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Telehealth Equipment: Top Telemedicine Tools, Software, and Services

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Telemedicine is here to stay, and many healthcare providers are transitioning from temporary telemedicine measures to making telehealth equipment a permanent part of their practices. (Read more about why here!). The right tools can ensure that both providers and patients are getting the most out of a fully realized telehealth implementation.

One advantage of telehealth is that it reduces disparities in areas with limited physician access. According to one study, approximately 20% of people in the United States live in rural remote areas, with only 9% of physicians serving these communities.

By improving access, physicians who implement telemedicine solutions can reach wider patient bases and decrease the overall costs of some preventable diseases. Up to 39% of cost-effectiveness reviews found telemedicine to be cost saving or cost-effective.

Beyond issues of access, physicians are also using telemedicine to improve workflow efficiencies. An action as simple as having patients complete questionnaires or cognitive assessments remotely between appointments can save everyone involved a lot of time.

In 2021, approximately 22% of American adult patients used telemedicine. Another study found that telemedicine usage increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with telemedicine utilization for clinic visits and outpatient care stabilizing at 38 times higher than before the pandemic.

In this article, we discuss the key features of effective telemedicine equipment, top software and services, and how to integrate telehealth into your practice workflows.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services. Telemedicine allows patients to consult with healthcare professionals, receive medical advice, and even undergo examinations and treatments without needing to be physically present in a clinic or hospital.

Telemedicine utilizes various communication tools such as video conferencing, phone calls, text messaging, and mobile apps to connect patients with healthcare providers, improving access to healthcare especially in remote areas or for individuals with mobility limitations.

What Is a Telehealth Device?

Telehealth devices are pieces of equipment that facilitate the delivery of healthcare services remotely. These devices enable various aspects of telehealth including medical care, provider-patient communication, monitoring, and more.

Examples may include:

  • Digital cameras
  • Stethoscopes
  • Vital signs monitors
  • ECG devices
  • And other devices with integrated visual and audio capabilities

Some telehealth services involve sending devices to patients for remote monitoring, such as wearable health monitoring devices that measure heart rate and send data to healthcare providers.

On the other hand, many telehealth interactions utilize consumer devices that patients already own, like computers, smartphones, or tablets for virtual visits with healthcare providers through video chats or phone calls. The choice of device usage depends on the specific telehealth service being provided and the patient's needs and capabilities.

Additionally, telemedicine devices may include mobile applications on various devices, high-definition webcams, and secure tablets for accessing medical records and patient information on the go. Telemedicine utilizes telecommunication and information technology to provide remote health assessments and therapeutic interventions.

It involves various methods such as email, two-way video, smartphones, and other telecommunications technologies. Telemedicine has evolved over the years and is now an integral part of healthcare settings, including hospitals, private doctor offices, home health care, and even patients' residences and workplaces.

Key Features for Effective Telehealth Tools

Telehealth adoption has been trending upward for years, and as a result, there are hundreds of different technological tools for practitioners to consider. To be suitable for telehealth, a tool needs to be secure, reliable, cost-efficient (or even revenue-generating), and easy to use for both providers and patients.

For more advice on updating your practice to support telemedicine, read our Guide to Implementing Telemedicine. Note that though telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably, we refer to the remote delivery of clinical services as telemedicine, which is part of a broader telehealth ecosystem that also includes non-clinical services.

Benefits and Features of Implementing Telemedicine

Studies have demonstrated that remote patient care offers numerous benefits and features that are transforming the landscape of healthcare delivery. (Read more here). They include:

  • Better patient care: Studies have found that telemedicine results in fewer re-admissions, lower mortality rates, maintained doctor-patient relationship, no decrease in safety, and an increase in patient satisfaction.
  • Serving additional patient populations: Patients in rural areas or patients with mental or physical disabilities may have difficulty reaching a primary care physician in a clinic. Telemedicine can eliminate the barrier of having to commute to a clinic, so more patients have an opportunity to access healthcare.
  • Reduced costs: Many healthcare providers find that telemedicine reduces costs, especially long-term. There may be capital costs, such as new technology infrastructure, equipment, and training, but these often pay for themselves quickly in a well-managed telemedicine plan.
  • Less administrative burden and easier scheduling: In addition to raw financial savings, telemedicine has the potential to save physicians, administrators, and patients time. By overcoming barriers associated with time and distance, a healthcare clinic’s resources can be used more efficiently.
  • Increased revenue and additional services: Seeing more patients for the same or lower costs is enough financial incentive to consider telemedicine, but there is also potential for entirely new revenue streams with added services—such as remotely administered cognitive assessments or mental health screeners.

