The rapid spread of COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. In this time of panic, healthcare systems are making efforts to mitigate the damage caused by the virus as the world adjusts to the “new normal”.
The use of technology has progressed regarding healthcare. In a world where social distancing has become a survival tactic, telemedicine is a saving grace. Telemedicine involves making technology a viable source to give/receive information and communicate to provide remote care outside of the traditional healthcare setting.
As the need for physical distancing increases, it also provides exposure to telehealth and its convenience. Telemedicine has become the optimum virus avoidance option, as it is cost-efficient, convenient, and reaches you at the comfort of your home space.
While telemedicine comes with ample opportunities, it would be fair to say it is not without its own set of challenges.
Telemedicine can reach its potential in one way, and that is by offering a covered benefit in a health plan. Health plans can incite enrollees to use telemedicine or house calls for front-line care. Additionally, health plans can leverage knowledge and experience to help patients access and navigate accordingly to suit their treatment needs.
Monitoring discharged patients
Monitoring discharged patients is a promising strategy that will help leverage telemedicine capabilities by health systems as a service that complements traditional health services. For example, to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, telemedicine services could be used to check on or monitor patients post-discharge.
Addressing behavioral health
This aspect is where telemedicine can have one of its most positive clinical and financial impacts. Telemedicine can treat unaddressed mental issues or chronic health problems that lead to high-cost emergency room visits, hospitalization, and readmissions. Telehealth can prove to be an effective way to deliver some aspects of behavioral health services.
Treating chronic conditions
With regard to acute care, where its effectiveness is indisputable, e-health also has a long-term role to play for those with chronic illnesses. The patients that are chronically ill are the ones who consume the most expensive medical services. These patients raise the entire health system’s cost trends and are the main focus of those at financial risk for their care.
Telemedicine services offer numerous tactics to make healthcare accessible and convenient for patients and providers. Telemedicine provides services like remote monitoring, digital coaching to patients with chronic illnesses, treatment plans, medication regimes, and other compelling services.
Despite the many beneficial factors of telemedicine, valid concerns regarding it have caught attention. The good news is that planning and strategizing can overcome these concerns.
Here are some telemedicine concerns and useful strategies to implement to avoid facing the challenges.
For many patients and service providers, security is one of the primary concerns. While telemedicine can be convenient, it can also be a gateway to security and privacy issues, giving easy access to patients’ information and care over an internet connection.
An easy way to overcome this would be a technology partner that would provide the appropriate telehealth and telemedicine tools on a secure cloud-based platform.
Telemedicine platforms like SmartClinix, providing HIPAA-compliant services, & generates a link that encrypts the patient’s conversation and information that is saved on their patient portal. The telemedicine platform prides itself in safeguarding privacy at the highest possible measure.
Electronic health records (EHR) are another common concern of telemedicine. If the EHR system is not in coordination with the telemedicine software that you are using, it is likely to become a cause of privacy concern for the patient and complicate the provider’s workflow.
By using a telemedicine platform that automatically integrates with an EHR virtually, you can record your workflow, ensuring a documented e-visit that is updated for future visits.
Many physicians are concerned about reimbursements as it can prove problematic for healthcare providers. Despite some of the changes made, reimbursements are still limited.
Having a reimbursement plan will help to overcome this challenge. Use technology tools to track expenses for reimbursement claims, or employ a platform to document receipts for patients. COVID-19 has altered a lot of state rules regarding reimbursements, and they continue to expand permanently.
Lack of technical skills
When patients are unaware of how to use telemedicine services, there will be a reduction in utilization and hamper accessibility. Before launching a telemedicine service, it would be good to survey your patients. Ask your patients about the devices they are comfortable with using when accessing telemedicine services.
It is equally important to have trained and competent staff on board for telemedicine equipment to help patients who require assistance.
Telemedicine expenses can be a cause of concern for physicians when you add up the costs of equipment and the services to provide care. By opting for bundled services or physicians that offer a flat fee, you may be able to reduce the expenses, while keeping in mind that as technology grows, the cost will continue to go down.
Telemedicine costs may rise in other ways. If the healthcare provider is unable to diagnose the patient, they will likely suggest that the patient should go to the ER or urgent care center. Telemedicine can lead to unnecessary prescriptions, which might result in damage or more patients getting sick.
Although the concerns surrounding telemedicine and telehealth are valid, it does have the potential of becoming a core part of the infrastructure of the healthcare system. It would be a mistake to turn a blind eye to the benefits telemedicine has to offer.
Telemedicine will continue to gain traction, and hospitals will continue to roll out new and different telemedicine programs. The eradication of the virus will not undo the growth telemedicine has faced due to its undeniable advantages. The funds that have been invested to help telemedicine and charity clinics move forward have made it clear that telemedicine is here to stay.