How the Pandemic Shaped the Future of Telehealth
Table of Contents
- 5 Advantages of Using Telehealth Platforms
- 5 Challenges for Telehealth Platforms
- The takeaway
Telehealth services have seen a tremendous boost during the recent global pandemic. People have preferred to consult the doctors from their safe homes via video calls. This practice and advanced technologies have improved the engagement between the healthcare providers and patients and facilitated availability of treatment to those who can’t leave their homes. However, as telehealth is still new, it faces many challenges as well. Here are the challenges and benefits of telehealth, the future of patient care. ~ Ed.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought changes for both regular people and entire industries, and the world of telehealth is a star example of that. In 2019, there were 840,000 Medicare telehealth visits; in 2020, there were over 50 million of them. Due to not only pandemic-related restrictions, but also fears over contracting diseases at crowded doctors’ offices, many people opted to schedule appointments via telehealth platforms. The same went for therapists as well, who used teletherapy platforms to manage their practices. While the actual appointments take place via video call, there are plenty of other tools available, such as therapy scheduling software or automatic billing.
Since telehealth has expanded so quickly over the last couple of years, though, it’s experienced some growing pains along the way. Even so, they’re all issues that can be resolved with some time and common sense. Telehealth continues to be an efficient alternative to in-person doctor’s visits, and will likely continue to be for quite a while. To learn more about the advantages and challenges of using telehealth platforms, just keep reading!
5 Advantages of Using Telehealth Platforms
Telehealth bring you convenience, lower costs, fewer associated risks, and much more.
Improved engagement between healthcare providers and patients
Some health conditions, like diabetes or asthma, can be easily monitored through telehealth. If a patient needs regular check-ups, they’re a lot more likely to attend them if all they need to do is sit down in front of a computer. Chronic illnesses might not always feel severe enough to warrant frequent doctor’s appointments, but many of them need to be closely monitored anyway. With the help of relevant medical devices like blood glucose monitors or spirometers, telehealth makes remote monitoring possible.
Fewer associated risks
Even without the fear of COVID-19 keeping people away from public spaces, there’s always a higher risk of catching something contagious when you go to an in-person doctor’s appointment. Those who are especially young, old, or immunocompromised take an even bigger risk. If the visit can be made via video call, however, that eliminates the danger of contracting something for the sake of a 15- or 30-minute chat with the doctor.
This is probably one of the most obvious benefits of telehealth. Not only does a virtual appointment save you the trouble of driving to and from a physical office, but it also eliminates the need to worry about related logistics: who’ll be watching the kids, will there be bad traffic along the way, will I need to bring any documents, and so on. Plus, a lot of people use telehealth services to access better-quality healthcare than what’s available in their area. As long as they have a decent internet connection, they don’t have to worry about driving for hours from a rural area, or making do with sub-par local options.
Although telehealth visits don’t necessarily cost less than trips to a brick-and-mortar healthcare facility, you will get to skip all the associated costs. You won’t have to pay for gas or public transport, parking, time spent away from your job, or childcare, and that adds up, especially with frequent appointments.
Prior to the pandemic, the options for comprehensive telehealth platforms were fairly limited. Thanks to rapidly rising demand, however, there are now more choices than ever, with constant improvements being made to meet the needs of both doctors and patients. Instead of being a second-best option to in-person visits, telehealth appointments are now viable alternatives for all kinds of medical-related purposes.
5 Challenges for Telehealth Platforms
Being in its infancy, telehealth has its share of challenges regarding technology, regulations, and more.
1. HIPAA compliance
Even though the established telehealth platforms are all HIPAA-compliant, some healthcare professionals are unknowingly using video call services that don’t sufficiently protect patient privacy. In order to be HIPAA-compliant, a platform has to use end-to-end encryption for video calls, as well as strict digital security protocols if patient data is being stored on the platform. Cyber attacks are a risk for any site, but medical files have the potential to cause a lot of damage if they’re stolen.
2. IT resource limitations
Offering telehealth services to a medical or therapy practice takes a lot more than just setting up video calls. In most cases, it requires plenty of work from the IT team to keep it up and running – and available to however many patients need it. If the number of telehealth appointments increases drastically (as it has for so many medical practices), this will stretch IT resources, and could even cause delays due to inadequate personnel, budgets, or facilities.
Along the same lines, expanding telehealth practices require more space, more money, and more equipment in order to function smoothly. If an existing telehealth practice has reached its limits, the healthcare providers will have to choose between making do with what they’ve got, or updating their offerings with room to grow. This was an issue for many healthcare providers during the pandemic, and it probably will be for as long as telehealth continues to increase in popularity.
4. Data Mobility
A key part of managing workflow is data mobility: who gets to access it, who gets to change it, and how does it get transferred, if at all. From patient records to back-office notes, a telehealth platform doesn’t just need to keep information secure; it also needs to streamline data mobility, so that it’s available to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.
5. Health insurance regulations
Some telehealth appointments are covered by select health insurance plans, but current regulations don’t look at telehealth and in-person doctor’s visits the same way. Some people are able to use their health insurance to pay for a physical trip to the doctor’s office, but not for a telehealth appointment. However, it’s thought that the increasing use of telehealth for routine medical care will eventually change the way health insurance companies establish coverage.
Telehealth has always had a lot of potential, but the pandemic gave people a reason to take advantage of its many uses. Even when the pandemic becomes part of the past, experts think that doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals will continue to use telehealth as an integral part of providing medical care.
Over to you
How is your experience with telehealth platforms? Share them in the comments section.
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