The Most Important Telemedicine Devices

The devices used to connect with, assess, and monitor patients form the foundation for an effective set of telemedicine tools. These can include more basic equipment like smartphones, computers and tablets, and webcams, which you may already own or need to invest in.

How much does telemedicine equipment cost? More sophisticated telemedicine equipment like remote vital monitoring devices or specialized telemedicine kits may cost $2,000 to $15,000. Hardware you already have on hand may be enough, but consider the following areas:

  • Endpoints. In many cases, the computers, smartphones, and tablets that your practice and your patients already own are the only hardware needed to implement telemedicine. If you are not prepared to spend on specialized endpoints, make sure the software tools you choose are compatible with a wide variety of devices—many of the recommendations here are web-based and only require an Internet browser, which almost any modern device can handle.
  • Network hardware. In simpler implementations, existing network infrastructure may be enough—for example, the router and modem provided by an Internet service provider. As long as the medical professionals and patient can achieve 15Mbps download and 5Mbps upload, videoconferencing should function just fine. Larger organizations incorporating telemedicine may need to update their network architecture to handle additional video traffic and increased security, such as Cisco's DNA for Healthcare solutions (here).
  • Webcams. Videoconferencing is usually the most important type of telehealth software, making a camera and mic the most important hardware. Many laptops have a built-in camera and mic that are good enough, but if your laptops are getting on in years or your practice uses desktop computers then a separate webcam may be necessary. Most webcams now also come with a built-in microphone, so separate mics are largely a thing of the past. Most 1080p webcams built into computers have video and sound quality that is adequate for telehealth. In a pinch, you can even use a smartphone as a webcam, as most of them have cameras as good or better than standalone webcams. (here)
  • Remote vital monitoring hardware. Smartwatches, blood pressure cuffs, ECG devices, thermometers, digital stethoscopes, scales, and other mobile medical devices are now small and inexpensive enough for participants to bring home if they don't already have a consumer version available. Many remote patient monitoring platforms (see below) provide portals to monitor patient health information from afar, and some handle sending required monitoring hardware to patients as well.
  • Workstations and workspaces. Healthcare practitioners need a physical space to conduct remote consultations from. Often, it is an existing clinic, but additional hardware may be required such as standing desks for doctors who are used to being on their feet. Telemedicine carts may also be a benefit in practices where multiple providers share devices to see patients from—for example, AMD Global Telemedicine sells several all-in-one hardware and software systems.

The Top Software and Services for Telemedicine

If your practice already has basic hardware infrastructure and established workflows that are amenable to telemedicine, then you may only need to supplement your practice with individual software tools that you can pick and choose as needed. Here are some telemedicine solutions to consider.

Videoconferencing Software for Telemedicine

Videoconferencing is often the starting point for telemedicine, and in some practices, it is all that is necessary to reach patients.

  • GoToHealthcare. GoTo offers secure, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing tools for patients from any location and on any device, enabling healthcare providers to conduct telehealth visits efficiently. The platform includes features like GoTo Meeting for video-based telehealth consultations and GoTo Connect for customizable cloud phone systems that cater to the needs of healthcare organizations.
  • SimplePractice. SimplePractice allows for video calls, scheduling telehealth appointments, and patient billing. The platform provides a telehealth waiting room and a subtle session timer to help streamline the telehealth experience. It also offers one-click video calling, screen sharing, customized note-taking templates, website booking, personal calendars, and autopay billing.
  • Webex for Healthcare. Cisco has introduced a healthcare-specific version of its videoconferencing technology. In addition to high-quality video, the tool includes strong security, centralized management, and document sharing with annotation.
  • Zoom for Healthcare. Zoom has exploded in popularity among businesses and consumers looking for reliable videoconferencing, but the company also offers a version specifically for healthcare providers with additional features. It is compliant with healthcare regulations, integrates with EMRs, allows for enhanced collaboration with other practitioners, and integrates with medical devices.

