By Amit Verma
Today’s healthcare consumers are more in touch with their care than ever before and demand convenience, speed and transparency with their medical records. As a result, telehealth has gained widespread popularity over the last several years.
Even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients benefited from the ease and connection that came from receiving healthcare from home. That trend has most recently seen growth in response to the pandemic. In fact, during the first quarter of 2020 the number of telehealth visits increased by 50% over the same period in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, telehealth is much more than just a quick video chat with a physician. Telehealth 2.0 is here – and virtual care has become an extension – or even a replacement – of in-person health services.
But this is only the beginning. In the near future, patients will be able to engage with doctors, get results, and handle scheduling and payments all in one app. At the same time, providers will have the ability to collaborate with team members online, and payers will get faster access to patients’ clinical and financial data to make quicker reimbursement decisions.
Barriers for Implementing Telehealth
Despite the growth and possibilities, there are a number of challenges that remain. First, patients seek simplicity and the ability to shop for care, schedule, pay and see their data all in one place. Healthcare organizations must find a way to unite patient data and create all-in-one digital patient experiences.
Second, accessibility and digital literacy present challenges. As the digital divide continues, especially with rural and urban communities, certain populations may not be able to fully leverage advancements in virtual care without improvements in connectivity.
And finally, there are security and reliability issues. As patients will access services from home WiFi or even public networks, it’s imperative that care providers ensure that their network and software are secure.
How Technology Can Make Telehealth a Success
Online patient care coordination relies on a network of systems that work together in addition to proper education and support for those who require it. Ultimately, its success relies on technology to help healthcare organizations seamlessly move from a face-to-face patient experience to a remote one.
Here are a few things healthcare companies should consider to make virtual health a success:
- Secure network infrastructure. Devices connected to the “Internet of Medical Things” as well as Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and data analytics tools are susceptible to hacking due to security vulnerabilities. Networks will need robust firewalls to prevent cybercriminal activity such as malware attacks that threaten patient data.
- Increased connectivity and availability. As telehealth usage has seen tremendous increases, healthcare organizations will need a technology partner that can provide secure VPN access at scale, SD-WAN, and emergency backup services to meet the high availability demand in the future.
- Scalability. Healthcare organizations must also have the ability to access increased bandwidth whenever they need it and as needs change. SD-WAN technology, for instance, can quickly and affordably address the biggest concerns in digital healthcare, whether it’s EHRs or getting satellite locations onto the network quickly. SD-WAN can also prioritize traffic and apps and has enough bandwidth to handle spikes in demand.
- The need for human support. Despite advances in technology, there will always be a need for humans that understand technology and can help guide users of telehealth. This will open new roles such as “navigators” who can help get patients comfortable with new technology, as well as translators who will be able to reduce language barriers in real time.
While it’s hard to imagine all facets of healthcare being delivered virtually, technology will continue to play a bigger role in healthcare services. And certainly, telehealth can replace some of the more routine administrative tasks that don’t involve an office visit.
As the success of telehealth depends on the network it relies on, a partner to deliver technology and ensure telehealth remains stable is critical. Accessibility, connectivity, reliability, and security will continue to be pillars that telehealth stand on — especially in an industry that relies on privacy and security of sensitive information. The future for telehealth looks bright, and together technology partners and healthcare companies will help to reach its full potential.
Amit Verma, Vice President, Comcast Business Enterprise Solutions
Amit Verma is Vice President, Solution Engineering and Technology for Comcast Business with 20+ years of experience in telecommunications and managed services. He is responsible for Solution Architecture and Strategic technology alliances within Enterprise Solutions. Verma is also responsible for Network design engineering and Compliance for Enterprise Solutions organization that sells and delivers Managed Solutions to Large Fortune 1000 Enterprise Customers nationwide.
Amit has vast experience as a Technology executive, focusing on enterprise development, technology integration, and business transformation ideation for large Fortune 1000 Companies. Before joining Comcast Business, he served as Senior Director, Product Management – Global Security for Level 3 Communications. He also held various management and engineering positions at Spacenet (SageNet).
Amit has a MBA in Marketing and Strategy from Kellogg School of Management and a MS in Computer Science from George Mason University.