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What are the basic technical requirements for telehealth?

Posted by Teresa Iafolla, May 12, 2016

What does it take to get started with telehealth? What kind of equipment and technical requirements do your patients and your practice need to meet to have a successful virtual visit?

These are questions we often get from healthcare providers considering telehealth. And it's an important point. Afterall, if patients don't have the basic things they need to do a virtual visit, they might be less inclined to get started.

We have a few answers to demystify the basic technical requirements of trying telehealth. While the technical requirements will often vary based on your use case and the telehealth software solution that you're using, there are some baseline tips you should know.

Software

At a minimum, you and your patient need access to secure telehealth software. This is what we provide at eVisit!
 
In our case, a doctor signs up with us and then his/her patients get unlimited, free access to use our software online and on their mobile devices.
 
Some doctors currently offer virtual visits through an app like Facetime or Skype, but note that these apps are not HIPAA-compliant. Using these apps for telehealth puts you at risk for HIPAA violations. They also only offer simple videochat, with none of the extra supports for telemedicine (like documentation, gathering patient complaint, ePrescribe, billing etc).
 

The Doctor's Checklist: Technical Tips for a Successful Telehealth Visit

 

Hardware

Whatever live telehealth platform you might be using, patients will need a few basic pieces of equipment to do a virtual visit:

  • A computer or mobile device. Ask your telehealth vendor which specific devices their software will run on. Desktop computers? Laptops? Tablets? Smartphones? Be sure to ask not only about the compatible device type, but the operating systems as well (mac vs. windows).
  • An integrated or external microphone. Most mobile devices and computers will have a built-in microphone that should work fine. If the patient's device does not have one, they'll need to find a separate microphone. Luckily, there are tons of inexpensive options. Check out this list for some top microphones your patients could use.
  • An integrated or external camera. Like with microphones, many devices now already have an integrated camera. However, if the patient is using a desktop computer or older laptop, they might not have a built-in webcam. Here's a quick list of great webcamera options to share with your patients.

Internet Connection

Having a solid internet connection is a crucial piece of having a successful telehealth visit with a patient. If the patient has a shaky connection, not even the best telehealth app will be able to deliver quality video. Here are a few baseline requirements and tips to share with patients.

  • Ideally, their internet speeds should be at least 15Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. While video streaming can happen with slower internet connections, these are the speeds needed to have the clear video experience you want.
    telehealth internet speed test
Now, if you're not a tech-person, you might be wondering what "15mbps" really means and how you test your internet speed. A good way to check your internet connection is to go to speedtest.net. Simply click "Begin Test" and speedtest will tell you exactly what your download and upload speeds are.

If you consistently have a poor internet connection on your end, you may want to contact your internet provider (Comcast, AT&T) and ask them about upgrading your service.

If your patient is having trouble with their internet connection, suggest they try using a wired internet connection instead of wifi. Plugging straight into their router/modem with an ethernet cable will likely improve their connection.

In a pinch, patients can also use their mobile network on their smartphones, but just advise them that streaming video can use a good amount of data.

 

Want to learn more about how to get started with telehealth?

 

 

Topics: eVisit Blog Posts, microphone, skype, technical requirements, technology, telehealth, telehealth devices, telemedicine software, webcam

Teresa Iafolla

About Teresa Iafolla

Teresa Iafolla is an expert writer, researcher, and content wrangler who has previously worked as director of content marketing for a telehealth company and associate editor for a healthcare publishing company.

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