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Urgent care and telemedicine for better healthcare

#Healthcare

The modern healthcare industry is at a tipping point. The public’s demand for affordable, accessible and equitable care has fueled the emergence of urgent care centers. More and more primary care-focused healthcare practices employ telemedicine for remote patient monitoring.

Both healthcare trends will continue evolving to enhance patient health outcomes. Let’s see what kind of tech solutions may help urgent care providers streamline their daily operations, and whether telemedicine is worth a try for high-quality healthcare delivery.

Urgent care is prevailing over primary care

So, what is so special about urgent care that it caused a striking boom over the last few years? As the name suggests, urgent care provides prompt outpatient care to patients with chronic and non-life-threatening conditions.

If the waiting time to get into a primary care physician ranges from 20 to 40 days just to get a regular checkup and at a high cost, the case is quite different with urgent care. The patient can receive necessary medical assistance at a lower price in the nearest urgent care clinic either on the same day or the day after.

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As for emergent cases, the situation is not encouraging either. It is hard for elderly and disabled people or families with kids to get immediate medical help because of distance, mobility, time and transportation problems. Overcrowded emergency rooms are dismaying.

Urgent care rise and challenges along the way

So, the much-appreciated convenience of walk-in urgent care clinics over tough wait times will accelerate the expansion of the urgent care industry in the coming years. The competition between urgent care centers will increase.

This requires sound approaches from urgent care operators to optimize the efficiency of their services in order to create a lasting patient relationship. How digitally well is it possible to address the emerging challenge?

Tech enablers for urgent care

The technology options are diverse, and their application varies from center to center depending on the scope of services that urgent care provides. Today, the market offers many out-of-the-box solutions for medical practices. However, not all systems are created equal. If in one system you may never use every bell and whistle, the other system may lack necessary features to satisfy specific needs.

Conducting a diligent review of a few of the most in-use system types will help to decide which functionality you may need for the urgent care clinic.

Practice Management System (PM) is designed to manage the day-to-day activities of the entire medical practice, physicians and nurses.

  • Registration, appointment scheduling and check-in
  • Administrative tasks tracking
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Clinical statements, claims and coding system
  • Insurance reimbursement and billing
  • Statistics and financial reporting
  • Inventory management

Electronic Health Records System (EHR) is centered around patients, medication history, prescriptions, and other additional information the urgent care operators may need for effective management of the patient records.

  • Patients and medical history management
  • Orders and templates
  • Healthcare knowledge base

Patient Portal is a web patient-oriented platform. It provides around-the-clock access to personal health information and connects to a healthcare specialist for any question.

  • Patient health data and medical history
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Appointment requests, schedules and reminders
  • Prescription refills
  • Insurance, bills and payments
  • Health education material

Each of the systems is helpful on its own to streamline clinic operational efficiency, patient engagement and health outcome. Still, it may eventually turn out that a custom unified application is the best solution to cover the urgent care life cycle completely, especially if you decide on telemedicine to expand the service provision. Why telemedicine?

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Telemedicine for every health care

Telemedicine is a remote medical service over the Internet. And yes, this is possible with the usage of telecommunication and data sharing technologies. With speedy tech advancements in online communication to date, telemedicine is gaining momentum in inpatient care, outpatient care, nursing home care, at the workplace, and in consumer places.

To communicate with each other, the user and the doctor need a computer, a tablet or a mobile device with audio and video, and a stable Internet connection.

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Telemedicine types for a wide range of applications

Telemedicine comes in either a standalone application or as an integrable part of the medical practice infrastructure. Telemedicine breaks down into the following three types of distant health care delivery.

Store-and-forward telemedicine is a kind of asynchronous remote interaction between the patient and the medical specialist. The users share lab results, medical images, medication instructions and prescriptions via a dedicated channel.

No instant communication is required as the application stores the shared data, making it available for the involved parties at all times. Store-and-forward telemedicine is favorable for medical practices specializing in dermatology, ophthalmology and radiology to centrally access and share necessary information.

Remote patient monitoring refers to keeping control over at-risk patients, including elderly, physically and mentally disabled people, patients with chronic diseases, and patients in a post-surgery state.

Caregivers monitor patients' activities at a distance; receive biosignal readings from wearables and home medical devices, and undertake corresponding measures in critical situations.

Real-time telemedicine is a video encounter between the patient and healthcare provider. Real-time interaction is vital for online consultations, scheduled check-up meetings, and immediate advice.

Since visual contact has a strong effect, real-time telemedicine provides another way to efficiently take care of patients who require continuous medical attention. Telenursing, telerehabilitation, teleneuropsychology and telepharmacy are just a few examples of practical telemedicine implementation.

Telemedicine impact

The benefits of telemedicine largely overlap with those of urgent care. Telemedicine becomes a real-life burden eliminator for those living in rural or medically underserved areas, people with disabilities, babysitters, busy businesspersons, and many others. Being an alternative to in-person visits, telemedicine reduces healthcare costs, increases access to care, improves quality of care delivery, and favors patient satisfaction.

Telemedicine in real case: Dialogue and iTechArt

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Matching urgent care and telemedicine

Since urgent care provides immediate in-person healthcare service, it is crucial to ensure how well the patient feels after the visit or during the treatment course and what else might be helpful beyond the doctor’s office.

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Telemedicine allows urgent care centers to provide additional virtual care by leveraging the store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring, and real-time interaction capabilities in order to support:

  • In-person visit follow-up
  • Online guidance through medication
  • Online doctor assignment
  • Real-time communication with a nursing team
  • Seamless referral to other specialists
  • Electronic prescribing
  • Stress management and well-being, and for many other purposes

Bottom line

Pairing the expertise of the urgent care team with popular technologies such as telemedicine sounds exciting. However, to earn patient credibility and medical practice recognition, the overall healthcare service should comply with HIPAA, ICD 10 and HL7 policies. To duly address never-ending challenges in the healthcare industry, a tech-wise approach in place is indispensable.

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