Remote Patient Monitoring and Software for Telemedicine

Telemedicine is not just videoconferencing; it includes a variety of capabilities to facilitate remote healthcare delivery. Some examples include:

  • Asynchronous Communication: Telemedicine allows for asynchronous communication, where patients can send messages, photos, or videos to healthcare providers through secure messaging platforms. This facilitates non-urgent communication, such as asking questions, providing updates, or sharing relevant information.
  • Remote Monitoring: Telemedicine tools may integrate with various wearable devices and sensors to enable continuous remote monitoring of patients' vital signs, chronic conditions, and overall health. This real-time data helps healthcare providers make informed decisions and intervene proactively.
  • Electronic Prescriptions: Telemedicine platforms often include features for electronic prescribing, allowing healthcare providers to send prescriptions directly to pharmacies. This streamlines the prescription process and improves medication management for patients.
  • Teletherapy and Mental Health Services: Telemedicine extends to mental health services, offering remote counseling, psychotherapy, and psychiatric consultations. Research suggests that telehealth is a viable alternative for mental health care, showing no significant differences in depressive symptom reduction between in-person and telehealth groups.
  • Remote Diagnostics: Some telemedicine solutions integrate diagnostic tools that patients can use at home, such as digital thermometers, blood pressure monitors, or glucose meters. These tools can remotely capture not only physical diagnostic data, but also behavioral, psychological, and cognitive health data as well. The collected data can be transmitted to healthcare providers for analysis and timely interventions.
  • Psychological Questionnaires: Instead of the pen-and-paper route for administering standardized questionnaires, consider sending patients a computerized version they can complete at home between visits. These offer a consistent framework for checking in on issues like anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, mood disorders, and more. Plus, having a chance to review beforehand gives clinicians a clear focus for appointments.
  • Cognitive Testing: Computerized cognitive assessments can also be administered between remote or in-clinic appointments, giving clinicians a snapshot of a patient’s cognitive function which can help in the diagnostic or treatment process. An option like Creyos offers a brain game like experience while being scientifically rigorous.

An increasing number of tools can provide virtual care delivery outside of traditional healthcare settings.

  • Creyos Health. Hey, that's us! Creyos Health, from Creyos, is a secure and powerful cognitive assessment platform built for healthcare practitioners. A wide variety of practices use Creyos Health to track patients’ brain health over time as a primary or secondary outcome in wellness or treatment plans. As a web-based tool, assessments are easily sent remotely, fitting perfectly into a telemedicine plan.
  • Binah.ai. Unlike the other platforms on this list, Binah.ai does not use traditional tools like blood pressure cuffs and wrist sensors to measure biometric data—instead, the software uses only a smartphone camera and artificial intelligence algorithms. The company claims to be able to track heart rate, oxygen saturation, and even mental stress. Early adopters may want to check out this unique approach; if proven accurate, it would be ideal for implementing telemedicine without the need to ship additional equipment to patients.
  • Coachcare. A virtual health and remote patient monitoring platform, Coachcare provides devices that can monitor patients at home, and is focused on increasing revenue and lowering the cost of care with features that facilitate reimbursement from insurance.
  • Vivify Pathways. Built to make disease management and post-acute care programs more effective, Pathways pulls data from patients wherever they are through mobile devices or remote monitoring kits.
  • Consumer health technologies. Many patients now monitor their own health using wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit. If purchasing telemedicine equipment isn't right for you, these devices often connect to their own health platforms, and may have the ability to export data about activity, heart health, menstrual cycles, mindfulness, and more, which may be shared with healthcare practitioners.


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On-Demand Virtual Healthcare Portals for Healthcare Providers

If you are looking to expand your reach to new patients, or to instantly connect with patients who need help, on-demand virtual healthcare portals connect patients with a directory of healthcare providers in a variety of specialties. Providers who sign up for these services receive a portion of the payments that patients make for instant access to healthcare. Here are just a few examples:

  • iCliniq. Described as a “virtual hospital”, iCliniq facilitates online chats between patients and doctors for second opinions, medical advice, or preliminary diagnoses.
  • MDLive. Experienced board-certified clinicians can connect with patients using MDLive, which covers a variety of specialties but is especially known for mental healthcare. Healthcare providers can set their own hours, and are offered competitive compensation.
  • Teladoc. With services offered in general care, dermatology, mental health, diet, and more, Teladoc services a wide variety of patients' needs by connecting them with relevant healthcare professionals.

