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What are the Basic Telehealth Hardware Requirements?
Telehealth and Why You Need Equipment
As businesses worldwide are expanding to new technological heights, a rising number of healthcare professionals are turning to telehealth as a convenient way to maintain their quality of care with the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as allowing providers to evaluate, diagnose, and see more patients, telehealth reduces the financial burden of rent, utilities, payroll, and other costs of real-life appointments.
With the right telehealth solution, providers can leave the office early and continue seeing patients from the comfort of their homes. Most people have access to telecommunications tools, like telephones, the internet, and computers. But many telemedicine solutions require more equipment than just those basics.
Healthcare providers who routinely provide frontline care in remote areas across the U.S. and worldwide need portable, durable telemedicine kits. Telemedicine equipment kits often look like a sturdy briefcase or large medical kit. Inside, these kits may include a small computer with an integrated screen, a camera, and simple mobile medical devices.
Basic Equipment Needed for Telehealth
Video quality is a significant component of a productive telehealth visit. A high-quality video ensures an accurate assessment of your patient and boosts your professional image. It is a good idea to invest in a high-quality webcam for such visits if your specialization compels it; for example, if you specialize in dermatology and other fields where a physical examination is necessary. However, a mental health professional conducting a therapy session doesn’t necessarily need the same video quality.
More telemedicine practitioners use a telemedicine cart. This telemedicine equipment consists of a mobile frame and storage system to store cameras, monitors, keyboards, computers, and mobile medical devices. The carts sometimes look similar to standing work desks, with computers attached at the top and wheels at the bottom. Physicians can wheel these carts from room to room as they meet with patients and need to either record and transmit a patient’s medical data or include a consulting physician from another location.
Telemedicine providers install special software on their computers. These sometimes require equipment like data storage hardware or servers. Some providers also require the purchase of multiple telemedicine software solutions for different purposes. But for basics, it’s best to look for an integrated solution that has everything you need.
Reliable and Fast Internet:
Internet speed and bandwidth are imperative to sending and receiving patients’ medical data. Talk with your internet service provider to see if they can accommodate your bandwidth needs. An appropriate bandwidth makes sure your internet services are reliable in your pursuit of telemedicine. Your internet provider will be able to configure your network to serve the dual communication system telemedicine requires.
A Backup System:
While a good internet connection is necessary for telemedicine services, sometimes even the most reliable networks can fail. Use a backup system to protect your telemedicine services from unexpected data outages. Investing in a backup network is something any healthcare facility should look into.
Digital Medical Scopes and Accessories:
Digital medical devices are critical to administering specialty care through telemedicine. These are highly functional high-tech tools that help to make a telemedicine visit as productive and similar to a real-life visit as possible. Digital medical devices commonly used are virtual stethoscopes which work by utilizing the microphone on the patient’s device to record and then stream audio files to the doctor. Your patients can record audio clips from their heart, lungs, or digestive system.
Another standard device is wireless scales which ensure a precise reading of your patient’s weight. Digital records of a patient’s weight make it easier to prescribe medication and treatments correctly. Virtual thermometers also allow doctors to track changes in the patient’s condition. Pulse oximeters are another useful device to monitor a patient’s oxygen level, especially if they have COVID-19.
Tablets are the perfect tool for any telemedicine provider to invest in because of their versatility in any practice. They can be used as a digital clipboard to store detailed notes on patients’ health, easily transferred to electronic health record systems.
Many digital health accessories such as the digital stethoscope have their apps, making it easier for medical providers to transmit, store, and analyze their patients’ data. Although a tablet won’t take the place of a full PC, it can be an indispensable tool all the same.
Costs of Telehealth Hardware
Healthcare providers looking to expand their services into the telehealth domain often wonder about the costs of this expansion and wonder if the revenue opportunities of telemedicine outweigh the initial investment. However, if you are a care provider, know what you don’t need to invest significantly immediately. Your specific needs of equipment depend on multiple factors such as the size and location of your organization, specialization, and staff-patient ratio.
The most crucial consideration for telemedicine is your internet bandwidth. It would be best to have a reliable and consistent bandwidth with high upload and download for eventful times.
The first step is to look for a reliable Internet service provider with a commitment to reliable service. For video conferencing, you may get an online-based telemedicine portal that is either software or hardware-based. A software portal can cost $1,500 per patient with no cost for you, the provider. The cost for hardware-based video conferencing can start around $10,000 per patient site and increases with the number of sites you need.
The specific medical devices you need depend on the specialties you offer with telemedicine. You can purchase what you need to get started for basics, which can range from $5,000-$10,000 and include examination cameras, ENT scopes, and digital stethoscopes. You can add additional specialized devices later on.
Dr. Josh is a physician who's helping spread the knowledge about Telehealth and its advantages. At SmartClinix, he's providing his expertise and knowledge in the form of engaging articles on various health & tech related topics.