Telehealth technology allows patients and healthcare providers to connect remotely via phone or video conferencing technology. The popularity of telehealth options is on the rise among both patients and providers all over the country, despite the fact that the original purpose for telehealth was to reach patients in rural areas.
Wait times for telehealth appointments average about 20 minutes, 91 percent of outcomes are equal to or better than in-person visits, telehealth costs considerably less than an office visit, and 95 percent of telehealth patients report satisfaction with their experience, according to Teresa Iafolla’s post, “20 Stats: How Do Patients Feel About Telehealth” on eVisit.com.
A familiarity with the ins and outs of telehealth will prove to be extremely helpful to students enrolled in an RN to BSN degree program. Their experience in the healthcare field makes them ideal candidates for positions as telehealth nurses upon graduation.
Nurses are using telehealth technologies in home health care, counseling, physical and occupational therapy, chronic disease monitoring and management, and health education settings.
“The nursing process and scope of practice does not differ with telenursing,” telehealth researcher Loretta Schlachta-Fairchild explains in “Patient Safety, Telenursing, and Telehealth” on the NCBI government website. “Nurses engaged in telenursing practice continue to assess, plan, intervene, and evaluate the outcomes of nursing care, but they do so using technologies such as the internet, computers, telephones, digital assessment tools, and telemonitoring equipment.”
To facilitate telenursing, several different types of telehealth applications, or modalities, are available. In “What is Telehealth,” The Center for Connected Health Policy lists various categories of telehealth:
Author and tech writer Megan Molteni references how some organizations have already had amazing results with telehealth in her article, “Telemedicine Could Be Great, If People Stopped Using It Like Uber.” Organizations such as the Veterans Administration’s reduction of hospital admissions by 20 percent and Kaiser Permanente’s 110 million telehealth patient interactions during 2016.
Through telehealth technologies, nurses entering the healthcare field today will experience better nurse-patient relationships and an enhanced number of mechanisms in place for providing patient care.
As telehealth emerges as a common practice, however, nurses must be aware of the legal obstacles when dealing with sensitive, urgent medical data remotely.
Teresa Iofolla warns nurses that protected health information (PHI) is unsecure when stored on patients’ mobile devices, and that healthcare professional login information (for telehealth applications) is being lost, stolen, or hacked. Proper HIPAA training geared specifically toward telehealth practices are imperative to keeping patients safe.
Iofolla suggests that updates to privacy policies be shared immediately with patients, that nurses never contact patients outside of a secure telehealth portal, and that nurse administrators ensure that business agreements with associates (such as app developers and vendors) focus on security practices.
The definition and use of telehealth technologies is expanding daily. Better, more powerful mobile devices, stronger internet connections, new and improved healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) technologies (such as blood sugar and blood pressure monitors), and innovative products are being introduced every day.
DUSTIN, or Duquesne University Simulating Telepresence In Nursing, combines the video conferencing abilities of a tablet with the mobility of a robot. By using DUSTIN, nurses can not only engage in telemedicine from a distance, they also can move around a room and interact with colleagues remotely.
Telehealth authorities Dr. Roy Schoenberg and healthcare innovation strategist Linda Boles predict that in the not-too-distant future of the telehealth industry there will be increased government funding for telehealth technology, Medicaid exemptions that will allow some Medicaid patients to use telehealth despite its not being covered, advanced telehealth capabilities in practice management systems, and a steep rise in consumer demand.
Duquesne University offers RN-BSN programs enabling registered nurses with associate’s degrees in nursing (ADN) or diplomas in nursing to earn a BSN degree. Online classrooms provide a type of teletraining environment that will prepare students for working with telehealth systems after graduation.
Classes start in fall, spring, and summer and the program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. For more information, visit the Duquesne University online RN-BSN website.