Telepulmonology supports GPs in the diagnosis of conditions such as COPD and sleep apnea while making physical referrals unnecessary. This is important in an era facing medical staffing challenges as facilities struggle to keep up with demand related to COVID-19. Telepulmonology could be the solution for small hospitals and medical facilities with staffing shortages or limited staffing budgets. Lacking resources to retain specialists can be overcome by utilizing telehealth technology.
Facilities can open the doors for improved care with remote telepulmonology and sleep medicine diagnostic solutions. However, many facilities fail to see the benefits of this technology or understand how it works. Here are the basics of telepulmonology for medical treatment to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms and benefits of this important technology.
Why Telehealth Is the Future of Pulmonology
Telehealth services provide an affordable, effective alternative to traditional in-person diagnostics. Telepulmonology solutions make it possible to perform diagnostic studies remotely and then analyze the data to deliver results to patients in a timely matter. Patients can be provided with an improved level of care regardless of their location. Patients also receive accurate diagnoses so they can begin treatment without delay.
How Does Telepulmonology Work?
Telepulmonology uses a cloud-based diagnostic solution that connects healthcare providers directly to dedicated, certified specialists. Services are performed remotely, allowing for accurate results to be obtained without the need for onsite medical staff. Pulmonary function and sleep study interpretations are provided quickly, so patients receive the medical care they need without delay. Using digital tools, pulmonologists can perform pulmonology assessments while the patient’s GP can assist with a hands-on examination.
Together the doctors create treatment plans and/or make recommendations that facilitate patient care. Telehealth services help clinics find the required equipment and ensure it is set up correctly. The equipment is connected to the facility’s computers and network, and staff are trained on how to perform the tests and send the data to the service provider.
Is Telepulmonology Secure for Patient Privacy?
Telehealth technology such as telepulmonology must ensure privacy and security to remain compliant with HIPAA. This would include precautions such as a password or biometric-ID protection of the device and/or platform used. When delivering care, encryption of data that is transmitted via the system also helps ensure security. As well, teleconferencing applications use “non-public” facing to ensure only patients, providers, and caregivers can participate.
What Types of Tests are Performed Via Telepulmonology?
Certified specialists perform the following diagnostic pulmonary function tests (PFTs) through remote telepulmonology services:
- Lung volume test
- Respiratory muscle strength test
- Lung diffusion capacity test
- Altitude simulation tests
- Exercise challenges
- Cardiopulmonary exercise tests
- Methacholine inhalation challenge
- Maximal voluntary volume
- Shunt studies
- Ambulatory oximetry
- Arterial blood gas test
- Body plethysmography
- Exhaled nitric oxide test
The tests allow the pulmonologist to assess how well a patient’s lungs are working and supplying oxygen to their vital organs.
How Does Telepulmonology Assist Patients with Potential Sleep Disorders?
Telepulmonology is also used to perform various sleep studies, including:
- Split-Night PSG Evaluation
- Two-Night PSG Evaluation
- Diagnostic Overnight Polysomnography (PSG)
- Level 1 Sleep Study
- Level 2 Sleep Study
- Level 3 Sleep Study
- Level 4 Sleep Study
These tests are standard in the diagnosis and management of obstructive sleep apnea.
Who Benefits from Telepulmonology?
The simple answer is all healthcare providers and patients benefit from telepulmonology. However, small towns and other rural areas with limited access to specialists such as pulmonologists will see an increased benefit. This is because not only do these areas tend to be underserved, but they also have a higher rate of disease, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This includes lung-related conditions like asthma and COPD. People in these areas also tend to have a history of smoking cigarettes, contributing to the risk for lung-related issues. As a result, telepulmonology is crucial for medical practices in remote locations where access to specialized pulmonary testing is limited without traveling to a larger city. Facilities that benefit from telepulmonology include:
- Small hospitals and doctor’s offices
- Urgent care clinics
- Critical access hospitals
- Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs)
- Pediatric and geriatric hospitals and clinics
- Physical therapy and sports rehabilitation centers
- Private family practices
- Sleep diagnostic centers
Telepulmonology solutions are cost-effective and efficient for healthcare establishments of all sizes.
Why Should Healthcare Practices Use Telepulmonology?
Virtual telepulmonology solutions allow healthcare practices of all sizes to provide patients with reliable sleep/lung function testing and treatment services. Access to specialists provides an alternative to having pulmonology and sleep specialists in-house without sacrificing the quality of care for your patients. It augments existing teams, making healthcare facilities more scalable without incurring common costs of expansion.
These costs include not just the hiring of specialists but also investing in the equipment and space to accommodate growth. Services are also available to accommodate schedules and avoid backlogs for testing, as well as expedite treatment in emergency situations. The interpretation of studies is provided by certified specialists enhancing your diagnostic abilities.
Who Conducts Pulmonology & Sleep Diagnostics?
Board-certified medical professionals in sleep and pulmonary medicine provide accurate interpretations in a timely manner for patients. As well, telehealth specialists help facilities determine which diagnostic tests and equipment are the best fit for their practice. However, GPs and other healthcare providers play an active role in the process, providing the hands-on care patients value.
A collaboration ensures patients receive an accurate diagnosis, as well as clear explanations regarding the findings and required treatment. The team provides the highest possible level of care, providing peace of mind and increasing the potential for improved outcomes. Patients can also actively participate, asking questions during the virtual diagnosis process. Education also contributes to improved compliance with recommended treatments.
Telepulmonology at Specialist Direct
At Specialist Direct, we offer telepulmonology and sleep science solutions. We invite you to reach out to our team to learn more or to discuss how you can get your medical practice or hospital established with our telehealth services. Contact us now by calling (888) 317-0776, and our friendly customer service representatives will help your medical establishment get started.