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The Pandemic Has Driven the Rapid Adoption of Telehealth

by Heidi Bullman

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on GovDataDownload and discusses the rapid adoption of telehealth during the pandemic. In this article, NetApp’s Lisa Hines, Strategic Advisor for Healthcare, explains how the lifting of restrictions – which have previously hindered telehealth adoption – allows for easier delivery of remote medical services while people shelter-in-place against COVID-19.

The disruptions facing public health today are unprecedented. Healthcare providers around the globe are jumping into action and unifying resources to combat the threat presented by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. During this time, governors and state health departments are working together to slow the infection rate and provide care to their citizens, opening the doors to telehealth.

In a recent interview with Lisa Hines, MBA, former director of telehealth for the Greenville Health System, and now a strategic advisor for healthcare at NetApp, told us that this pandemic is cutting through the red tape that has impacted the adoption of telehealth in the past, and is making services easier to deliver.

“As part of the emergency funding package, we have reduced the restrictions on telehealth at a national level, which then has trickled down to the state level,” Hines told us. “This action is tremendous for the future of telehealth and how it can now be more quickly adopted to protect citizens in the midst of this public health crisis.” Temporary changes in regulations include payment parity, the ability to use new easy-to-access technologies and provide care regardless of the patient setting.

The American Telehealth Association (ATA) recently stated that telehealth solutions available are “helping to keep people safe and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices, map the virus and triage individuals needing medical care.” Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of ATA, said “We are seeing the significant value telehealth offers, not only in public health emergencies, but also in day-to-day care delivery.”

Hines highlighted that healthcare CIOs are grappling with many concerns during this crisis, from patient identification and tracking, managing communications between sites, to the impact of remote workers and how they can protect data and meeting compliance requirements. “There are several issues that have emerged among our customers,” Hines reported. “Rapidly scaling infrastructure rises to the top as central to ensuring that clinicians have access to data securely, from any location or any device.”

The public health crisis related to COVID-19 is testing healthcare IT systems in ways they’ve never experienced. “Security and maintaining privacy controls of the data is of great importance in a virtual solution, as clinicians need to quickly identify exposed patients, treat, and track along the way with the confidence of protecting personally identifiable information,” Hines explained.

“One customer we recently spoke with had 1,500 employees working remotely at the start of the crisis and anticipates the number will grow to 7,000 over the course of the upcoming week,” Hines told us. “That need to quickly scale a virtual infrastructure with the flexibility and secure access to data is incredibly important to these customers.”

Many of the healthcare providers using telehealth and remote work environments are turning to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which quickly allows them to deploy in the cloud. “The virtual desktop infrastructure accommodates the need for secure, anytime, anywhere, access to the desktop. It offers the access to the same toolset and applications that clinical staff would have within the four walls of their healthcare organization, but from anywhere, which is ideal,” Hines says.

It is also important to note that as healthcare providers are embracing digital transformation to address today’s current response, the infrastructure that is in place will stay with them as the industry changes in the future. “As quickly as the telehealth barriers have been removed, I believe we’ll come out of COVID-19 with a change in how medicine is practiced. Right now, we consider it telemedicine. In the future, it will just be medicine. I don’t think these barriers will be put back into place in the same way,” Hines predicted.

Hines recently hosted a webinar with a telehealth expert at Blue Cirrus to review the most recent regulatory changes and provide best practices for the adoption of, setting up, and scaling telehealth.

To watch the full webinar, go to https://tv.netapp.com/detail/video/6145224691001

 

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