Telehealth was bolstered by the pandemic for two reasons, Caregility Chief Strategy Officer Peter McLain explained during an NJBIZ virtual panel discussion on Health Care Technology held Sept. 28. For one thing, it was what was available for patients because offices were closed. Second, hospitals had more patients coming into them, thereby causing shortages in personal protective equipment shortages and staffing, which “prompted the idea,” he said.
“‘If we have a camera in the room, maybe we don’t need to go into the room as much, so we can communicate from outside the room through video. That spurred a lot of innovative problem solving of ‘how do we get the camera in the room?’” Some used baby monitors. Some used security cameras.
In one instance, McLain said, a phone with a camera was taped to the wall to have a live call.
The clever ways doctors communicated with others from inside hospital rooms grew and changed over the pandemic, moving from a “whatever works” mindset initially to “what is better and more secure.”
McLain was joined by Hackensack Meridian Health Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Mark Eimer, Online Computers founder and CEO Carl Scalzo and Holy Name Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Sai Kandamangalam; the panel was moderated by NJBIZ Editor Jeffrey Kanige.
If a technology company wants its health care products to be broadly adopted, the tech should be ubiquitous and accessible through whatever device someone is using. “For those of us that have an iPhone that has great videoconferencing, FaceTime — that didn’t become the standard during the pandemic. What did? Zoom, the technology that worked across all the platforms,” Scalzo said. “The ones that are going to be siloed and niche and proprietary, the bigger players … are not going to want to have a hallway filled with 25 different technologies.”
One obstacle to telehealth remaining so prominent would arise health care companies stop getting the reimbursements for providing telehealth. Eimer said his organization is lobbying for such reimbursements to remain and that Congress just needs to understand how the health care system has shifted.
If technology can reduce the average stay by a day … that means better patient outcomes. If a patient can be discharged because they recovered faster, that’s great for the patient. For me, that’s part of the calculation.
– Peter McLain, Caregility chief strategy officer
In addition, Eimer predicts that 5G broadband will be a game-changer for telehealth, but for now, bandwidth remains a challenge today in rural areas.
“Internet bandwidth alone in rural communities is a travesty. I think there’s like 25% of homes within the U.S. that are running [insufficient bandwidth] to deliver real-time health care at home,” he said. “Which is why the telehealth providers have to be really smart about compression and bandwidth consumption just because trying to get to rural communities [is a challenge.]”
Eimer said he believes the companies that created telehealth and video conferencing technology are, at this point, all compliant in terms of their own back-end cybersecurity programs. The bigger issue now, he said, is on the privacy side, “in making sure you have dedicated closed rooms as you’re talking to patients so you’re not exposing [personal health information] verbally into public spaces.”
The same goes for remote work situations, Scalzo noted. “When you sent employees home [in March 2020], did they have a headset?” he asked. “Or … was that whole conversation on the computer speaker and microphone and if they weren’t in a private room everybody in the family knew about someone’s condition? What was acceptable during the height is no longer going to be acceptable, and changing to newer standards and more compliance.”
Replay: Health Care Technology
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“The security threat is real,” Kandamangalam said. “First you’ve got to accept that a security threat is real, so we’ve got to continue to educate our end users [on] phishing emails like, how do you know when you need to click [a link and] when you should not click one? When you need to open your PDF, when you should not open your PDF?”
HMH conducts email phishing tests monthly, according to Eimer, to keep employees on their toes and they don’t let their guard down. If an employee fails the phishing test, he or she must then go through training. Most malware and ransomware comes through phishing, he said.
In closing, Kandamangalam noted that technology is evolving, and that “the good lesson for us is technology is really facilitating and helping our patient care.”
“If technology can reduce the average stay by a day … that means better patient outcomes. If a patient can be discharged because they recovered faster, that’s great for the patient. For me, that’s part of the calculation,” McLain said.
“I think what people are learning is it’s actually taking care to a higher level,” he said. “There’s now this combination in the hospital setting, you got bedside staff, but also a whole virtual care team helping with the patients. So it’s an elevation of the quality of care … I’m a patient, I have a stroke, and I’m in a rural ED; by bringing in a neurologist over video, that was elevating care.”
“There’s a positive outcome in health care related to the pandemic as far as technology. The pandemic is unfortunate and horrible, but I think the positive is it will change the future of health care dramatically and accelerate it forward and make it more available to many, many people,” Scalzo said.
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