Healthcare providers around the globe are jumping into action and unifying resources to stand up and scale telehealth programs in the fight against COVID-19. What they develop today will serve their institutions and patient populations for years to come.
Recent temporary relaxation of some key restrictions governing telehealth is streamlining immediate adoption. Reimbursement is now at parity, and clinicians have the ability to use new easy-to-access technologies to provide care regardless of the patient setting. Still, there are additional concerns that need to be addressed, from patient identification and tracking, to managing communications between sites, to the impact of remote workers and how they can protect data and meet compliance requirements. Beyond those, the infrastructure requirements for securely delivering data from any location to any device must be addressed.
A doctor can’t accurately diagnose a condition if the image feed freezes or if lab data can’t be shared or retrieved. At the heart of a reliable, robust, and relevant telehealth program is an equally robust and reliable data management infrastructure.
The ability to rapidly scale infrastructure is central to ensuring that clinicians have reliable access to data. Current conditions are testing healthcare IT systems in ways they’ve never experienced. One NetApp customer had 1,500 employees working remotely at the start of the crisis and anticipates that number to grow to 7,000 over the next week. Another went from zero telehealth appointments to 4,500 in 2 weeks. The need to quickly scale infrastructure on demand is incredibly important to these customers.
VDI for Telehealth
Many institutions are turning to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which allows them to quickly deploy in the cloud or on the premises. VDI accommodates the need for secure, anytime, anywhere access to the desktop and to the same clinical toolset that clinicians would have in their institutions.
Increasingly, connected devices are part of the equation, enabling remote patient monitoring. Temperature, pulmonary function, blood pressure, and other physiological information is stored digitally and/or transmitted by the patient and/or caregiver using digitally connected, noninvasive devices. It’s crucial to design for data security during transmission and at rest and to develop an architecture that offers the speed to access critical clinical data and the capacity to scale rapidly as needed.
Although VDI and connected devices offer an immediate solution to an immediate need, it’s also important to note that the infrastructure they are putting in place will continue as the industry changes in the future. Use cases for telehealth and remote patient monitoring will continue to expand, even beyond specialty consultations and virtual well visits. The systems and protocols being established now will have lasting benefit and exceptional promise across some of the greatest areas of need, including care for rural and underserved populations.
Right now, we consider it telemedicine. In the future, it will just be medicine.