn children.

To ensure all mothers are receiving the care they need throughout their pregnancies, pre-natal healthcare providers are implementing telemedicine solutions into their current offerings. Read on for some of the benefits of introducing telemedicine to expectant mothers.

Frequent check-ups without the need to travel

The technology already available today for pre-natal care is amazing!  Coupling in telemedicine with the existing practices just makes the reach even farther. Healthcare providers trying to deliver access to care for expectant mothers who might not be able to travel to an urban facility for care, can now easily perform examinations on patients using live ultrasound technology. This opens up a whole new way of doing pre-natal check-ups, by streaming ultrasound images directly to the remote provider at the time of the check up.

Instead of traveling from doctor to gynecologist to specialist to share information in regard to their pregnancies, mothers can also utilize telemedicine to transfer data among many medical professionals. Women who are expecting already have to attend doctor's appointments once a month up until the 28-week mark, when they then have to see their physicians twice a week up until the birth of the baby. If a mother has to see more than one doctor, she may not have the time or resources to make it to every extra appointment.

Offer services where specialists are rare

A mother who is experiencing a high-risk pregnancy will have to see doctors more often than the average pregnant woman. Again, this need can be difficult for someone who has limited access to care, such as a patient living in a rural location, or means of transportation to drive to the city where the specialist provides assistance. When more hospitals offer telemedicine solutions, mothers who need special treatment from a cardiologist or other medical professional during a high-risk pregnancy will have better access to those resources. Remote video conferencing allows for emergency consultations that can save the life of the baby and the mother who's carrying, ultimately improving the quality of care your hospital provides.

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4 Benefits of Telemedicine for Patients and Clinicians 

4 Benefits of Telemedicine for Patients and Clinicians  | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Technology has improved every industry, but the medical industry has been impacted more than most.

Telemedicine allows doctors to provide quality care to their patients live via the web, rather than requiring in-person appointments.

There are countless benefits of telemedicine, which is why so many physicians and patients are starting to take advantage of it.

Below we’ll explore four of these benefits. Let’s take a look, so you can see if telemedicine is right for you.

The Four Main Benefits of Telemedicine

1. It’s Convenient for Both Patients and Clinicians

Without question, convenience is one of the biggest benefits of telemedicine for both patients and clinicians.

Think about it – a traditional, in-person appointment requires a patient to physically go to the office, fill out paperwork, and sit in the waiting room until called. Typically, they first see the nurse, then the doctor, and then the nurse again, and then they have to go back to the front desk to pay the bill. What should be a quick and routine check-up can take a whole morning!

Telemedicine allows for a quick and easy “face-to-face” appointment without requiring a patient to leave the comfort of home.

Doctors get the chance to see patients quickly without running from room to room, which makes this a win for both parties.

2. Doctors Get True One-On-One Time with Patients

During a telemedicine consultation, it’s literally just the patient and the doctor. There are no office distractions or go-betweens involved.

Because appointments must be scheduled without overlapping, doctors can be relaxed, focused, and thorough with each visit. Similarly, because of the convenience telemedicine offers, patients will be more relaxed as well, and more open in their questions (or answers to your questions).

This level of one-on-one time gives doctors the space to provide their best possible care.

3. Patients Can Get Prescriptions and Referrals Quickly

Imagine running out of your allergy inhaler the Saturday evening before leaving for your outdoor vacation, and your prescription is out of refills. This can be a huge predicament if you have to wait until normal business hours to get a doctor to order a refill for your prescription.

With telemedicine, patients can connect with a doctor who can review their medical records and quickly provide prescriptions or referrals as needed, even outside normal business hours.

Even better for practitioners, the ability of patients to have a quick check-in for prescription refills or referrals means you can devote more of your in-office appointments to patients with more complicated needs.

These quick telemedicine consultations provide the same level of HIPAA certified privacy, with the speed and convenience of an online transaction.

4. Telemedicine Is More Cost-Effective

For patients, access to telemedicine provides professional medical care at a cost that is lower than or equal to in-office visits. Because telemedicine decreases (or eliminates) the need to travel and miss work, patients can end up saving a significant amount of money versus traditional appointments.

