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April 07, 2014

CarePaths Implements WebRTC in eRecord for Behavioral Health

Healthcare is one of the biggest industries to be impacted from almost all technological innovations. Wearable technology can target health and fitness tracking and performance improvement. Mobile devices and applications can improve doctor responsiveness and patient care by using real-time access and information. Big data analytics means improved research, patient diagnosis and equipment maintenance. WebRTC means the growth of telemedicine and teleheath by enabling HIPAA-compliant remote access, interaction and care.

We caught up with Geoffrey V. Gray, Ph.D and president of CarePaths, a provider of its electronic health record solution eRecord, which recently implemented WebRTC. Gray explained the company’s eRecord solution, why and how it integrated WebRTC in eRecord and trends in teletherapy and behavioral healthcare.

eRecord is an ONC-certified electronic health record for behavioral health. ONC, the federal government standard for electronic medical records, qualifies providers for bonus reimbursement from the federal government for provision of Medicare and Medicaid services. ONC-certified EMRs are also required in some states, Gray explained.

The solution has about 700 users, including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, for a number of reasons. Clinical documentation facilitates tracking of information important to patient care, such as drug/drug interactions. The practice management system is integrated into the clinical workflow and allows users to submit electronic claims to health insurers, bill patients and do financial reporting. It also has other features that enable a virtual clinical office, such as online appointments and a patient portal.

“Telepsychiatry and teletherapy are ideal media for behavioral healthcare,” Gray said. “There are few biological validators for behavioral health problems. Behavioral health problems are assessed via an interaction with a clinician and involve the patient's thoughts, feelings, symptoms, actions—all of which are assessed cognitively, via observation of the patient.”

In order to make teletherapy and telepsychiatry a success, there are some considerations and requirements. Video and audio quality are among those key requirements – gestures, facial expressions, tones of voice, body language and other visual and auditory subtleties are important in psychotherapy and need to be rendered with a “crispness and immediacy” that Skype, FaceTime, Google+ and other clients do not come close to matching, Gray said.

A second key consideration is ease of use – patients cannot be expected to deal with downloads and plugins, Gray explained. The experience has to be as close to the gold standard – the patient being in the same room as a healthcare professional – as technologically possible.

For these reasons and more, eRecord just integrated WebRTC, a next-generation HTML5 technology that enables peer-to-peer, real-time communications over a browser. Audio and video quality and the ability to be HIPAA-compliant were two of the main reasons Gray and CarePaths implemented WebRTC. He explained that Skype will not sign a Business Associate’s Agreement with vendors, and a signed BAA is a requirement of HIPAA’s privacy rule. He thinks because of this, WebRTC will likely become the industry standard.  

As with any technology, however, there are some challenges in development. Gray said browser support was the most salient issue the CarePaths team encountered so far. Beyond that, he emphasizes the benefits of using WebRTC in industries like healthcare – access is among the top. He explains that technology like WebRTC enables the growth of telepsychiatry and teletherapy, opening up the doors for more patients to receive care.

“The average drive to a therapist is 45 minutes. Remote access is a real convenience,” he said.

 Gray explained practical advantages to telepsychiatry and reasons why this type of service is the future of healthcare and patient care. With technologies like WebRTC, the ease of use increases – with a click of a button a patient can be in a meeting. No plugins, downloads or technical skills required. This also means improved convenience, enabling care to be accessed anytime, anywhere from any device. Some other benefits include:

  • Fewer no-shows
  • Flexibility
  • Continuity of care
  • Privacy
  • Access
  • Effectiveness
  • Broader market reach

 Learn more about how you can use eRecord from CarePaths

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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