(Last Updated On: March 12, 2018)

Telehealth Nursing Receives Boost from Messaging Solutions

by | Best Practices, HIPAA Solutions

History of Telephone Triage and Telemedicine

Telehealth nursing has grown in popularity with the growing reliability of both video chat and instant internet chat options, despite having existed as a telephone-based service since 1989 formally. In the past 30 years, phone lines where nurses could help diagnose simple conditions and give patients advice for non-life-threatening issues were practical: rather than going to the trouble and expense of going to the doctor’s office or hospital, nurses saved themselves and the patients time by confirming whether or not the symptoms merited a visit. HIPAA-compliant messaging solutions are becoming more popular among generations that spend more time typing conversations via phone or computer than physically talking on the phone.

With the addition of new technology options, substantial benefits are being realized and popularity is growing. In a world where people are generally short on time and where doctors offices are often booked months in advance, a telehealth live chat is becoming the most convenient and valuable way to handle common illnesses and minor injuries.

Benefits of Modern Telehealth Nursing

The new video and live chat features for telehealth nursing increase some of the options available for remote triage. The obvious benefits of telemedicine begin with some simple truths:

  • Diagnosis from home means that an ill person need not venture out, exert themselves, and possibly spread a contagious condition.
  • Diagnosis is possible without the expense of getting to a medical facility and can be queued up from home rather than in a waiting room.
  • Nurses can be in any location, allowing them to work from home or take calls when they are between other tasks at a work facility.
  • Patients whose conditions require rest and perhaps pain relief but no other intervention are calmed quicker and reassured that they are correctly managing their injury or illness.

The new technology adds new features that increase the range of conditions in which a nurse line is valuable, while giving them tools and connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

  • Video chat gives a greater range of information, from readouts on heart monitors to examination of injuries, than a simple phone call can offer.
  • Live chat can retain a record of a conversation that would not be possible with a typical phone call.
  • Internet systems allow nurses to mark whether they are available or unavailable to take a call and can route new video and live chats to the next available nurse, cutting down on wait times and on necessary operator intervention.
  • Internet connections can streamline the process of sending prescriptions from the same hub that offers a telemedicine line, and often these systems also allow for an email of the nurse’s recommendations to be sent to either a caregiver or the patient themselves.

Common Use Cases for Chat for Telemedicine

Nurse triage lines have been very commonly used in relation to on-the-job injuries: if a non-serious injury seems like it merits some advice, a telehealth call may be all that is necessary to get advice on how to elevate, ice, or bandage an injury and move on with the work that must be done. It saves valuable hours for both workers and employers, while ensuring that workers who have been injured do not further injure themselves by returning to work too early. Telemedicine is offered as a part of a medical insurance package at times in order to prevent costly visits and long waits at hospitals and doctor’s offices. A telehealth nurse can give instructions for bed rest and can recommend over-the-counter medications for those who are ill with a contagious but not life-threatening disease, minimizing the time they spend outside spreading the illness.

For bedridden or otherwise remote clients who need evaluation of their vital signs, it is possible to have someone on-site gather information like glucose levels and blood pressure and have a remote nurse make decisions about how the patient is faring and whether a change needs to be made in their daily regimen. On the other hand, crisis situations where getting the patient to a medical facility can also benefit from telemedicine. Using a video call, a nurse can help to diagnose the severity of an issue and can help with dispatching emergency help while also keeping onlookers calm and helping to walk them through emergency care for a person who is inaccessible at the moment, such as a hiker in a remote location. The widespread availability of robust mobile data plans has increased the amount of area in which physically remote locations can still receive instant access to health advice.

HIPAA Compliance in Live Chat

When HIPAA (U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) went into effect, it became essential that all Protected Health Information be shared only with need-to-know health providers in a very specific way on computers that ensured data security. Many solutions offer live chat and video chat features but are not HIPAA compliant. For this reason, telehealth providers must seek out HIPAA-compliant messaging solutions and other technology that meets their stringent security requirements. If patients are transmitting sensitive PHI (protected health information) and health insurance over the internet, they must also be assured of the security of that information.

Incorporating a New Telehealth Tool

Though many resources exist, not all of them work for all telehealth providers. When you are looking at incorporating a new technology, it is important for it to be compliant but also personalized to the needs of your services. Personalized assessments are a must before choosing a new live chat option to provide valuable information and resources for your clients and for the nurses who will be working a telehealth chat feature. Messaging solutions are increasingly diverse in their implementation, and avoiding penalties for non-compliance with HIPAA make it well worth the effort to understand the needs for your system. Download our Guide to HIPAA-Compliant Chat to learn more about choosing a secure, compliant messaging solution.