Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring became quite prominent during the pandemic when doctors and patients could only interact over a screen. The rapid adoption of telemedicine during the pandemic showcased its effectiveness, which led to its continued integration into healthcare systems even beyond the pandemic.
Today, telemedicine has become a norm, thanks to the advent and the evolution of virtual healthcare solutions. One technology that significantly facilitates the implementation of telemedicine is electronic data interchange or EDI as it is commonly known.
In this blog, we will explore how EDI makes telemedicine easier.
Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring: A Deep Dive
Before we understand the role of EDI tools in healthcare, let’s understand the concepts behind telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. The basic concept is that it allows patients and doctors to interact virtually through technology. However, there are different types of telemedicine:
- Synchronous Telemedicine: Also known as “real-time” telemedicine involves live interactions between patients and healthcare providers using video calls, phone calls, or chat platforms. It enables immediate discussions, diagnoses, and medical advice, simulating an in-person consultation.
- Asynchronous Telemedicine: In this type of telemedicine there is an exchange of medical information such as patient records, images, and test results through secure digital channels. Healthcare providers review the information and respond later.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): RPM refers to the continuous collection and transmission of patient data, typically vital signs and health metrics, from the patient’s location to healthcare providers. RPM devices, often wearables or sensors, monitor conditions in real time and enable healthcare professionals to track patient health remotely and intervene if necessary.
How EDI Helps the Healthcare Industry
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) plays a crucial role in improving the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of information exchange within the healthcare industry. Here are some benefits of implementing EDI in healthcare:
Streamlining Administrative Processes:
EDI has automated most processes that were once manual and time-consuming. Key areas where EDI streamlines operations include claims processing and billing. Traditionally, these processes required paper-based documentation, which often resulted in delays, errors, and increased administrative costs. With EDI, however, healthcare providers and insurance companies can electronically submit and process claims and bills, reducing the need for paper documents and minimizing processing times.
Ensuring Accuracy and Minimizing Errors:
Accurate and timely data exchange is paramount in healthcare to prevent medical errors, miscommunication, and delays in patient care. EDI systems enforce data accuracy by using standardized formats and validation protocols. The electronic transformation between different entities, such as hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and insurers, reduces the risk of transcription errors and ensures that accurate patient data is readily available when needed.
Facilitating Secure and Standardized Data Sharing:
In an era where data security and privacy are of utmost concern, EDI provides a secure platform for exchanging sensitive healthcare information. EDI protocols incorporate encryption and authentication mechanisms to safeguard patient data during transit. Furthermore, EDI promotes standardized data formats and communication protocols, ensuring seamless interoperability between various healthcare systems and entities.
The Role of EDI in Telemedicine
EDI facilitates the provision of virtual healthcare services by bridging the gap between patients and healthcare providers regardless of geographical constraints. Here is how EDI helps:
Transmitting Patient Information and Electronic Health Records (EHR)
EDI protocols like HL7 (Health Level 7) facilitate the exchange of Electronic Health Records (EHR) between different healthcare systems. For instance, a telemedicine platform can transmit a patient’s medical history, diagnostic reports, and prescriptions to a specialist for remote consultation.
Managing Prescriptions and Medications Digitally
Using EDI, a physician can electronically prescribe medications to a patient’s preferred pharmacy. RxNorm codes are employed for standardized medication identification.
Real-time Transmission of Continuous Monitoring Data
Remote patient monitoring systems equipped with sensors and wearable devices enable healthcare providers to continuously monitor patients’ vital signs, such as heart rate. Whenever there is an alert, it is formatted according to EDI standards to ensure compatibility and uniformity in data exchange. The EDI message is then sent to relevant healthcare providers, which could include doctors, nurses, and emergency response teams.
Commonly Used EDI Codes for Remote Patient Monitoring
- CPT Codes: Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes are widely used for describing medical, surgical, and diagnostic services. In the context of RPM, specific CPT codes might be used to represent remote monitoring activities, such as the analysis of collected data, interactions with patients, and more.
- HCPCS Level II Codes: Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Level II codes are used to report products, supplies, and services not covered by CPT codes. These codes can be useful for items and services related to RPM, such as remote monitoring devices, wearable technology, and telecommunication equipment.
- ICD-10 Codes: International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition (ICD-10) codes are used for diagnosing medical conditions. In RPM, ICD-10 codes could be employed to indicate the specific health condition.
- SNOMED CT: Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) is a comprehensive, multilingual clinical healthcare terminology. It is used to describe various clinical concepts, including conditions, observations, and procedures relevant to RPM.
- LOINC Codes: Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) is a standard for identifying medical laboratory observations. It can be used to identify and exchange data related to remote patient monitoring observations, such as vital signs, lab results, and more.
- NDC Codes: National Drug Code (NDC) is used to identify drugs and other healthcare products. In the context of RPM, NDC codes might be relevant for transmitting information about medications or pharmaceutical products being monitored remotely.
- HIPAA Transaction Codes: In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets standards for electronic healthcare transactions. EDI transaction codes (e.g., 837 for claims, and 835 for remittance advice) might be used for transmitting RPM-related data.
From transmitting patient information and managing prescriptions to real-time transmission of monitoring data, EDI plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between patients and healthcare providers. As telemedicine becomes an integral aspect of healthcare, EDI’s significance will only amplify.