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Health IT glossary

Ken Terry | Sept. 24, 2015
This health IT glossary provides definitions and information for many terms used in the complex field of healthcare-related information technology and management systems.

Remote patient monitoring. Remote monitoring can be done via mobile apps or with home monitoring equipment. Nevertheless, most pilots of this technology have focused on home monitoring. Remote monitoring has been shown to have health benefits for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), and many hospitals are interested in using it to prevent CHF patients from being readmitted. Some healthcare systems and health plans are also investigating the use of home monitoring in treating chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes as part of population health management. As noted earlier, most physicians are still not ready to accept data from mobile chronic disease apps. Few of these apps have been tested or approved by the FDA. Moreover, clinicians need better screening mechanisms to filter relevant data from the mobile data streams.

Secure messaging. Patient portals can be used for secure messaging between physicians and patients. This technology, which goes back 15 years, usually requires patients to visit the portal to view their messages; in some cases, they may receive emails saying that a message from their provider is waiting for them. Patients can also use portals to ask questions about their health conditions, their care plans, or how to take their medications. Some physicians have discovered that patients don’t always check their messages on the portal, so they send them text messages.

Telehealth. Telehealth, sometimes called telemedicine, encompasses virtual visits, remote patient monitoring, and educational and support applications. There is a lot of overlap between telehealth and mHealth; however, telehealth includes home monitoring of health conditions, as well as online consultations and support materials that can be accessed on desktops and laptops with Internet connections. None of this has yet joined the mainstream of healthcare. But it is believed that the shift to value-based reimbursement will change that by paying doctors for non-visit care. Some experts predict that telehealth will change how healthcare is delivered. Not only will it reduce the number of unnecessary office visits, they say, but it will also allow doctors to monitor their patients’ health continuously.

Virtual visits. Remote consultations, as noted earlier, have been growing rapidly and no longer just involve patients and physicians in rural areas. In recent years, many health plans and employers have contracted with telehealth services that provide 24/7 access to physicians via phone or video chat on smartphones and desktop/laptop computers. These can be combined with photos of relevant portions of the body. While the medical establishment opposes allowing doctors to diagnose and prescribe remotely to people they’ve never met, some healthcare organizations have quietly begun offering virtual visits to their own doctors’ patients.

Wearable sensors. One of the fastest growing areas of mHealth, wearable sensors track everything from activity to vital signs such as heart rate, metabolic rate, and heart rhythms. These sensors may be imbedded in wrist bands, chest patches, or other kinds of devices. Consumers use these wearables and their associated apps mostly to track their own health, but they could also be used for continuous monitoring of people with chronic conditions. As with add-on devices like glucometers and digital blood pressure cuffs, some wearables use Bluetooth to connect with smartphones. The consumer can then view the data and/or upload it to a data center in a healthcare organization.


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