With medical expenses through the roof today, patients are looking for new and different ways to save on their healthcare. This bodes well for the telemedicine industry since 74% of people surveyed said they would use it.

The great news is that telemedicine is cost-effective for clinicians as well!

A thriving telemedicine practice does not require extra space or extra staff, and telemedicine patients don’t require as many physical resources as in-office patients. Additionally, your practice will gain an increased reach when you are able to hold consultations with patients who cannot travel to your office.

The ability to see more patients, and the need for less physical space and fewer physical resources, means a more robust bottom line.

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Telehealth Essential Resource Addiction Treatment

Telehealth Essential Resource Addiction Treatment | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

In a recent article in The Atlantic, the former head of the National Institutes of Mental Health, psychiatrist Tom Insel, pinned the future progress of mental healthcare on one small but transformative piece of technology: the smartphone. Insel is reportedly convinced that “the smartphone can be a diagnostic instrument and, through the links it gives us to others, a life-saving mode of connection and treatment.”

 

Insel is on to something—and, as an addiction clinician, I am persuaded that telehealth initiatives (like smartphone apps) can also be an essential, life-saving resource for the substance abuse population. Proper legal and ethical training is key for therapists who plan to offer telehealth services, but that extra effort can have powerful results.

 

First, addiction’s chronic nature makes ongoing assessment and regular follow-up critical factors in effective care—for those in early recovery especially. Accumulated research has shown that like other chronic diseases, SUDs can be characterized by relapse, and rates of relapse tend to be highest during the first year following treatment. Yet outcomes are better among those who make regular and more frequent use of a supportive network in their recovery (such as ongoing individual therapy among others).

Inevitably, the ease and convenience with which these supports can be accessed are therefore crucial. Many of the clients who leave my care go back to full-time jobs, parenting roles and other responsibilities (including recovery commitments like weekly 12-step group attendance). Many clients return to areas of the country where therapists like myself are in overwhelmingly high demand but painfully short supply. Even in clinically well-resourced regions of the country, addiction therapists tend to carry heavy caseloads, and burnout remains a common feature of the SUD treatment landscape.

 

Such factors can often preclude regular, in-person follow-ups with a therapist—even when the long-term support and accountability these sessions provide may be critical to recovery (depending on the client and their treatment needs). The reality is that the necessary demands of life can dampen even the most dedicated commitment to follow-up therapy. There’s little utility to seeing a therapist weekly if it means you can’t hold down a job, after all (especially when job retention itself tends to support long-term recovery). On the other hand, virtual therapy apps like Talkspace make it easier and more convenient to keep in regular, even frequent touch with a therapist.

 

Telehealth also provides near-instant support for a disease that, unlike any other chronic disease, is distinguished by cravings. When left to their own devices (without immediate intervention), these compulsive desires to drink or use drugs can often drive and precede relapse. They also don’t always follow therapist work hours or take the same vacation days. A craving may strike in the middle of the night or on the weekend, at which point the more old-fashioned method—of leaving a voicemail for one’s therapist—proves useless.

 

That’s where videoconferencing and instant text messaging are part of the solution, as are innovative apps like the A-CHESS mobile app. The app provides users with a “panic button” for when cravings hit. Press it and presto: within a matter of minutes, users can access help and support that is individually customized to their needs.

 

But telehealth is probably most urgently needed as a bridge to treatment for the millions of Americans who would never darken the door of a therapist’s office because of the enduring stigma of substance abuse. That stigma is arguably worse in rural and underserved areas, where an in-person appointment with the only therapist in town likely means you’ll run into your next-door neighbor or a familiar business patron. Videoconferencing apps that allow clients to connect with a properly trained therapist in a secure, online meeting room from the privacy of their own home provide that assurance of anonymity. For many with SUDs, that’s a non-negotiable prerequisite to getting help and beginning the journey to recovery.

 

Candice Rasa, LCSW, is Clinical Director of Beach House Center for Recovery, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center in Juno Beach, FL. She has more than 10 years’ experience in the mental health and substance-abuse arena, and supports healing in the clients she serves from a solution-focused, strengths-based approach.

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