It's time to stop calling healthcare with a smartphone 'telehealth' — Here's why

Teleworking is just called working. Teleshopping? Simply shopping. So, why do we call healthcare with a smartphone telehealth?

Dave Wortman, CEO and co-founder of communications platform Diagnotes, anticipates this linguistic trend will change. Soon enough, he believes the word "telehealth" will fall out of style.  

"The same approach we take with other services, we can take in healthcare," Mr. Wortman said during a Jan. 24 webinar sponsored by Diagnotes and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review. "We will eliminate the word 'telehealth' and call it what it's rapidly becoming — just healthcare."

Diagnotes is a mobile, HIPAA-compliant application helping hospitals, health systems and physician practices facilitate, track and manage all patient-related communications. Companies like Diagnotes are changing how healthcare is delivered — and what it looks like — by closing gaps between workflows and personal communication behaviors. For example, one provider, Springstone, used Diagnotes to fill communication gaps caused by relying on paper records, said Jean Scallon, vice president of network development and innovation at the behavioral health system. Springstone has 17 facilities and 29 outpatient locations across nine states.

Diagnotes has become part of Springstone's operations, as the communication platform allows Springstone to cross communicate with multidisciplinary teams. For example, even though it lacks an EHR, Springstone can send a medication list or a treatment record to a large system with an EHR through Diagnotes.

Using telehealth has become synonymous with providing good care at Springstone, allowing its leaders to "think creatively about how we assess, treat and triage in a timely, efficient and customer facing manner," Ms. Scallon said.

Mike Fletcher, MD, vice president and CMO at Hancock Regional Hospital, a 69-bed hospital in Greenfield, Ind., also discussed his organization's experience with Diagnotes during the webinar. Before partnering with Diagnotes, Hancock Regional didn't have a single enterprisewide solution for communication. Its clinicians were dealing with delays and gaps in information, and were continuously interrupted by nonurgent communications.  

"We decided through a team that we were going to use a digital platform for communications," he said during the webinar. Under the platform, Hancock Regional has seen increased efficiency, time-to-reply improvement, risk mitigation and satisfaction improvement for both providers and patients. Notably, when its entire system shut down during a ransomware attack in January 2018, Hancock Regional staff rapidly added Diagnotes to their phone to continue communicating through the platform until the ransomware attack ended a few days later.

CMS has already begun recognizing telehealth as a standard component of healthcare. Starting Jan. 1, physicians began receiving reimbursement for checking in with Medicare beneficiaries through smartphones and other devices. As a result, physicians are now being paid for remote services many were already delivering, whether it's time spent reviewing a patient's video or determining if a visit is necessary based on an image.

Still, questions remain about what CMS' new codes really mean in practice. Martie Ross, a principal who leads the value transformation practice group for healthcare consultancy and public accounting firm PYA, said providers are just beginning to understand the new codes. Some of the codes include remote monitoring of vitals and virtual check-ins.

"We need to appreciate a whole new set of opportunities and know how to incorporate technologies like Diagnotes in our processes to generate reimbursement that may not make everyone rich, but certainly will provide additional funding," she said during the webinar.

Whether it's helping providers obtain reimbursement under CMS' new guidelines, connecting providers during a data breach or closing information gaps, telehealth, more so than ever, is becoming everyday healthcare.

To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

To learn more about Diagnotes, click here.

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