Insider has a list of many other telemedicine patient portals for patients and practitioners to consider.

The Top Integrated Telehealth Platforms

If you are starting from scratch, or need a more complex telehealth implementation, then you may require an integrated system that incorporates telemedicine features. Here are some ideas for broader healthcare systems that support virtual care.

Telehealth-Friendly EMRs, EHRs, and Practice Management Tools

These healthcare platforms may not focus on telehealth, but they include integrations or add-ons that make them telehealth-friendly.

  • AthenaHealth. Offers a full health technology ecosystem, including EHRs (electronic health records). AthenaHealth also includes telehealth features for coordination with other practitioners, telehealth-specific billing workflows, and automated patient outreach.
  • Clinko. A practice management software tailored for healthcare practices, offering features like booking and scheduling, health records management, and financial transactions. It enables users to streamline clinic operations, conduct telehealth consultations, store patient files, create invoices, track expenses, and integrate with accounting software.
  • Epic. A collection of software and services for healthcare, such as a patient portal, EMR (electronic medical records), and dedicated modules for a wide variety of specialties. Epic users can choose telehealth as an option with features such as integration with Zoom for Healthcare.
  • Microsoft Teams. Though not focused solely on healthcare, Microsoft has been adding features to assist health providers in its Teams product. Videoconferencing, chat, and scheduling can make it easy to collaborate with colleagues or connect directly with patients.
  • SimplePractice. Specifically designed for dieticians and nutritionists, SimplePractice combines an EHR system, practice management, and telehealth features like video calls and screen sharing.

All-in-One Telehealth Platforms

These platforms focus on telemedicine and telehealth, and go beyond videoconferencing by including or integrating with additional features that facilitate running a virtual practice.

  • Adracare. Offering virtual healthcare for clinics, Adracare contains a full suite of telehealth features, such as automated scheduling and patient intake form management, and integrates with other healthcare tools to merge with existing workflows.
  • Continuous Care for Health. A rich suite of features that cover practice management, consultations, follow-up, and typical telemedicine solutions like videoconferencing, all designed for running a virtual practice.
  • Doxy.me. A web-based telehealth platform that includes videoconferencing, chat, a waiting room, custom branding, analytics, and other features useful for implementing telehealth in a clinic.
  • eVisit. An integrated platform for supporting everything around a patient's virtual visit, from scheduling to intake to discharge.
  • Healee. A flexible telehealth platform for private practices, hospitals, and healthcare companies. Healee even contains an AI-guided assistant to help gather information from patients and save time in a consultation.
  • Healthie. A combination of practice management and telehealth services. Focused on diet, health coaching, and massage therapists, Healthie has telemedicine features like videoconferencing built in, but also includes scheduling, EHR, billing, and other features for an all-in-one telehealth solution.
  • OnCall. A comprehensive telehealth platform for engaging, automating, and tracking progress. Features include the usual conferencing options, but also practice management features like online booking and payment processing, as well as interactive intake and assessment forms. Larger healthcare organizations can even take advantage of integration with EMRs, white labeling, and custom reporting.
  • VSee: This platform offers secure video telehealth solutions with features such as screen sharing and waiting rooms. The platform offers high-quality video transmission over consumer-grade networks using a managed peer-to-peer architecture similar to Skype.

Equipping Your Practice For Excellent Virtual Care

There are many reasons to implement telehealth in your practice; advancements in this field are streamlining patient care and revolutionizing healthcare professionals' operations. From virtual consultations to remote monitoring, these tools are empowering healthcare providers to deliver quality services beyond the confines of traditional settings.

Embracing these changes can enhance patient outcomes, increase accessibility, and improve overall efficiency. The tools mentioned in this article serve as valuable resources to create a more connected, efficient, and patient-centric healthcare ecosystem.

As an important component of patient health monitoring, cognitive assessment via Creyos Health is compatible with telehealth administration and is already being used by many practitioners worldwide. Consider adding Creyos Health to your toolbox to complement subjective assessment methods, easily monitor performance, and gain validated insight on distinct domains of patients’ cognitive ability.

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