The use of telehealth in Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia (VNA)
The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia (VNA) was the healthcare organization chosen to study the applications, challenges, attributes, and capabilities of telehealth. To obtain answers to pre-prepared questions, C. McEnvoy was the personnel interviewed through telephone. The VNA is the largest registered hospice center in Philadelphia that serves about 50,000 healthcare consumers annually (VNA, 2014). Telehealth is used to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes for chronically ill and elderly patients. Telehealth applications are implemented to achieve improved financial outcomes, which go a long way in enabling the healthcare organization to offer quality and affordable care to patients. The VNA healthcare professionals use telehealth to closely monitor their patients and act appropriately when patients’ clinical conditions worsen. Also, healthcare professionals provide prompt prescriptions, and this helps to avoid unnecessary emergency visits. The VNA has been able to improve patient safety by adopting telehealth applications within its systems (Darkins, 2009). In addition, the organization aims to reduce hospital readmissions and provide more support to patients at home in the future (Alston, 2009).
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The application’s challenges
The use of telehealth within the VNA is characterized by the following four challenges: security issues, high costs of maintenance, technical problems, and legal issues regarding telehealth. Security issues are common challenges experienced by many healthcare organizations that adopt health-related technologies (Gruber, Cummings, Leblanc & Smith, 2009; Schlotzer & Madsen, 2010). Security issues emanate from the fact that patients’ data could be accessed by unauthorized persons for various reasons. Telehealth is characterized by high costs of maintenance. In fact, health information technology professionals are hired either on a temporary or permanent basis to support the continuous running of telehealth within healthcare organizations. Technical problems are telehealth challenges that disrupt the normal functioning of health information technology (Schlotzer & Madsen, 2010). Some of the technical problems of telehealth are brought about by low internet connections and malfunctioning of computer software and hardware. Legal issues also characterize the use of telehealth within the VNA healthcare organization. Lawsuits result when clinicians use wrong patients’ data to provide healthcare to patients. Such overlooking of data is viewed as clinical negligence, whose legal issues negatively impact both clinicians and VNA.
The application’s attributes and capabilities
The usability of the telehealth system is greatly impacted by the design of the health information technology tools used within the healthcare organization. It has been shown that complex designs of health information technologies correlate with improved system usability (Kaufman, Roberts, Merrill, Lai & Bakken, 2006). The attributes of the telehealth application within the VNA involve the use of telecommunication tools, medical imaging devices, electronic prescription applications, computers, and other computing devices. The attributes positively affect the system’s usability by increasing the capabilities of the telehealth application (Hannah et al., 2011).
Strategies to overcome the telehealth challenges
To reap many benefits from the telehealth application, the VNA healthcare organization should address the highlighted challenges using tested strategies. The organization should adopt better computer-based auditing approaches to control and monitor access of patients’ data by various healthcare professionals. The VNA should use cost-cutting strategies that would be aimed to reduce the cost of maintaining the telehealth application. The technical challenges that affect the telehealth application would be overcome by adopting up-to-date software and hardware in the computing devices within the organization. In addition, the organization should use high-speed internet connections that would prevent frequent disruptions of the application. To prevent legal issues from negatively impacting the telehealth application, the organization should adopt legislation that provides guidelines on the legal adoption of health information technology (Hannah et al., 2011).
Alston, K. (2009). Telehealth-supported innovation in home care. Home Care Technology Association of America. Web.
Darkins, A. (2012). Patient safety considerations in developing large telehealth networks. Clinical Risk, 18(3), 90-94.
Gruber, D., Cummings, G. G., Leblanc, L., & Smith, D. L. (2009). Factors influencing outcomes of clinical information systems implementation: a systematic review. Computers Informatics Nursing, 27(3), 151-163.
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Hannah, K. J., DuLong, D., Newbold, S. K., Sensmeier, J. E., Skiba, D. J., Troseth, M. R.,… & Douglas, J. V. (Eds.). (2011). Nursing informatics: Where technology and caring meet. New York, NY: Springer.
Kaufman, D., Roberts, W. D., Merrill, J., Lai, T. Y., & Bakken, S. (2006). Applying an evaluation framework for health information system design, development, and implementation. Nursing research, 55(2), 37-42.
Schlotzer, A., & Madsen, M. (2010). Health information systems: requirements and characteristics. Studies in health technology and informatics, 151(1), 156.
Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia (VNA). (2014). Home and Community Health Care Since 1886. Web.