Healthcare is a difficult subject to categorize. Is it a business with the overriding mission of staying profitable or a public service with the mission of improving health and well-being? The old adage: “No margin; no mission” does apply to the delivery of healthcare; however, every healthcare professional knows — it’s just not that simple. Decisions regarding the delivery of high quality healthcare must often be made with the financial aspects being somewhat secondary, but not completely ignored.
This is especially true when it comes to the information technology that has been developed to deliver quality healthcare. When vendors claim their solution will deliver 75 to 80 percent of the IT solution a CIO is seeking, should that efficacy level be high enough to get the business? It might be if the IT solution is not directly involved in the delivery of patient care. Who would want the care of a family member being supported by anything other than an IT solution with a 100 percent efficacy level?
These questions are pertinent to the delivery of today’s telehealth technology solutions. With the federal government’s initiative to have enterprise-wide electronic medical records (EMR) installed in hospitals, many vendors of these solutions are claiming they can also provide telehealth solutions as add-ons to their EMRs. Most will concede their “cobbled together” solutions will not deliver the 100 percent patient care efficacy that a standalone telehealth system provides, but they claim the cost differential makes up for this deficiency. Enterprise EMR vendors are moving toward providing telehealth solutions because of the technology’s proven benefits to the healthcare delivery process.
While enterprise EMRs or single-vendor solutions are designed for general use throughout the facility, best-of-breed telehealth systems are designed specifically to support the unique and demanding workflows of ICUs, radiology departments, home healthcare delivery and several other care functions. Although many enterprise EMR companies promote their “integrated” offerings as superior to best-of-breed software solutions from an interoperability standpoint, the reality is that many enterprise EMR solutions have been created by acquiring and melding together various disparate IT technologies – removing the main “advantage” over best-of-breed solutions. Thus, hospitals that buy an enterprise EMR system are often really getting a hybrid solution that includes individual technologies more or less pieced together, rather than an organic, integrated and seamless solution.
The decision boils down to two key questions: “is a best of breed telehealth solution, that can be integrated into an enterprise EMR, superior to an add-on EMR solution?” And, “will the slightly additional investment of a best of breed solution significantly improve patient care and generate a true competitive advantage?” The answer to both these questions is a resounding – YES!