It’s National Telehealth Awareness Month and each week in October, we are asking an industry leaders about their thoughts on telehealth and the benefits of telehealth services.
Today, we speak to our own Visionflex CEO and Co-founder, Mike Harman.
Update: After the sale of Visionflex to 1st Group in 2022, Mike maintains an active role in the business and is now the Head of Product for Visionflex.
VISIONFLEX: It’s National Telehealth Awareness Month – what are three things that people should know about telehealth?
Mike Harman: Firstly, Telehealth has been around for a long time, with the first remote consultations carried out by telephone more than 100 years ago.
Secondly, modern telehealth can facilitate complex clinical examinations with video, audio and data being transmitted from the patient to the doctor.
Lastly, telehealth saves lives by bringing health services to isolated patients, in the bush and in the city.
The Australian Federal Government has told us that post-pandemic, telehealth is here to stay – what would you like this future to look like?
Health care should be a mix of face-to-face consultations and telehealth consultations.
Accessing health services is not easy for many patients in remote locations or in situations where visiting a doctor is not always possible such as prisons, oil rigs, aged care facilities and closed communities. The government needs to recognise this and fund telehealth consultations in the same manner as traditional face-to-face consultations.
At Visionflex, we would like to see an equal mix of traditional and telehealth consultations while ensuring that the latest technology is used to provide clinical consultations over telehealth. Telehealth is more than a video call and government funding should be allocated to physicians and organisations that use the latest technology to provide relevant and modern telehealth consultations.
A lot of people still think that telehealth is just having a video chat with their doctor via their smartphone. Can you explain what a telehealth consultation is really like, when it’s conducted using a purpose-built, clinical telehealth system, like the Visionflex system?
Video conversations with your health provider can be helpful in some situations such as mental health and allied health consultations or perhaps with discussions around your wellbeing. But, generally speaking, a video call is no better than a traditional phone call.
Interestingly, statistics show that around 95 percent of telehealth consultations are done over the phone and that is because of the limitations associated with video calls. As soon as additional information is required to make a clinical diagnosis, video calls are not sufficient and that’s where the technology from Visionflex steps in.
A true telehealth consultation should give the remote physician access to all the images and data that they would normally have if the patient were with them in the consulting room. Data such as an ECG trace, stethoscope sounds, temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse oximetry, weight, ultrasound and of course, a range of video examinations such as endoscopy, dental, ophthalmology, otoscopy, dermatology, and wound management. Having access to this information enables the consulting physician to make an informed diagnosis and to create a treatment plan.
With its clinical capabilities and interoperability with electronic health record systems, how does a telehealth solution like the Visionflex solution, change outcomes for health providers and their remote patients?
The diagnosis and treatment of a patient often involves specialists and allied health professionals along with the consulting GPs and nursing staff. Having access to the patient’s health records is essential for these professionals to provide the best possible outcome for the patient.
It is therefore essential that any information obtained during a telehealth consultation such as blood pressure or ECG data is automatically uploaded to the patient record for all health professionals to access.
The Visionflex telehealth solution offers seamless integration with an electronic health record system, which means that information gathered during a telehealth consultation is treated in exactly the same way as a face-to-face consultation. This is another differentiating factor between the clinical telehealth platform offered by Visionflex and generic video calls often touted as ‘telehealth’, where no data is saved, and health outcomes could be compromised.